by Matt Comer (he/him) Director of Operations and Communications, Charlotte Pride

December is upon us! How in the world did this year go by so fast? As the year comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to look back and reflect on what shaped up to be a great year for Charlotte Pride. Over our last remaining columns in this calendar year, we’ll reflect together on a year full of returns, firsts, and transitions.

Returns

As early as October 2021, we had been closely monitoring the rollout of vaccines and the progress made in tamping down the continued pandemic. Despite really needing to get started on planning then, we waited — certain in our volunteers’ ability to plan our year’s events, even if on a shorter timeline.

By the middle of January, Charlotte Pride’s board made the decision to greenlight the return of all our in-person programs and events, including our two largest: August’s festival and parade and Reel Out Charlotte, the Queen City’s Annual LGBTQ Film Festival.

Staff, board, and volunteers hit the ground running as fast as we could. We put out calls for volunteer leaders, ramped up planning for the film festival to be held in just a mere few weeks, and began plotting out all the details for what everyone expected would be a supersized festival and parade — the first held in person in three years.

The return of this year’s Reel Out Charlotte was a resounding success, with an at-capacity opening night reception and short films screening. The event screened 10 feature films, with several state and southeastern premieres, including “Sweetheart” and “Wildhood,” as well as an engaging panel discussion digging deep into the issues of institutional racism depicted in our closing film, “The Obituary of Tunde Johnson.”

Firsts

March seemed to mark a number of meaningful firsts in the life of Charlotte Pride. In addition to participating in the return of the Charlotte Hornets Pride Night, we began a growing relationship with Tepper Sports and Entertainment — home to the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC. Charlotte Pride was honored to host our first large-scale lunch-and-learn workshop at Bank of America Stadium for Tepper employees.

Later that month, we partnered for the first time in hosting a community-wide local candidate fair. It marked the first time multiple candidates from multiple political parties joined together in a nonpartisan, community and voter education effort.

And it was also in March that we held our very first in-person volunteer leadership team meeting of the year.

Speaking of firsts and volunteers — a special shoutout is deserved for all of Charlotte Pride’s festival and parade team leaders this year. For the first time (in recent memory at least), the majority of festival and parade team leaders were practically brand new! Many had soldiered on alongside us during virtual and limited, small-scale events in 2020 and 2021, but most had never volunteered at our normal, large-scale, and in-person festival and parade. Every single one of our awesome volunteers (find their names listed on page 2 of this magazine) rose to the occasion in phenomenally fabulous style and grace! Thanks y’all! You’re the best!

During the summer, as we inched closer and closer to the festival and parade, Charlotte Pride would experience two other amazing firsts.

In June, we partnered for the first time with Charlotte FC, which produced their first Pride Night at Bank of America Stadium. It was a great night of soccer and community empowerment. The Carolina Panthers’ Justine Lindsay, the first openly trans cheerleader in the NFL, was honored. Time Out Youth was given a spotlight. And our very own Daniel Valdez, our immediate past board president and soccer fan extraordinaire, was honored with the pre-game coronation.

In August, one week prior to the big event, Charlotte Pride was honored to mark the in-person return of the annual Charlotte Pride Interfaith Service — hosted for the very first time at a historically and predominately Black faith congregation. St. Luke’s Missionary Baptist and its staff, including Senior Pastor Clifford Matthews, Jr., welcomed the event with open arms.

Next time: Check back with our last column of the calendar year next month as we continue to reflect on an awesome 2022.

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