RALEIGH — Community members and representatives from several organizations in the state’s capital city have come together to discuss the possibility of an annual Pride festival or other type of event. Leaders in the Triangle are welcoming the increased local organizing and possibilities for future community outreach.
Willie Pilkington, who made the initial call for a Raleigh Pride brainstorming meeting and who has been involved in local advocacy and organizing efforts since the 1980s, said 13 individuals from several community organizations met at the Wake County Public Library and agreed Raleigh should have some sort of Pride event.
“The unanimous consensus of the group was that Raleigh/Wake County needed to have a GLBT Pride Festival of it’s own and that this group of people would join in with the effort to help create an organization to develop a Raleigh Pride Festival,” Pilkington wrote in his “Raleigh GLBT Report” email newsletter on Feb. 8.
In the “Raleigh GLBT Report” message, Pilkington said representatives from several organizations attended what he called the “Raleigh GLBT Pride Committee” meeting, including St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church, the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, Blueprint North Carolina, LGBT Center of Raleigh and the Triangle Steering Committee of the Human Rights Campaign.
Anthony Garcia-Copian, a board member of the new LGBT Center of Raleigh, said he attended the meeting to learn more about Pilkington’s plans and relay that information to the Center’s board.
“As a community center, we wanted to know what was going on and how we could help in anyway,” Garcia-Copian said. “I attended the meeting to see what was going down and what [Pilkington] had to say. What exactly did he want? Did he really want a Pride or a yearly event of some other kind?”
Garcia-Copian said he couldn’t stay for the whole meeting and left before discussions were over but that he got the sense there was, indeed, a consensus from those present to hold some sort of annual event.
“I think everyone agreed that Raleigh, being the state capital, should have something like that,” he said.
News of the local Pride planning in Raleigh has excited organizers of the statewide NC Pride Fest and Parade, which takes place in Durham each September with auxiliary activities scattered throughout the Triangle area during the weekend of the event.
Spokesperson Keith Hayes told qnotes it is important to unite and looks forward to collaboration with LGBT leaders in Raleigh and elsewhere.
“NC PrideFest has worked hard for 10 years to create a Triangle-wide Pride weekend that draws participants not just from this area, but from across the state,” Hayes said in an emailed statement. “We would love to partner with groups that can help us expand our Raleigh PrideFest activities.”
NC Pride was born in 1981 and held its first series of annual parades in Durham. From 1988 through 1999, the event traveled from city to city, being hosted in Asheville, Carrboro, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh and Winston-Salem. Eventually, organizers settled in Durham and planned other special events in Raleigh to coincide with Durham’s day festival and parade. Those events include a night festival with bars and clubs on Hargett St., social hours and mixers and religious services at welcoming and affirming faith institutions across the region. In addition, LGBT nightlife establishments in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, as well as other cities, often host special parties in conjunction with Pride weekend.
“The parade in Durham demands so much volunteer effort that we haven’t had the resources to make the Raleigh side of NC PrideFest all it can be,” Hayes said. “Imagine what we could accomplish for the Triangle with partnership support for a bigger and better Raleigh component of Pride. It would build on an already successful event and it would bring Triangle LGBT groups together for a common cause. That’s the kind of unity our entire community needs as we move forward.”
Initially, news of Pride planning in Raleigh sparked some concerns of division and duplication. Pilkington dismissed the idea that he or anyone else is attempting to tear apart rather than build up.
“This is not a separatist thing,” he said. “It is a unifying thing here in Raleigh and Wake County.”
Before a statewide Pride ever existed, Raleigh and other municipalities hosted their own, small events, Pilkington asserted. As attention became focused on a larger, statewide event, people lost focus on local matters. “No one was paying attention to the local events, the local issues and the local organizing,” he said.
Pilkington isn’t alone in his focus on local organizing. Over the past decade or so, there has been a general trend of localized Pride event organizing. While statewide Prides are organized in Durham and Columbia, S.C., other events have popped up in Asheville, Boone, Charlotte, Greensboro and Wilmington. Last year, community members organized a Pride parade in Upstate South Carolina and efforts are now underway for a local Pride in Charleston. Myrtle Beach’s LGBT community center has also hosted a local festival for some years now.
The Raleigh Center’s Garcia-Copian said he, too, is excited about a Raleigh event and suggested working with NC Pride organizers.
“Maybe we could have something at night or call it something else and do it in the spring,” he said. “I’m sure we could have some type of thing but don’t call it Pride. We had [the Center’s] Coming Out Day event. It was outdoors. It was in a park and it was great. There is definitely room for other events.”
Garcia-Copian and fellow Center board member Bobby Hilburn said their organization has already discussed among themselves the thought of beefing up the Saturday night NC Pride Raleigh Night Festival.
Whatever future a Raleigh Pride might have, Hilburn said he thinks collaboration and teamwork will be key.
“I think what’s important is that we work together as a community,” he said. “Seeing that NC Pride is in our sister city of Durham we should be supportive of that. I think Raleigh is big enough to support an event of its own.”
Like Garcia-Copian, Hilburn pointed to last year’s Coming Out event. He said organizers in both Durham and Raleigh should work to make sure both events are unique and successful.
“I think people are receptive to the idea [of having an event in Raleigh],” Hilburn said. “We want to help each event be successful. We don’t want to detract from something that is already successful.”
The next meeting of the Raleigh GLBT Pride Committee will be held March 7, 2-4 p.m., at the Wake County Regional Library at Cameron Village, Room 202. Future event plans, a possible structure for a new Pride organization and efforts to organize the group as a non-profit will be among the items discussed. Those interesting in attending and receiving more details can email Willie Pilkington at WillieD.Pilkington@att.net. : :
This article was published in the Feb. 20 – Feb. 19 print edition.