This has already been a transformative year for Charlotte Pride, moving from an all-volunteer organization to hiring its first-ever executive director, Kimberly Melton.

Melton is a familiar face to those in the community, having served in a number of positions with a number of LGBT organizations over the years.

PrideLogoFinal-2014-dates-locationShe was on the board of Queen City Friends and WOW, the first lesbian organizations in Charlotte, back in the 1980s. She also created a group called Lambda Connections, to bring together lesbian and gay businesses so they would be more visible, and helped launch Time Out Youth, One Voice Chorus and OutCharlotte.

In 1994, Melton was part of a team that brought North Carolina Pride March to Charlotte, N.C. and in 2013 was an honorary grand marshal in the 2013 Charlotte Pride Parade, which was the first one held in the city in nearly two decades.

Though he did not return qnotes’ calls, Charlotte Pride Board of Directors President Craig Hopkins said in a press release at the time of Melton’s hiring, “We are excited to have Kimberly on board. With the breadth and depth of her experience, she will be able to make our annual signature event, the festival and parade, an even bigger success and assist us as we move forward with more year-round programs including Charlotte Trans Pride, Charlotte Latin Pride, the GayCharlotte Film Festival and other educational and cultural events to empower, enrich and strengthen the LGBTQ community.”

gaycharlottefilmfest_logoThe GayCharlotte Film Festival has been in existence since 2009 and both Trans Pride and Latin Pride were formed in 2015.

The film festival took place this year from April 21-24, at Theatre Charlotte and was a success, Melton reported.

“We had a great turnout, and it was varied, and we had some superb films. We are really looking forward to, once Pride is over, working to make it bigger and better for 2017,” she said.

Films included: “While You Weren’t Looking,” which explores the changing political and social climate of post-Apartheid South Africa and what it means to be gay and lesbian in that climate; “The Same Difference,” a documentary about being a lesbian or bisexual woman in the black community; and “4th Man Out,” about a man coming out to his straight, blue collar friends, to name but a few.

The festival kicked off with a first-ever shorts competition. “Stealth,” about a transgender middle-schooler, with a transgender teen actress in the lead role, was selected by the audience as the best short film of the night.

Melton believes it is her experience with project management and event planning, along with her intimate knowledge of the local LGBT community, which makes her a good fit for the position.

“I think the thing that interested me most about this position was the possibilities,” Melton said. “The organization of Charlotte Pride brought me in to help expand the programming and how we can support, educate and enrich the community.”

transpride_logoThe exact nature of the organization moving beyond merely being a festival and parade event and into a more year-round player remains to be seen. There are few specifics as to what that will look like at this time, but Melton explained that they are already seeing an increase in the community reaching out to them.

“Because we are getting out into the community more, we are having organizations reach out to us to say, ‘Hey, do you want to do this with us?’” she said. “We are open and exploring to everything as long as it meets our criteria.”

She points to a recent vigil, held on Sunday, June 12, at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, for the victims of the shooting in Orlando at the LGBT nightclub Pulse, as an example of what they can do moving forward and what having a dedicated employee at the Charlotte Pride offices means to the group.

“It was a joint effort and…it was very meaningful, and, of course, due to the nature of the event it had to be done quickly,” Melton remembered.

latinpride_logoThe event was organized under the Charlotte Latin Pride banner — the shooting occurred on Latin Night — with assistance from interfaith organization MeckMin.

“The Orlando vigil is a perfect example — the fact that that had to be done quickly. We were able to address all of the needs of the media; we did multiple interviews at the time that was convenient with the media. We were instantly there on Sunday for the media, when they needed it. And, so it’s that kind of thing that is very, very, very challenging to do when you are a volunteer-only organization,” Melton said. “So this gives us a bit more flexiblity with hours that we can communicate and conduct business.”

“We have had the most incredible group of volunteers maintaining Charlotte Pride for years,” she added.

“I have so much respect for the individuals who have been working on this for years and doing it in a volunteer position. On a daily basis, I think how did they do it? If I’m doing this 50, 60 hours a week, how in the world did the individuals do it that were working a full-time job and then doing it?” she asked.

“But there is only so much a volunteer can do. Most people work a full-time job. So what this [having an Executive Director] will allow is to be able to pick up the phone during the day and have a business conversation.”

That should put the organization in a solid position to become an increasingly significant and influential actor in the local and regional LGBT communities.

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Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet...