RALEIGH, N.C. — The NC Pride festival will be held on Sept. 30 and has been dubbed NC Pride @ Night 2017. This year’s event will be held in Raleigh, N.C. and Durham, N.C. as an evening street festival from 4 p.m.-4 a.m. The 33rd annual LGBTQ celebration will be celebrated across the Triangle in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carborro either publicly or privately.

This deviation from the normal day of a festival on Duke University’s campus and a parade followed by evening celebrations across the Triangle was a compromise by the NC Pride organizers due to the scheduled date being the same as the Jewish observance of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the holiest day of the year.

For up to 12 hours, festival goers will enjoy the camaraderie of friends, food, vendors, parties and shows while having fun under rainbow night skies along Harrington St. (between Hargett St. and Morgan St.) in Raleigh and Rigsbee Ave. (between Corporation St. and Greer St.) in Durham.

In Raleigh, Legends, 330 W. Hargett St., will host the capital’s celebration with three days of festivities. And, guest host for Sept. 29 and 30 is Lance Bass.

It begins on Sept. 29 with a celebrity social meet and greet at 8 p.m., TurnUp Friday with host Jazmine Brooks at 9 p.m. with featured local entertainers, a $10K Giveaway from 9:30-10:15 p.m., spotlight divas and PhiPhi O’Hara from 10:15-11 p.m. followed by pop-up performances and a Foam Dance Party at 11 p.m.

The following evening, it is partnering with NC Pride’s street festival where food trucks, vendors and more are available from 4-10 p.m. and will have its block party tent entertainment at 8 p.m. at the View Bar and Gameroom parking lot, 119 S. Harrington St.

In addition to this it is partnering with Pardon Moi French as they produce live drag performances on the NC Pride @ Night street stage from 6-8:30 p.m. Talent features Coco Montrese, Nina Bonina Brown, Gia Gunn and Miss Peppermint. Also appearing will be AmanDuh Pleaze, Clymydya Byrnz, Elle Diabla, Ivory Winters, Jayden James Starr, Mrz Carter, Paris Brooks, Thundora Thighz and host Valarie Rockwell. Admission to the stage area is $10.

At 8:30 p.m., Legends will hold its former house cast review show hosted by Jakki Knight. Then Jaremi Carey takes the stage as he performs from his latest album and covers some favorite hits. At 10:10 p.m., stay for a spotlight divas special show with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant Miss Peppermint closing out the tent stage performances.

For those who want to meet festival celebrities, attend the social at the tent. See the ticket page online for purchase options.

Another spotlight divas showcase will occur at 12 a.m. followed by the N.C. major statewide titleholders review show which includes a diverse lineup. Round out the evening with pop-up performances from other entertainers.

Finish off the weekend at 10 p.m. with Sinful Sunday with GoGo Boys and special guest Pablo Hernandez at the club.

Ticket options include general admission, pit pass and VIP lounge (which is the only place to purchase liquor during the street festival). Costs range from $25-$55 to the various paid events and can be purchased online at bit.ly/2fbUOdV. For more information, visit legends-club.com.

Flex, 2 S. West St., will join in the festivities with an Asheville Invasion on Sept. 28 with Pricilla Chambers, Gigi Von TrappHaus, Clymydya Byrnz, Jakki Knight and the winner of Miss NC Pride 2017, GoGo-Thon on Sept. 29 with eight GoGo dancers taking the stage and a Pride dance on Sept. 30 with DJ Marvyy Marvv (no cover with three dog tags from September events). For more information, visit flex-club.com.

In Durham, The Bar, 711 Rigsbee Ave., will host the celebration with local entertainment, food trucks, street vendors and more. At 9 .m. it will present a one-hour live concert performance by Big Freedia. Tickets are available online until Sept. 30 at 1 p.m. at thebardurham.com/bigfreedia and range from $25-$250 depending upon seating and perks.

Accommodations are being handled for out-of-town guests and those who want to party without worrying about driving home at: Raleigh — Sheraton Raleigh Hotel, 421 S. Salisbury St., 919-834-9900 for reservations; Durham — Double Tree Hilton, 4810 Page Creek Ln., 919-941-6000 for reservations and Millennium Hotel, 2800 Campus Walk Ave., 919-383-8575 for reservations; and Chapel Hill — Hampton Inn, 1740 Fordham Blvd., 919-968-3000 for reservations. Be sure to ask for NC Pride rates at each property.

Controversy clouds the celebration

So, the celebration will go on, albeit not in the same way it has in the past: no parade, no campus festival and no opportunity for the community to gather at one location for a portion of the day before heading to evening events across the Triangle.

Unfortunately, the compromise did not go as hoped for NC Pride organizers. In fact, there was a backlash from the Jewish and allied community, many of whom have marched in the annual parade in recent years, which prompted the formation of #LiberateNCpride, a coalition which includes The LGBTQ Center of Durham, Carolina Jews for Justice – Triangle, The Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill, Jewish Voice for Peace – Triangle, NC Duke University Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Black Youth Project 100 – Durham chapter, iNSIDEoUT180, El Centro Hispano, Southerners on New Ground (SONG) – Durham, Charlotte Uprising, SisterSong, NC Trans Pride, Trans & Queer People of Color Collective of Charlotte, Tranzmission, Trans Liberation Foundation, Freedom Center for Social Justice, NC State GLBT Center, Queer Youth Circus, QORDS, Safe Schools NC, United Church of Chapel Hill Open and Affirming Coalition, Ignite NC, Triangle SURJ, Common Woman Chorus, Greensboro Jewish Federation, Rabbi Larry Bach, Laila Nur, Vernetta Alston and others.

John Short.
Photo Credit:
Pam’s House Blend

In a statement made by #LiberateNCpride it said: “The implementation of ‘NC Pride @ Night,’ as a possible solution to the scheduling of NC Pride on Yom Kippur offered by NC Pride’s leadership, not only misses the mark in addressing the concerns of Jewish communities, but also changes the entire tone of the event by 1) splitting the event across two different cities versus bringing everyone together, and 2) eliminating the kid-friendly Parade and the Festival on the Duke campus, making it feel less accessible to caregivers and young people. Moreover, subsequent demands for a more accountable and transparent process from the organizers of NC Pride were unheard and ignored by Mr. John Short and the NC Pride organizing committee.” The coalition also had questions about NC Pride’s 501[c] 3 tax status and how the organization is funded, among others. (see qnotes coverage on this issue at goqnotes-launch2.newspackstaging.com/11513 and goqnotes-launch2.newspackstaging.com/24904)

It also stated that it was not happy with NC Pride’s “lack of transparency & accountability and an underrepresentation of historically marginalized communities.” It added, “We believe, that it is not only possible but imperative that we uplift the connections between the lack of accountability experienced at this year’s NC Pride committee with years prior and begin to engage in conversations and overall visioning about what a more inclusive Pride event can look like in North Carolina. … By abstaining from this year’s NC Pride on September 30th, we will instead invest in safe spaces, continued conversations, and ongoing action to transform ourselves, our organizations, our communities and our state through this work. … We look forward to working collectively with you [NC Pride] to build not only a Pride event, but a state in which all LGBTQ people are able to celebrate life free from fear and oppression.” The full text can be read at bit.ly/2xGd2fz.

Carolina Jews for Justice Wake County Chair Josh Orol shared with the Durham Herald-Sun that the compromise was not enough, that it was a “Band-Aid solution that doesn’t systemically change things,” and called for a collectively-just Pride that represented the needs of many minority groups.

Jewish Federation of Durham Chapel Hill’s CEO Jill Madsen told Forward, “We are disappointed with this year’s planning of NC Pride on Yom Kippur. What deepens these feelings is the lack of communication, outreach, or partnership from NC Pride, to work to find a solution and plan for years to come, despite our efforts to continue to connect with them.”

qnotes attempted to reach Short repeatedly by phone but did not receive a requested returned call to address this year’s changes, highlights and controversy.

However, qnotes was able to reach Skye Wilson, student development coordinator at Duke’s Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (CSGD) who said, “We are extremely disappointed in the NC Pride Committee. A number of students have expressed their sorrow and disappointment that there will be no Pride Parade and Festival or presence on Duke’s campus this year.” She also added that NC Pride sets the date and the CSGD works with the appropriate scheduling department on the university’s campus. “When we realized the scheduling conflict with Yom Kippur, we provided alternate dates that Duke University’s East Campus was available and offered them to the NC Pride Committee,” she related. Those dates were within a couple of weeks of the orginally scheduled date, but NC Pride declined.

In a statement that Wilson’s department made on their Facebook page on July 6, they shared, “We reached out to the NC Pride committee advising them to change the date and suggested alternative dates. Unfortunately, we learned the NC Pride committee made the decision to keep the original date despite the conflict with Yom Kippur and asked for forgiveness for the conflict and resulting exclusion. Duke continues to honor the NC Pride committee’s existing reservation of Duke University’s East Campus. We believe that holding an event such as NC Pride during the Jewish High Holy Days only works to divide our communities.”

The center expressed that the celebration of Pride is an important date to observe and was born out of resistence and a fight for equality. They added, “Prides that hold intersectionality as a core value and seek to end all forms of oppression do not ask people to prioritize or sacrifice any aspect of their identity over another.”

To add to this, the center acted as a co-author of the #LiberateNCpride press release and petition.

For more information, visit ncpride.org.

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.