Hundreds attended the Extravaganza on Saturday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Organizers for Charlotte Black Gay Pride say they are pleased with the success of their various events this weekend and say the annual celebration of the local African-American LGBT community is its largest and best ever.

“We were very pleased,” Crystal Long, Charlotte Black Gay Pride chair, said of the organization’s Extravaganza on Saturday, a day-long expo of community organizations, vendors and entertainment. “We spoke with quite a few vendors and guests and even some of the promoters came by and they were really surprised. I think a lot of people were excited it was held inside and they felt that we improved from last year to this year.”

Long added, “Every year has gotten better. I feel it was extremely successful.”

The organization opened their weekend activities on Thursday with a community town hall forum and panel discussion exploring the “-isms” within the LGBT community. About 75 people attended the forum, with discussion ranging from class and race to sexism and the place of diversity within the LGBT community. The moderator of the panel was local HIV/AIDS educator and PowerHouse Project staffer Jermaine Nakia Lee. Panelists included PRISM coordinator Mel Hartsell, LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County President Gary Leake, University of North Carolina-Charlotte Assistant Director for Sexual and Gender Diversity Joshua Burford, Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Chair Robin Bradford, Charlotte Black Gay Pride board member Francisco Luis White, Equality NC staffer Crystal Richardson and Charlotte Business Guild President Chad Sevearance.

Two anti-gay protesters targeted the event outside of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. One using a sound system was later stopped from doing so by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police because he had failed to secure an amplified sound permit. A third anti-gay protester was present inside the center and listened to the discussion for more than an hour and a half before being given a short time to speak. No arrests of protesters were made and the one inside the center eventually left voluntarily.

On Saturday, hundreds attended Charlotte Black Gay Pride’s Extravaganza, where dozens of vendors including non-profit groups, local businesses and national companies like PNC Bank and Wells Fargo interacted with attendees.

A Jazz brunch was planned to round out the weekend activities on Sunday.

Long says she believes the local LGBT African-American community is stepping out like never before.

“I think that we have finally found a comfort zone,” she says. “A lot of people were hiding before and a lot of people are starting to show their true selves and being a part of the family — coming out. A lot of people who hand’t really participated before were there yesterday. It was exciting and eye-awakening moment of seeing everybody there.”

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.