Update: The Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade and Charlotte Black Pride have both been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. See the story at goqnotes-launch2.newspackstaging.com/65546 to learn more and to get more details on alternative plans.
L’Monique King is devastated, but hopeful. The New York native has attended New York Gay Pride for more than two decades, and she planned to go in June. Now, she and her life partner will celebrate from their Charlotte home this year.
“Although I’m disappointed, I’m excited to see what newness will come out of this,” said King, 53.
Not surprisingly, cities across the country have canceled Pride celebrations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. States are slowly beginning to ease social distancing guidelines, but some city mayors such as New York’s Bill DeBlasio are still banning large gatherings and festivals. As of publication, nationally known Prides, such as New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington D.C., have already been canceled. Most Prides are in June, which is recognized as Pride month.
Charlotte typically holds its Pride celebrations in later summer months. Charlotte’s Black Pride is scheduled for July 12-19 and Charlotte Pride is scheduled for the first weekend in August. It is typically in mid-August, but the date was moved up as a result of Charlotte hosting the Republican National Convention, which is still scheduled as planned.
In a statement, Daniel Valdez, president of the Charlotte Pride Board of Directors, said any major changes to the festival and parade will be announced to the community as soon as possible.
“Charlotte Pride’s very first priority is the safety, health and wellness of our community, attendees, volunteers, sponsors and other partners. We are closely monitoring all updates and recommendations regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” he said.
The organization began hosting a series of virtual events, such as Facebook Live conversations, in April. A short film showcase is scheduled for May 7-11 and an online showcase of local queer talent is scheduled for mid-May.
Charlotte Black Pride chair Shann Fulton released a statement that the board is brainstorming virtual programming and providing pertinent information on needed resources during this time. The organization will update the community regarding Pride week as soon as a final decision is made.
“These are uncertain times and they have proven to make our planning challenging,” the statement read. “Charlotte Black Pride is committed to adhering to the directives of the office of the Governor, as well as doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The shift to provide online gatherings is one that is occurring internationally among Pride organizations. InterPride, the European Pride Organisers Association, and national organizations from the U.S., Canada, U.K. and other nations are organizing an online-only event to celebrate Pride on June 27.
Global Pride will deliver a Pride online featuring musical performances, speeches and key messages from human rights activists, according to a statement on the organization’s website.
“Annual Pride events in the United States engage and unite 20 million people who gather to celebrate the strength and resilience of the LGBTQIA+ community and to raise awareness for social justice and equal rights of all individuals,” said Ron deHarte, co-president of the United States Association of Prides on the InterPride statement. “Through the pain and disruption caused by the novel coronavirus, we will deliver a virtual message of hope, comfort, love…”
For King, the term “resilience” is synonymous with Pride, which she says is more about protest and celebrating authenticity than it is about partying. King has lived in Charlotte for the past three years. She is an author and spoken word artist and has performed at Prides throughout the East Coast, she said.
A couple of years ago, she and her partner began experiencing Prides elsewhere, such as Honolulu and San Francisco. Last year, they were part of the estimated 5 million people who participated in New York’s Pride to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
“We’ve seen a lot when it comes to the LGBT movement. For us, Pride was church. It was what would be convocation for other folks,” King said. “Not having that definitely presents a feeling of loss.”
For many people around the world, social distancing restrictions will have begun to ease in June, which will make the loss of Pride even more acute. This moment in history is a cruel reminder of another virus that decimated families and communities nearly 40 years ago. The Internet did not give the community a place to gather back then, but today it may be a salve for many who feel isolated and miss the vibrancy and love of the LGBTQ family.