DURHAM — It is an honor five years in the making. On Sept. 26, Durhamite Pam Spaulding will take to the NC Pride Fest stage and deliver the annual festival’s keynote address.
“I feel honored to be asked to be asked to do it — after being the average citizen attending the parade, and now addressing my fellow Bull City residents and other folks who have traveled here for Pride,” she told Q-Notes.
Spaulding, known for her blogging at PamsHouseBlend.com, is a bit of a hometown hero in Durham. What started out as a simple way to share memories and discuss the issues of the day has blossomed into a nationally-recognized source for progressive and LGBT news, thought and opinion.
On her blog, which features several regular writers and contributors, Spaulding cuts through some of the thickest and most controversial issues both inside and outside of the LGBT community. Among her biggest pet peeves is the issue of race and diversity inside the queer movement for equality.
She said she’ll use her time as NC Pride keynoter to highlight North Carolina’s successes, as well as its opportunities for growth.
“I want to talk about our successes — the anti-bullying bill, the Healthy Youth Act, and the resolution by the Durham City Council,” she said. “Those are positive things, but I also want to talk about what happened at the council meeting and the experience of so many people of color in the audience sitting down when it passed.”
The division between people of color and the LGBT community is a recurring theme, Spaulding said. “I’ve experienced it in the blogosphere and offline.”
Most recently, Spaulding said she was shocked when participating in Equality North Carolina’s 2009 Lobby Day, when African-American legislators told her social justice issues and LGBT issues weren’t the same thing.
“I don’t choose to be in one community or another,” Spaulding said. “I am a part of both, and we need to start talking about that and start seeing how that hampers LGBT progress when we ignore the elephant in the room.”
Since the passage of California’s Prop. 8, an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment, there’s been plenty of discussion on issues of race and sexuality. Despite the discussion, Spaulding says she hasn’t seen much progress.
“You don’t have good representation of people of color at LGBT organizations and in the activist community,” she said. “The thought of inclusion is not on the top of their minds. As long as that occurs, you will see this tension.”
She blames a good chunk of the tension on self-segregation. “We can’t build bridges if people don’t even socialize in the same circles,” she said. “It seems as if no one trusts each other.”
Frustratingly, discussions on race and diversity inside the LGBT community tend to shut down before they start. Spaulding’s attempts at bringing the issue to the forefront on her blog often gain little traction.
Spaulding said she gets a similar traction problem when attempting to fuse LGBT interests with overarching progressive goals and issues.
“It is a catch-22,” she said. “I think there is a lot of mistrust of the progressive community. They definitely want our support on their issues, but one of the problems is that time and time again the progressive community tells the LGBT community to sit down and shut up in the back of the bus while these other primary issues get taken care of.”
Messages like that are taken as hostility by the LGBT community, Spaulding said. “Really it is just a difference in priorities. It is very frustrating when it happens over and over again and no bone is thrown toward the LGBT community.”
But, no matter the issue at hand — race, inclusion, the larger progressive community — Spaulding has proven herself to be an invaluable bridge builder. She views her short time in the NC Pride spotlight as a chance to continue her quests.
“I have this opportunity to talk about issues that have been on my mind, that have an impact locally and nationally,” Spaulding said.
And there’s no doubt she’ll be taking that opportunity and running with it.