When Palmetto Staters take to the streets in downtown Columbia on Sept. 12, they’ll be marching in the legacy left by countless icons and leaders preceding them in the two decades since the SC Pride Movement’s birth.
In 1989, PFLAG mom Harriett Hancock initiated the planning stages for what we now know as the SC Pride Movement. At a picnic on Dreher Island, Hancock signed up LGBT community members willing to help organize a march down Columbia’s Main Street. At the time, South Carolina had no activist or advocacy organization, and Columbia’s PFLAG chapter was the only avenue for support and visibility.
After a year of planning, 1500 community members turned out on June 23, 1990 to march down Main St.
“The participants began to gather around 11 a.m. and mixed and mingled until the march began at about five minutes past noon,” then-administrative manager David Stout wrote for the July 1990 print issue of Q-Notes. “The parade members festively played and joked with one another as everyone tried to work out the jitters of being in the first-ever, large-scale display of gay activism in the state’s history.”
Among those present for the first SC Pride parade was Jim Blanton and Barbara Embick, co-chairs of the event; singer and humorist Lynn Lavner, who skipped New York’s Pride to attend the event; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Robert Bray; and Charlotte’s One Voice Chorus.
In the time since that first intrepid act of solidarity and Pride, the SC Pride Movement has evolved into a statewide advocacy force. The group sponsors and runs the Harriett Hancock Community Center, the state’s first-ever LGBT center and permanent community resource. They also sponsor Rainbow Radio, Columbia’s LGBT-focused talk show, which premiered in October 2005 and airs Sundays on WOIC-AM 1230.
In 2008, the group claimed a Pride attendance of 6,000 or more, and landed public sponsorship funds from the City of Columbia. This year, both the city and Richland County are chief sponsors. Other sponsors include WXRY 99.3 FM, Carolina Purple Pages, OnQ Carolina Edition, Amro Worldwide, Q-Notes, Marriott Columbia, David and Southern Voice, MTV’s LOGO, Time Warner Cable and others.