Charlotte Pride 2016 has officially started, and it kicked off with an opening ceremony,hosted by Joanne Spataro and featuring Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Rep. Chris Sgro, the Trans and Queer People of Color Collective (TQPocC).
Mayor Roberts, who will be the Grand Marshal of tomorrow’s parade, announced the start of Charlotte Pride 2016.
Almost as soon as she began speaking a protester with a bullhorn (Flip Benham from the sounds of it) began shouting anti-LGBT rhetoric. She, as well as the other speakers on the stage, raised their voices against the hatred and spoke their messages loud and proud.
“In spite of the protesters, we will prevail!” Roberts said. “Because God loves every single one of us, and God embraces diversity. We want everyone to bring their whole selves to Charlotte. Be who you are, love who you want, you are welcome in Charlotte, North Carolina.”
After the singing of the national anthem, Rep. Chris Sgro, the only openly LGBT member of the North Carolina General Assembly and the executive director of Equality NC, took the microphone, saying, “We’re going to stand against people who would spew hate over the national anthem, and we’re going to stand with love today, aren’t we?”
“And apparently we’re doing Pat McCrory‘s job for him here at Charlotte Pride by actually bringing people who want to spend money to the city of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina, while he’s been turning everyone away from our great state,” he continued.
Sgro also encouraged everyone to get out and vote in the upcoming election.
“We need your help, and your help looks like November,” he said. “Friends, I’ve spent every day for the past couple of months at the General Assembly advocating for LGBT issues. And there are some great allies who are there too, but there are some awful folks, and a lot of them unfortunately represent Mecklenburg County, who spew hate right at the General Assembly, and we are going to kick them out in November.
“We are going to unelect this discriminatory, do nothing governor, Pat McCrory, and we are gonna replace him with Roy Cooper. And we’re going to win up and down the ballot with pro-equality candidates, but we are only going to do that with your help.”
TQPocC spoke next, represented by Ashley Williams, Cidney Holliday, Gloria Merriweather, Zach Easterling and Lara Americo.
They began by chanting over the anti-LGBT preaching that was still going on.
“When trans lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” they chanted, as well as, “I believe that we will win!”
They then called for a moment of silence for Blake Brockington, who was named homecoming king at East Mecklenburg High School as an openly trans man. HB2 was signed on the one year anniversary of Brockington’s death as a result of suicide.
“Our silence will always be more powerful than the words of hate,” Williams said.
Williams had talks with the Charlotte Pride board concerning increased policing, due to Pride being designated an extraordinary event for the first time this year, which they felt were ultimately not productive.
Creative Loafing recently published a piece outlining the events, which included Charlotte Pride attempting to get TQPocC to sign a partnership agreement, which you can read here. They declined.
They were offered this stage time, as well as a tent, shortly after the series of meetings between Williams and the Pride board broke down.
They encouraged reaching out to the most marginalized members of the community, including trans and gender queer individuals, people of color, the disabled and the disenfranchised.
“This Pride is for black queers, disabled queers, old queers, Muslim queers, deaf queers, daddy queers, mommy queers, the queers who couldn’t live at home anymore, the queers who still can’t find a job, and the queers who have passed away, as well as the queers who have been murdered by the state,” Williams said.
Americo, an activist and musician who turned down a spot playing in the VIP tent continued her call for more trans women of color to be represented on the main stage.
“I want it to be very clear that we were not invited onto this stage today. That we had to fight to be on this stage,” Americo said. “And we have to fight in our own community. Trans and queer people of color have to fight. We have to fight people who hate us, and it shouldn’t be that way.”
“Trans women of color were only allowed eight percent of the stage time on this stage today, and this weekend,” she continued. “And it shouldn’t be like that. We should all be working together to fight people who hate all of us, and group us all together into one entity. We should be working together.”
Merriweather brought up Brockington again, stressing the importance of bringing up names such as his.
“When we talk about HB2, we need to talk about people from our own city who were affected,” Merriweather said. “People who lived here, young, trans, black folk who are being targeted by the state.
Our community lost Blake Brockington in 2015 and the nondiscrimination ordinance was supposed to be a signal of hope for us. Instead the state took that away and then put targets, even bigger targets on our backs…We need y’all out there, doing canvassing, we people who are really ready to fight this fight…I’m tired of my friends dying, I’m tired of burying black, trans bodies. Any body that has to be affected by the state in that way.”
Rev. Robin Tanner of Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church and Rev. Chrissy T. Williamson, who co-chair the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, closed out the ceremony with a prayer.
Watch video of the proceedings below.