“We who believe in freedom cannot rest... We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes”
- The refrain from “Ella’s Song” written by Bernice Johnson Reagon to honor the work of Ella Baker who challenged us to bring those of us who are on the margins of margins to the forefront of our movements
An open letter to the Pride Committee of North Carolina:
This year, NC Pride alienated members of the North Carolina community through its failure to reschedule Pride from Saturday, September 30th. This day is Yom Kippur, meaning day of atonement and one of the holiest days of the year for Jewish people around the world. This decision to host a statewide Pride event on a date that conflicted with the observance of Yom Kippur, disregards the needs and concerns of those who are both Jewish and LGBTQ and ultimately precludes participation of an already minoritized community. The decision to change the festival to start at 4PM on Yom Kippur was made without consultation from Jewish led organizations, longstanding community partners and festival participants, or community-based organizations who do the work to support LGBTQ+ communities across North Carolina. And despite the outcry of opposition from Jewish communities from across the state the date was unchanged.
The implementation of “NC Pride @ Night,” as a possible solution to the scheduling of NC Pride on Yom Kippur offered by NC Pride’s leadership, not only misses the mark in addressing the concerns of Jewish communities, but also changes the entire tone of the event by 1) splitting the event across two different cities versus bringing everyone together, and 2) eliminating the kid-friendly Parade and the Festival on the Duke campus, making it feel less accessible to caregivers and young people. Moreover, subsequent demands for a more accountable and transparent process from the organizers of NC Pride were unheard and ignored by Mr. John Short and the NC Pride organizing committee. This is further complicated by the fact that the 501(c)3 tax exempt status of the “Pride Committee of North Carolina” was revoked in 2011, and leaves overarching questions still lingering. How is Pride funded? Does the leadership of the planning committee reflect the experiences of communities throughout NC? How is the committee being held accountable to the communities it claims to celebrate?
Devastatingly, these exclusionary practices are not unique to this year’s NC Pride committee. NC Pride has a history of demonstrating a lack of transparency & accountability and an underrepresentation of historically marginalized communities. This includes but is not limited to trans individuals; LGBTQIA2S individuals, particularly those of color; Black, Latinx, Indigenous, low income, Muslim, Jewish, immigrant, disabled, neuroatypical, and undocumented individuals, from rural communities, and those of us living at the intersections of those identities. For these reasons, this letter is generated by a coalition of individuals, families, clergy, organizations and communities committed to fostering spaces that are sanctuaries for everyone, and we are hoping that you will join us in abstaining from this year’s NC Pride @ Night scheduled for September 30th.
We believe, that it is not only possible but imperative that we uplift the connections between the lack of accountability experienced at this year’s NC Pride committee with years prior and begin to engage in conversations and overall visioning about what a more inclusive Pride event can look like in North Carolina. Considering that each year, Pride commemorates the Stonewall Riots of June 28, 1969, sparked by trans women of color in response to anti-LGBTQ police violence, we envision an NC Pride that will honor the legacies of resistance by centering the needs, experiences, histories and leadership of historically marginalized communities.
In alignment with the spirit of Stonewall, we uplift the work of a queer-trans-people-of-color-led coalition who disrupted Pride parades in Greensboro and Durham in 2015. The protests were in resistance to the police presence, corporate sponsorship, as well as the leadership of Pride. Their statement makes our next steps clear when they assert, “Our people, queer trans black and brown people, are not an afterthought, your tokens, or your objects on your websites. Our tribe stands in our legacy of resistance and we are demanding: show up for us or we shut you down. Fight alongside us, or we shut you down.” Despite the call for accountability for the violence inflicted on the protesters during the event, NC Pride has refused to discuss the matter or even acknowledge that an altercation even happened, with the director of NC Pride referring to the altercation as a "false controversy."
We can do better. We can prohibit all industries and corporate branding that profit from war, detention and incarceration, environmental destruction, evictions, community displacement, and gentrification. We can reject sponsorship from corporations and business that are exploitative and cause great harm. We can find a date and a time that doesn’t disenfranchise entire communities. We can honor the histories and the people and the land that truly represent the LGBTQ community of NC. And we can listen and respond when LGBTQ people of color and Jewish people are uplifting their experiences of feeling marginalization.
And we can do better right now.
We understand that this call to action asks you to divest from a tradition that has afforded some of us the opportunity for at least one day each year to connect and be visible -- when connecting, loving and living as LGBTQ individuals and families is often wrought with challenges and often met with violence. As an organized group of concerned community members -- we join you in lamenting this potential opportunity to celebrate the lives, experiences, histories and resiliencies of LGBTQ people. However, it is our aim to uplift the disparate experiences that exist within LGBTQ communities, address the disproportionate violence and oppression faced by those of us who are most marginalized and refuse to celebrate while injustices persist. Together, we hope to begin the work of collectively building a NC Pride that is more deeply rooted in the tradition of the Stonewall Rebellion and is a sanctuary for all of those in attendance.
Finally, we encourage you to support other events and organizations that are fostering spaces and working towards making collective liberation possible. Moreover, we pledge that by signing this, we recommit to examining the ways that our own organizations and members similarly uphold racism, sexism, xenophobia, cissexism and transphobia. We too are complicit in exclusionary policies and practices that result in safety and freedoms for some of us and not all of us.
By abstaining from this year’s NC Pride on September 30th, we will instead invest in safe spaces, continued conversations, and ongoing action to transform ourselves, our organizations, our communities and our state through this work. We hope that you will join us. Those of us who have endorsed this statement, we will work towards holding a Town Hall meeting discuss possible next steps at a later date.
We look forward to working collectively with you to build not only a Pride event, but a state in which all LGBTQ people are able to celebrate life free from fear and oppression.
In solidarity and pride,
The LGBTQ Center of Durham
Carolina Jews for Justice - Triangle
The Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill
Jewish Voice for Peace - Triangle NC
Duke University Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity
Black Youth Project 100 - Durham chapter
El Centro Hispano
Southerners on New Ground (SONG) - Durham
NC Trans Pride
Trans & Queer People of Color Collective of Charlotte
Trans Liberation Foundation
Freedom Center for Social Justice
NC State GLBT Center
Queer Youth Circus
Safe Schools NC
Rabbi Larry Bach
United Church of Chapel Hill Open and Affirming Coalition
Common Woman Chorus
Greensboro Jewish Federation
Rainbow Community Cares
Global Citizen, LLC
< Others to be continually added as we receive commitments>
LIST OF COMMUNITY EVENTS (still a work in progress; please share add’l events to liberateNCpride@gmail.com)
September 2, 2017: 4pm to 9pm Port City Pride (Riverfront Park between Market and Princess, Wilmington NC) https://www.facebook.com/events/453781388331081
September 9, 2017: Fayetteville Pride https://www.facebook.com/fayncpride/
September 16, 2017: NC Trans Pride 2017 https://www.facebook.com/events/857786007702546/
September 22 thru September 24, 2017: Seventh Annual Outer Banks PrideFest weekend https://www.facebook.com/events/496688247330509
October 7, 2017: 12 noon to 5pm, 3rd annual Alamance Pride Festival (Historic Train Depot & Amphitheater, Burlington, NC 27215)https://www.facebook.com/events/1249518855176592
- 7:30pm to 10pm, Community Pride Havdallah at the Levin Jewish Community Center (1937 Cornwallis Road, Durham NC 27705) https://www.facebook.com/events/412439195816934
October 13, 2017: Rainbow Bull Bash (A party for queer youth ages 13 to 19) https://www.facebook.com/events/257092208144291/
October 14, 2017: 2pm to 7pm, LGBTQ Center of Durham 2nd Anniversary Celebration (Rigsbee Ave, Durham NC) https://www.facebook.com/events/2019114668308633/
Thursday October 19 thru Saturday October 21, 2017: Southern Fried Queer Pride - Durham Info: http://www.southernfriedqueerpride.com/sfqpdurham2...
October 28, 2017: 12pm to 5pm, Queernival , https://www.facebook.com/events/1821509331473607