Pride, now more than ever

Editor's Note

by O'Neale Atkinson  Editor Emeritus  
Published: June 9, 2012 in Editor's Note

Happy Pride month everyone! I love that Pride is in June. Not only is it my birth month, but this June will mark one year since my move to North Carolina and I could not be more proud. While I must confess, I do miss Columbia (even in the summer heat!). This past year has shown me that I needed to make a change and I genuinely believe this was the best move I could make.

Without a doubt my “I did the right thing” moment came as I was standing in the middle of Pride Charlotte last year in uptown. I had been in Charlotte for two months at the time and was working part-time for The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. For the first two months I was working with the Center, my primary focus was helping manage issues around the event and working with the Pride Charlotte committee.

During the actual day of Pride Charlotte, I was managing volunteers for a few of the booths. I was running like a madman for most of the day when I remember just stopping and taking it all in for a minute. There were thousands of people all around me, all of them just happy being themselves and enjoying the festivities. Sure, there were protestors, but, honestly, I don’t remember much of them, they were absolutely the minority for the day.

I have been to other Pride celebrations in South Carolina and in other parts of the country, but this past year was the first time I really felt it. It was an overwhelming rush of, well, pride! Having the opportunity to watch the process come together months in advance, I never quite grasped how big the experience would be until I was standing right in the middle of it. It felt so good to have taken a part in coordinating some of Pride Charlotte and to see it come to life in such a beautiful way.

I remember talking to my mom shortly after last year’s Pride Charlotte and telling her about the day. At one point she asked me why we have Pride festivals as a community. I did my best to explain my personal feelings about the importance of it with her and invited her to come to SC Pride with me in Columbia.

When I met up with my mom outside of Finlay Park, she was furious. On her way into downtown she took her normal route which drove her straight down Gervais St. past the State Capitol and witnessed the wall of protestors standing around with hate-filled signs. “I wanted to swerve into them,” I remember her saying. My mother is no fool and knew that people were against the LGBT community, but that was the first time I think she saw exactly how hateful people can be.

We put the protestors on the street behind us and walked into the park. It was a beautiful day and the atmosphere was fun and loving as always. As always my mom quickly made friends with strangers and had a blast. After a few hours and getting to see Martha Wash, we called it a day. Mom definitely understood why we need Pride celebrations and I was proud to be able to share that experience with her.

With the passage of Amendment One and the recent outpouring of very direct opposition to the LGBT community here in North Carolina, I can understand how some may feel like the wind has left our sails, but now is not the time to lose heart. Now, more than ever, we must reinforce our sense of pride and share it for the world to see.

For those of you who may have never experienced a Pride festival I encourage you to attend one or more this year. Bring a friend or a family member with you and share with them a part of our community. If you are a regular attendee of Pride festivals, I encourage you to step up this year and volunteer to work with Pride organizations. Help make Pride in your area the biggest and best it can be. : :