What a year! We could have a ball talking about about the more titilating details from the national happenings in 2007 — Sen. Larry Craig and other juicy scandals — but we’ll save our diatribe on rabid hypocrisy for another article. Instead, let’s focus on the community right here in the good ole Carolinas.
Like every other year, the last 12 months were a mixed bag for the Carolinas’ LGBT communities with some ups and some downs, some sweet successes and some stinging setbacks. Here’s a recap:
The Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Gala presented awards for community service to worthy recipients.
Everyone knew it would be big. Counting the number of tickets sold before the day of the event, there was no surprise for organizers when the massive crowd of 1,500 attendees at the 2007 Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Gala helped to make the annual event the second-largest HRC-affiliated fundraising dinner in the nation, second only to the national dinner in Washington, D.C. With appearances by out comedian Leslie Jordan, Broadway star Jennifer Holliday and recording artist Amber, the dinner’s James Bond-inspired theme, “Equality is Forever,” went off without a hitch.
Among those receiving awards at the 2007 Gala were the Raleigh-based Alliance of AIDS Services, the Columbia-based “Rainbow Radio” and North Carolina resident Scott Vitez (better known as his drag alter-ego Shelita Ham).
On March 31, Myrtle Beach’s new Center Project hosted its first ever Gala by the Sea, a fundraiser for the new community center and its programs and initiatives. Selling 150 tickets, the event garnered close to $11,000 for the organization. The weekend-long series of events began with a fundraising party at Time Out!, a local Myrtle Beach gay bar. The next evening, the Gala was held at the city’s restored Train Depot. According to Center Project Executive Director Patrick Evens, the event was a “vibrant indicator of just how much the LGBT community is standing behind the Center.” The group’s second Gala by the Sea fundraiser was held in December at Breakers Resort.
North Carolina was well represented in the second Soulforce Equality Ride in March and April. The Ride had its first full run in 2006 and was created to challenge the discrimination faced by LGBT students and faculty at Christian colleges and universities. Winston-Salem native Matt Comer — who now serves as Q-Notes’ editor — and Dunn native Angel Collie participated in the Ride.
Both youth activists traveled on the eastern leg of the Ride, which trekked through the Midwest and the Deep South then continued to New England and the Great Lakes region.
A third youth, Shawn O’Neil, moved to Greensboro after the Ride to attend the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. All three Riders were arrested at least once for trespassing as they attempted to speak to conservative Christian students about faith, God, sexuality and equality.
Charlotte gay center struggles
Equality NC Conference and Gala was a huge success.
This was a tumultuous year for the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center. In January, Q-Notes reported that the Center was fighting an uphill battle to retain employees, volunteers and funding. At the beginning of February, the Center remained in debt by as much as $35,000 to $40,000.
With the word out, things began to improve. In May, the Center was the recipient of an $18,000 grant from the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund. That was on top of $20,000 raised by Southern Country Charlotte and an individual contribution of $10,000 from John Crowley, executive vice president and CFO of Fairpoint Communications. (Q-Notes later revealed that Crowley had pledged an additional $30,000 if some benchmarks were met, but no plan was ever established to collect the money.) Pride Charlotte, a project of the Center, donated about $13,000 more. The Center emerged financially solvent.
In the fall, supporters learned that the building leased by the Center and its neighbor, LGBT store White Rabbit, had been sold. The new owners were willing to let the Center stay, but their proposed rent increase made that impossible. At press time, the search for a new location for the Center continues. White Rabbit has settled at 920 Central Ave.
Soon after the Easter holiday, the Metropolitan Community Church of Charlotte gained a new pastoral leader. Rev. Jim Martin, formerly of MCC West Palm Beach, was called to fill a two-year interim pastor position after the departure of longtime MCC Charlotte pastor Mick Hinson.
“The people of the church have been wonderful to me and I really like Charlotte,” Martin told Q-Notes in June.
He and his partner, Brian Plummer, settled in the University area. By the end of the year, Plummer was also serving the church as the interim choir director and office assistant.
In June, another MCC saw a change in the pulpit. MCC Winston-Salem called the Rev. Joe Cobb to be its pastor and held his installation service on June 24. The Rev. Elder Arlene Ackerman, the MCC’s Region 3 elder, participated in the service welcoming Cobb to his new position in the church.
On June 12, the South Carolina LGBT community mourned the loss of entertainer Jason Wayne Hucks, more popularly known as Valeria “Sunshyne” Tate, who was killed in a fatal car accident in Myrtle Beach. Police said the sport utility vehicle Tate was driving hit a pole and the impact knocked the pole 93 feet from its base. Hucks died at the scene of multiple trauma injuries.
Hucks was a Conway, S.C., native and a graduate of Carolina Forest High School and the Carolina College of Cosmotology. He performed at Time Out! and Club Hushh, both in Myrtle Beach, as well as other clubs across the Palmetto state.
2007 witnessed several successful Pride festivals across the Carolinas. In August, Pride Charlotte broke their 2006 attendance record with an 8,000-strong event in uptown Gateway Village. On the same day, the Triad area held its first-ever Triad Pride. That landmark event attracted close to 700 participants and garnered positive news coverage in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem press. In the fall, S.C. Pride presented openly gay, twin-brother entertainers Jacob and Joshua Miller, stars of the LOGO hit reality series “Nemesis Rising.” At the end of September, the NC Pride Festival hit a record with the number of organizations and businesses participating in its vender fair on Duke University’s east campus. Randy Jones, best remembered as “The Cowboy” in the ’70s disco group The Village People, performed at the Festival and rode in the parade.
Clay Edwin Lambert — aka Tracy Morgan, one of the most popular drag performers to ever grace the stage in Charlotte — passed away in shocking fashion in October. Lambert died backstage following a performance at Scorpio. The entertainer’s popularity was obvious at the Oct. 17 visitation service — 1,000 people from across the region attended to pay their respects during the three-hour viewing.
“No one can ever replace Tracy Morgan; you cannot fill her shoes,” said Scorpio owner Rick Wilds.
Q-Notes experienced a loss in its own family when Jeffrey Wayne Habbestadd passed away at the age of 54 on Nov. 2. Born in Oakland, Calif., in 1953, Jeff (known to many as “Bodine”) lived with his family in Florida before moving to Concord, N.C., 30 years ago. Jeff often volunteered with the food bank and according to longtime friend Marti Slater, took it upon himself to help other people in their time of need. Since March 2001, Jeff had helped with Q-Notes’ packaging and distribution services.
“Jeff’s memory will go on for a long time,” Slater told Q-Notes. “It is just nice to see all the good and hear all the good from Jeff’s memory.”
For only the second time in American history and for the very first time in North Carolina, an openly gay man is campaigning for election to the U.S. Senate. In October, Jim Neal announced he would step up for the Democrats and run against incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole. Immediately following his announcement, State Rep. Kay Hagan of Greensboro, a “business-friendly” Democrat with friends in the state party establishment, announced she had changed her mind about her earlier decision not to run and would indeed enter the race. A third Democratic primary candidate, John Ross Hendrix, announced he would run, as well.
Neal’s announcement made headlines around the country as people compared his run to that of gay Senate candidate Ed Flanagan, whose unsuccessful 2000 bid made history.
“I’m not running this race to lose,” Neal wrote during an online town hall event. “I’m not running to make some social statement. I’m running to lead in the Senate for the voters in N.C. — something Sen. Dole has not done.”
For the first time in its history, Equality NC organized a statewide conference and evening gala social. Held on Nov. 3, 2007, at Duke University’s Law School, the conference attracted more than 200 LGBT and straight ally North Carolinians for a day of networking and education, followed by an evening gala where State Rep. Rick Glazier was honored with the organization’s first annual Legislative Leadership Award.
Marking a positive step for the LGBT community, Rep. Joe Hackney, speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives, delivered a speech at the evening gala and assisted in presenting Rep. Glazier with his award.