There’s an excitement in the air in the Twin City these days. Winston-Salem isn’t necessarily known statewide for its LGBT-friendliness, but some community members there are aimed to change that.
While no stranger to activism and advocacy, Winston-Salem hasn’t seen a Pride festival or parade in 15 years. Equality Winston-Salem, a new group established last fall, is working to organize “WSPride2011.” They’ve planned a series of events, including gay bingo nights, to raise money for the parade.
The group will hold their second bingo, “Spring Break Bingo,” on Friday, March 18 at the YWCA-Gateway. Themed “places gays go on spring break,” the event will feature spots such as Palm Springs, Ft. Lauderdale and gay cruise ships.
Rex Welton, an organizer of the event, explains further, “The tagline for our bingo nights is ‘This is not your grandmother’s bingo, but grandma is welcome to join us!’ The atmosphere is fun, fast-paced and zany with great music and talented performers.”
Equality Winston-Salem‘s board members have also initiated grant requests and are collecting scholarships for local students.
In her 25 years in the Winston-Salem area, Mary Jamis has never experienced such a strong “sense of urgency and necessity to work hard on behalf of the LGBT community” as she has in her involvement with the group during the last 10 months.
“Our message is one of celebrating the rich diversity of our community,” Jamis explains. “I’ve come to believe strongly over the last few months that we are too small an LGBTQ community to splinter off into separate and disparate groups…I think our greatest opportunity in the LGBTQ community is to come together as often as we can to support and celebrate one another in our collective efforts. So, it’s important to educate our allies, but it’s equally important, more important in fact, to educate ourselves about each other.”
Jamis and Welton are among a larger group of Equality Winston-Salem members who say they envision a city that embraces the fresh, creative zeal of the LGBT community.
Last month’s event, “For the Love of Bingo,” was wildly successful. The group says they sold over 600 tickets — over half of them to straight allies.
“One of the greatest gifts of the last 10 months is to witness the support of straight allies in Winston-Salem,” Jamis says. “They come from the expected places — close friends, family and co-workers, but they also come from unexpected places — senior corporate individuals who understand that a more inclusive community is good and necessary for their business and this community.”
Welton reiterates the importance of gay and straight alliance-building in these activities. “As our straight allies get to know more members of the LGBT community, they will be in a much better position to assist us in our goal of securing equal rights for all of the members — not just LGBT — of our community,” he says.
The doors open for Spring Break Bingo at 6:30 p.m. and the bingo madness ensues at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for the public or a discounted $10 for students who bring their I.D. Tickets can be bought online at equalitywinstonsalem.org or at one of the following Winston-Salem establishments: Washington Perk & Provisions, The Screaming Rooster, Pet Supplies Plus, Whole Foods Market, or Caffe Prada. : :