CHARLOTTE — In 2008, LGBT delegates and guests to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo., were treated to a special welcome when they got to the Mile High City. When nearly 500 LGBT delegates and hundreds more LGBT and straight ally guests arrive in Charlotte, they’ll be treated no differently.
Charlotte locals have come together to present the Unity Through Community, Charlotte 2012 event on Sunday, Sept. 2. Open to the public, tickets are on sale now at unitycharlotte2012.com. Organizers say they expect upwards of 2,000 attendees, including delegates, other convention guests, elected officials and business leaders.
The 2008 DNC was one of the first political conventions to welcome LGBT visitors in such a grand and special way. There, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and National Stonewall Democrats came together to present a special party, also named Unity.
Obviously, Charlotte couldn’t be left out of the action. Some are even calling it a “new tradition.” Others say they hope rolling out the red carpet proves just how hospitable Charlotte can be, especially after the passage of Amendment One.
“North Carolina broadly is an anti-gay state,” admits Unity Fellowship Church of Charlotte’s Bishop Tonyia Rawls, a member of the Unity party’s organizing committee. “I hope this [event] shows that one can never assume anything as it relates to how in a democracy every individual feels or thinks.”
Rawls and other organizers want to draw clear distinctions between the LGBT community’s still-stinging defeat in May and the forward movement places like Charlotte are seeing.
“This is a unique opportunity for Charlotte, which is in the midst of taking so many incredible steps forward,” Rawls says. “Our mayor has shown himself to be very supportive of LGBT rights and inclusion.”
If you go
Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012
8 p.m.-2 a.m.
N.C. Dance Theatre
701 N. Tryon St.
General admission tickets are $25 before Aug. 20 and $40 thereafter. VIP tickets are $75 before Aug. 20 and $100 thereafter.
Law enforcement and other security agencies will begin to close some streets in Uptown Charlotte beginning the morning of Sept. 2. However, both vehicular and pedestrian traffic will be allowed on most streets in Uptown North, including N. Tryon St. To be safe, take Church St. from the north into Uptown. For more information on street closures, pedestrian restrictions and other security measures for the Time Warner Cable Arena and Bank of America Stadium areas, read our story at goqnotes.com/16497/.
More info: unitycharlotte2012.com
Keith Alyea, another Unity organizer, agrees and anxiously awaits the days leading up to the event when he gets to show off his new hometown.
“Charlotte is a fantastic city,” says Alyea, an I.T. consultant originally from New Jersey. “I love living here and brag about it all the time to my New Jersey friends. They think I’m crazy.”
The national narrative painting North Carolina as backward is wrong, Alyea adds. What happened in May, isn’t reflective of his experience.
“Charlotte is a very accepting place and a wonderful place for gay people to live,” he says.
Organizer Craig Snider, a native of nearby Greensboro, N.C., was among several key organizers who nearly a year ago first began pushing the initiative and several other local projects. It’s taken a long time to build the resources necessary for the event, but he’s happy with the results so far.
“I’m impressed with the number of people who are active in the effort — people from all different organizations in town who have never worked together before,” Snider says. “I think we’re doing quite an amazing job.”
The organizers say the event’s lasting legacy will come from the relationships built among its dozens of volunteer organizers.
“Charlotte is a medium-sized gay community trying to become a large gay community,” says Snider. “The convention has allowed a lot of the LGBT leaders to get involved in ways that were not possible within the larger Charlotte community. We’re building really good relationships that will last and we’re also better understanding what the different organizations are capable of and what they need.”
Rawls says she sees particular value in the diversity represented at the table.
“We have straight and gay, multi-racial and varied ethnicities,” she says. “We get a chance to have a stronger, more unified community as we welcome all these people to our home.”
When the event is said and done, Snider says he’s taking a vacation. But, he’s also looking forward to the social capital currently being built — energy and momentum he hopes will last long after the convention leaves town.
“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves as a community,” he says. “This will bring us together and do something really special the community has never seen before.” : :
info: Learn more about the Unity Through Community event and purchase admission tickets at unitycharlotte2012.com.
The PPL offer home to alternative media
As Charlotte’s local LGBT community prepares to welcome their LGBT brothers and sisters from across the country, other locals are working hard to ensure a whole slew of independent bloggers, citizen journalists and artists find a comfortable place to land while they call Charlotte home for the few days of the Democratic Convention this September.
The PPL (internet shorthand for “people”) organized last year. They hope their efforts will aid independent media which might not have received official credentials to cover the convention. Desiree Kane, one of the group’s key organizers, says she and her team are excited about the response they’ve received.
“We’re getting really, really good response,” Kane says, noting a recently-announced partnership with the progressive Netroots Nation Foundation. “There’s been a huge influx of people who want to be involved as sponsors or registering for the event. It has definitely picked up since we crossed over the 30 day mark.”
Locally, the effort has meant building relationships. Kane wants that ethos to carry over into the days of the convention. At The PPL’s event space, where bloggers, videographers and other media will be treated to coworking space and special events, volunteers will be working hard at keeping each day’s activities running smoothly. Kane foresees special moments for real friendship making.
“I look forward to the day in a couple of years when I hear somone say, ‘Oh, I met you back in 2012 at The PPL and we volunteered together,’” she says.
Learn more about The PPL at theppl.us and follow goqnotes.com/dnc/ throughout the convention for special coverage of both The PPL events and official convention activities.