This year, Charlotte Pride holds its 13th annual event in the Queen City. And, for the first time in nearly 20 years, the city will have a Pride parade. As that parade is reborn and reshaped, we’re taking a look back into local history at the events that eventually gave birth to our growing annual Pride event today.
Dating back to the late 1970s, LGBT people in Charlotte have held similar annual community events, including festivals, picnics, parades and other similar activities. The first, a small gathering on the campus of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in 1977, eventually gave way to larger and more public events as the community and city grew.
Darryl Logsdon, an organizer of the 1994 North Carolina Pride Festival and Parade, says the growth in local and annual LGBT Pride events have paralleled the growth of visibility for LGBT people.
“The increased scope of our Pride events over the last number of years is a direct correlation of increased visibility for gay individuals in Charlotte,” he says.
Logsdon first became involved as a community leader in 1982 when he joined a speakers bureau established by Queen City Quordinators, or QCQ. The organization — part mobile community center, part advocacy organization, part fundraising apparatus — was one of the premier LGBT community organizations in its day. It supported LGBT community events and a variety of smaller gatherings and social groups. QCQ’s monthly newsletter, Q-Notes, was started in 1983, being transformed into its current newspaper format in 1986.
Logsdon says QCQ also organized Charlotte’s first-ever public Pride events. In 1982 and 1983, the group held an event at Park Road Park. It was the first time such an event was publicly advertised. The first year, QCQ ran a half-page ad in The Charlotte Observer. The next, they ran a full-page ad.
Later in the 1980s, QCQ and qnotes held other annual events. The newspaper sponsored an annual picnic. But, it wasn’t until 1993 that Pride came roaring back to the Queen City. That year, local organizers, Logsdon included, decided that they would host the 1994 North Carolina Pride Festival and Parade. In the ramp up for organizing, the local host committee held a smaller, festival-type event at the VanLandingham Estate.
The ’94 event, says Logsdon, was an outgrowth of previous successful events.
“It was one of those organizing extensions; several people started to say, ‘Gosh, why can’t we bring it to Charlotte,'” he says. “It also came on the heels of a very successful event in late ’91, called ‘Our Family Celebration,’ which was the national conference for PFLAG.'”
PFLAG’s national event had always been held in larger cities, says Logsdon. Charlotte’s hosting of the event marked the first time PFLAG had come to a smaller city.
“A local host committee formed to work with other organizations to help provide part of the support for Our Family Celebration,” says Logsdon. “That planted the seeds for Pride to come to Charlotte, more than any other single thing.”
LGBT Charlotteans decided they’d make North Carolina Pride, now based in Durham for the past decade, bigger than it had ever been. “NC Pride was a one-day event — a pre-march rally, the march itself and then a post-march festival,” he says. “We envisioned expanding that when we brought it to Charlotte to a full three-day event with lots of components — speakers, workshops, as well as the march and rally, of course.”
So, in June 1994, the event went off without a hitch.
Yet, the next year and the year after that — all the way through 2000 — no other Pride festival or parade or similar annual event was held. Though the city’s community rallied around OutCharlotte, an annual arts and cultural festival, the city never organized a local Pride.
Logsdon isn’t sure why no other Pride event took off after 1994, but says the growth in Charlotte Pride since 2000 has been a positive influence both on the community and the larger city.
“It’s been an upward spiral,” he says. “With more visibility and support, that in turn has nurtured more individuals in coming out. As more people come out, there is more support and more visibility that nurtures even more people coming out. We’ve reached critical mass.”
That success, he says, can’t come without recognition of those who helped make it happen.
“Going back to 2000 and beyond, there were enough people actively engaged and visibly participating that it allowed this,” he says. “That’s only the tip of the iceberg.”
Next weekend, Charlotte Pride will host the first Pride parade in Charlotte since that 1994 march. Logsdon says there are distinct differences between the two events.
“In ’94, it was a march and this year it is a parade,” he says. “There is a subtle difference. The march was geared more toward advocacy and a parade is more celebration. In 1994, we didn’t have much to celebrate; we were advocating for change.”
Nineteen years later, Logsdon sees it differently, and for the better.
“This year, I see it as a celebration of accomplishment,” he says.
[Ed. Note — This writer is a member of Charlotte Pride’s organizing committee.]