by Matt Comer & Charles Easley
Editor Matt Comer and local writer, media artist and educator Charles Easley recently discussed the place and purpose of Charlotte Black Gay Pride. Often, people ask why there is a need for a “Black Pride.” Read the conversation below to learn more and a potential answer. And, if you want to get involved in conversations like these, be sure to attend Charlotte Black Gay Pride’s annual town hall, this year discussing the “-isms” within the LGBT community. It will be held on Thursday, July 17. See our event listing at goqnotes.com/30087/.
Matt: So, Charles, I’m curious. I really enjoy going to events like Charlotte Black Gay Pride. But, every time I’ve ever gone and posted about it on Facebook or other social media, friends and acquaintances ask me why we need events like them. I’ve always said I think it’s important for all communities within our larger LGBT community to have space for celebrating their unique cultures and identities. What’s your take?
Charles: I find that very interesting because I don’t think I have ever been questioned by my friends of color to why I attended mainstream Pride events in the past. Also, I would be curious as to how observant folks are to the presence or absence of minority groups at mainstream Pride events. The reality is that coming out and celebrating ones sexuality is a very different experience in some cultures. So having an event organized around a specific culture allows that group to support, celebrate and explore their unique challenges and experiences associated with the LGBT community.
Matt: That’s what I’ve always believed, too. I’ve often countered the questions I’ve been asked with this: “Why should LGBT people separate themselves and have an event celebrating their community? Why not just be a part of the straight mainstream?” The answer is nearly the same: LGBT people experience life differently than straight folks and they should have space to, as you say, “support, celebrate and explore their unique challenges and experiences.” People understand that, nearly always right of the bat. But, they still get hung up around issues of race, and it becomes very clear at that point that our community needs so much more conversation on matters of racial inclusion and diversity.
Charles: It is kind of funny that folks do not see that parallel. Most folks within the mainstream gay community enjoy many of the rights and privileges that come with being mainstream; while many from marginalized communities, on a daily basis, will more frequently address challenges regarding their race when compared to challenges associated with their sexuality. I get more flack from being black than gay on any given day.
Matt: That seems like a good example of white privilege. It’s not something a lot of white folks think about often, but it’s true — we can pretty much go anywhere, visit anywhere, be in any space, without ever thinking of our race. It’s not the same for black folks or other people of color. And, that’s what I think makes events like Black Gay Pride so important — it provides safe space for a community that oftentimes doesn’t have one. I’ve attended the event before and I’ve always been impressed with how safe and accepting it is for black people, but also all people.
Charles: I attended the Black Pride event here in Charlotte last year and it was very successful. There was also a shared belief among the organizers and participants that I believe puts this discussion into perspective. Most folks feel, myself included, that having a gay Pride event based on culture is about affirmation not exclusivity. All are welcome and encouraged to celebrate. : :
— Special thanks to Charles Easley for engaging in this written conversation for our commentary. Easley is an educator, mentor and media artist. He blogs at Professor Locs (professorlocs.typepad.com/professor-locs/), is a columnist for Creative Loafing and has appeared on a variety of media outlets including NPR.