A spring of community growth and activity

Editor's Note

Talk about busy! I haven’t been this tied-up with community politics, parties, events and activities in a long time.

A couple issues back, I wrote of several good community accomplishments and activities — everything from the way our community banded together around the ordinance vote in March to things like upcoming local and regional Pride events.

As I sat down to write another column, I began to think of so many more that have happened since April. My social calendar has been a veritable, non-stop roller coaster and, boy, has it been fun.

I thought I’d spend a little time in this column running down all the events I’ve been to or participated in — a look back at this wonderfully busy, crazy spring schedule of mine and all the great things I’ve seen happening in the community.

Queen City hosts Prides

As many of you know, I volunteer regularly with Charlotte Pride and have since 2008. It’s always an honor to work with so many great friends on the annual festival and parade, but the organization has so much more happening as it continues to grow and it expands its work and mission throughout the year.

One of those programs was April’s Prides of the Southeast Conference, a regional conference of InterPride, an international association of Pride organizations. Hosted April 16-19, Charlotte Pride brought together more than a dozen Pride organizations from across the Southeast and nearly 60 representatives from the group. Some included local and regional organizations like Charlotte Black Gay Pride, South Carolina Black Pride, Salisbury Pride and, of course my favorite hometown Pride Winston-Salem. Others included larger groups, like Atlanta Pride and St. Pete Pride.

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Put all in one room for a few days and the ideas and networking that started flowing was absolutely amazing. Best practices and tips for event planning, fundraising and community building were shared. We heard from great presenters on everything from insurance issues and tourism to activism and diversity.

The conference also gave visitors to the Queen City an opportunity to explore our beautiful Uptown and meet some dynamic civic leaders. On the first day of the conference, Mayor Dan Clodfelter stopped by to welcome our visitors, along with remarks from Charlotte City Councilmembers LaWana Mayfield, John Autry and Patsy Kinsey. In the closing session on that Sunday, attendees gathered excitedly to hear from Charlotte NAACP President Corine Mack, who stressed the importance of coalition-style work that benefits all communities — from people of faith and people of color to LGBT communities and straight allies.

Charlotte LGBT film gets a boost

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Another way I was able to volunteer with Charlotte Pride this spring was through the GayCharlotte Film Festival. Held at the end of April, the event celebrated its seventh year. The festival was formerly a program of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, but struck out on its own this year with the non-profit fiscal sponsorship and support of Charlotte Pride. I’ve long known organizers Teresa Davis, Victoria Eves and Frank Kalian, but it was great to meet new organizer Jim Kimbler and get closer with Teresa, Victoria and Frank.

A total of 11 films were shown, including two shorts. “Queer Knitter in the Queen City” followed local community member Davey, better known by some by his stage name Lana Cane. The other had important and special meaning; “brocKINGton” followed the story of Blake Brockington, a transgender teen activist who passed away in March as the result of a suicide.

Hundreds of people ended up attending the festival this year — a significant increase over prior years. I’m proud I got to assist Teresa, Frank, Victoria and Jim with marketing for the event on sites like Facebook. I really think the festival kicked it up a notch in terms of awareness and can’t wait to see what comes of it in future years.

Walk a success

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On May 2, I ventured out early on a cool, sunny Saturday morning to join friends marching in the 19th annual AIDS Walk Charlotte. Thousands turned out for the event, as they always do, but this year seemed so much larger. The Regional AIDS Interfaith Network had good donations to show for that growth, too. They raised over $144,000, significantly more than last year.

King remembered

On the same day as the AIDS Walk, I gathered with community members and longtime colleagues to once again remember Don King, this newspaper’s first editor and one of Charlotte’s earliest and most outspoken LGBT community leaders. Don passed away last fall at the age of 72. The event was held according to Don’s wishes. He had specifically wanted a remembrance event held near Earth Day. At the event itself, held at Metropolitan Community Church of Charlotte, Don’s cousin Jim told us more of Don’s meticulous plans and instructions for the event. Primarily, Don wanted the event to be one of laughter, memories and sharing, not one of sadness.

I was even able to speak briefly. Here’s a paraphrased version of what I said to those gathered that day:

“I didn’t know Don as long as many of you here and I didn’t know him as well as many of you here, but Don was someone I looked up to with great respect and great admiration. I’ve always been a history geek, so when I first got hired as editor at the newspaper and began to pour through our archives, I was amazed to learn so much about Don and all of the many great accomplishments in which he had a part. I got to know Don through our lunches together and in the times I’d turn to him for interviews or information on community history. Don made a significant difference in the life of this community, and it wouldn’t be the same without him.

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“Yes, he was a southern gentleman, but I can also tell you he was a firebrand — willing to take a stand on important issues and advocate for this community when so many couldn’t. He came out and took on a public role when others couldn’t. Don had the courage to do that, to take great risks in advocating for us — like in the 1980s when police were entrapping gay men. And while Don had a great many accomplishments during his life on earth, those accomplishments won’t be forgotten.

“He has left a unique legacy. Many of you might be aware that he had begun the process of donating many of his personal records, correspondence and archives to a new LGBT community archive at UNC Charlotte. His work in the community, some 50 years worth, will be preserved there for decades and generations to come. And there might very well come the day when some young LGBT student 50 years from now ventures into the archives and discovers for themselves the magnitude of Don’s work in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s and sits in amazement of the courage, strength and fortitude it took to step out and stand up for our community during that time. We wouldn’t be the same without Don and I’m glad his legacy will live on far past his lifetime.”

In case you missed it last fall, you can read our obituary for Don here: goqnotes.com/32393/.

Small town, big Pride

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On May 16, I ventured up to Lexington with friends for Davidson County Pride. It was the very first local Pride event held in Lexington, a southern suburb of both Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Hundreds of people turned out throughout the day for the event, which featured drag queen and king entertainers, a local folk band and a heavy metal band.

Yes, you read that right — a heavy metal band. It was probably one of the most unique performances I’ve ever seen at a Pride, and it was great to see a straight ally band coming out in support of the community. Several vendors were also present, including a few churches, Winston-Salem’s North Star LGBT Community Center and Pride Winston-Salem, among others. The Lexington Police Department even had a vendor booth at the event, passing out coloring books and crayons and whistles to kids. Janice Covington Allison gave a great speech about the importance of activism and awareness. It was great to see her imparting some inspiration to a great many transgender folks and allies who had come to the event.

The organizers of the event should be applauded for stepping out bravely for this unique, first-ever event in their hometown.

Support for Boom Boom

Another well-loved and longtime leader in Charlotte got a helping hand recently. Ricky Carter, known and loved by many as Boom Boom LaTour, recently suffered a heart attack and is currently recovering. Boom Boom has long been known for her drag artistry, working as an early pioneer for the art in Charlotte. Contributor Shane Windmeyer and his drag alter-ego Buff Faye recently wrote about Boom Boom and her recovery, sharing messages of love and support from community members (catch that here: goqnotes.com/35167/). On May 17, hundreds came out early on a Sunday evening for a special benefit show at The Scorpio. Shane reported that nearly $2,000 was raised to help in Boom Boom’s recovery. More than 30 drag performers took to the stage, each donating all their tips that night for Boom Boom.

Upcoming events

Spring might soon be coming to a close, but my social calendar will still be as busy as ever. I’m planning on checking out a number of upcoming events. Consider adding these to your social calendars, too!

• May 27: Visit Gay Charlotte launch party

• June 5: Time Out Center’s Platinum Gala

• June 6: Charlotte Pride’s Canine Couture

• June 7: Community Family Picnic

• June 13: Power of One Awards

• June 14: Forté! with Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte

• And so many more! See more about these events and others in our calendar at goqnotes.com/events/! : :

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer is a staff writer for QNotes. He previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015.