Year in Review 2015: The Carolinas — Looking back

News spans diverse landscape

January

01.02.15

Five members of an anti-LGBT church in Springdale, N.C., The Word of Faith Fellowship, were indicted on felony charges stemming from a young gay man being kidnapped and abused by them because of his sexual orientation. The grand jury released the indictments on Dec. 9, 2014.

The church has a past history of coming under scrutiny for cult like behaviors. It was the subject of an “Inside Edition” report on its technique of circling church members and “blasting” them with high-pitched sounds, screams and prayers. The church previously faced allegations of abuse in 2012, leading to a hate crimes investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

u Nearly 50 Black Lives Matter activists staged a “die-in” protest at SouthPark Mall on Dec. 20, demonstrating against police brutality. An organizer shouted, “No justice, no peace,” as others fell to the ground. They then marched through the mall and briefly blocked a lane of traffic on Fairview Rd. The protesters said they chose the location for the disproportionate number of “brown shoppers to brown workers.”

“Think about all the people that go to SouthPark,” said an organizer, who wished to remain unnamed. “It’s where a lot of money goes to spend time, people who maybe are not focused on issues we’re representing. We wanted to bring it to them.”

“SouthPark is one of the biggest symbols of segregation in Charlotte,” said another organizer. “I’ve been racially profiled in SouthPark so many times. I get followed every time I go there.”

No arrests were made, although Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers were present. An organizer said the group was told by CMPD that they had four minutes to complete their action and that after that time arrests were possible.

• Twirl to the World organizers donated $15,000 to Campus Pride, one of its beneficiaries. Campus Pride is a Charlotte-based national non-profit serving LGBT college and university students. This was the sixth annual event.

01.16.15

qnotes looked at Charlotte’s, and the nation at large’s, LGBT homelessness and poverty issues. Homelessness hits the LGBT community particularly hard, as discrimination can lead individuals to be kicked out of their homes. It can also make it harder to find a job. Getting reliable statistics is complicated by the fact that to qualify one has to demonstrate chronic homelessness. Further, couch surfing or even living out of a storage facility can cause someone to be classified as not being homeless.

Service provider Chelsea White recounted how her clients at the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN) often have a hard time meeting their basic needs. This makes keeping up with any kind of health and drug regimen nearly impossible.

Rodney Tucker, executive director of Charlotte’s Time Out Youth Center (TOY) sees similar issues, and reported that many of those he works with live in unstable environments, such as relying on a series of friends and acquaintances to put them up, but they are not counted as homeless.

Charlotte city and county officials said their annual count of the homeless population does not include questions on sexual identification, but does ask those who wish to fill out the voluntary form if they identify as transgender.

• Jack Register is appointed the new executive director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness North Carolina (NAMI NC). Register formerly worked as a government relations director for North Carolina’s Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and was a former board member for NAMI NC.

“I am humbled and deeply honored to be joining the NAMI NC team at this critical time in our state,” said Register. “I have the privilege of working with a dedicated team to expand on our legacy of advocacy for the citizens of our state.”

“Jack will bring leadership and creativity to NAMI NC’s programs and a deep sense of commitment to our mission,” said Mike Mayer, president of the organization’s board. “He has extensive experience in non-profit management and program development, in addition to his work as a social worker.”

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01.30.15

qnotes reported, with media partner The Charlotte Observer, that Charlotte’s first female rabbi, Rabbi Judy Schindler, would be leaving her position at Temple Beth-El to focus on social justice and academic pursuits in July 2016.

“Fellow clergy and other Charlotte leaders called Schindler a strong voice for the most vulnerable members of society and said they were encouraged she plans to remain in town,” the Observer said.

She and other local clergy took couples to Washington, D.C., to officiate at same-sex marriages in 2011. She performed the first same-sex wedding in the synagogue on Oct. 17, 2014, between members Kim Pearl and Karen Millman when same-sex marriage became legal in Charlotte.

• MeckPAC elected a new board, selecting Scott Bishop as its chair. Bishop was first appointed in 2011. He was joined by Jamie Hildreth, vice chair; Larry Ferri, treasurer; and Crystal M. Richardson, secretary.

February

02.13.15

The Diocesan Ministry for Gay and Lesbian Catholics had a mass on Feb. 21 at St. Peter’s Catholic Church.

• Time Out Youth Center and the Human Rights Campaign of North Carolina teamed up to bring Welcoming Schools to the Charlotte region. The initiative was set up to provide tools, lessons and resources on embracing family diversity, avoiding gender stereotyping and putting an end to bullying in elementary schools.

“We are elated to foster this local partnership with HRC [Human Rights Campaign] and Time Out Youth Center. Full equality has always been the goal for HRC and that includes our local school systems. We are proud to offer this training to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Cabarrus County Schools,” N.C. HRC Board of Governors and Gala Co-Chair Jeremy Carter said.

• qnotes featured Charlotte African-American and LGBT community leader Jermaine Nakia Lee, who was honored in January 2015 with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Medallion Award, presented to those who exemplify King’s ideals. Lee, a playwright and artist, is a founder of several black gay Pride events across the Carolinas, including in Charlotte and Columbia. He works as the MPowerment Coordinator for the PowerHouse Project, an HIV prevention and education agency.

• qnotes also ran a feature on LGBT African-Americans making history in North Carolina politics. LaWana Mayfield, the first-ever openly-LGBT elected official won her bid to the District 3 city council seat in 2011, winning 78 percent of the general election vote. She was re-elected in 2013. Marcus Brandon was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2010, the first openly gay man to win election to the statewide General Assembly, and only the second openly LGBT person to serve there. Al Austin was elected to his District 2 seat in 2013, coming out as a gay man to qnotes immediately following election. He’s the second openly gay man to serve on the council, following Billy Maddalon’s short tenure. Austin has lent his name and efforts to some of the same LGBT-inclusion efforts as Mayfield and has been a staunch advocate for District 2.

• On Feb. 23, over 1,100 LGBT and ally community members, dressed in their finest attire, showed their support by attending the 18th Annual Human Rights Campaign Carolina Gala at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Recognition was given to the gala’s sponsors, both from a national and local level.

The awards presentations followed with Executive Director Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara accepting the HRC North Carolina Equality Award for the Campaign for Southern Equality. Amos McClorey, Cabarrus County NAACP president, was on hand to pick up the HRC North Carolina Legacy Award for Rev. Dr. William Barber.

Actor Mandy Patinkin took center stage when he was presented with the HRC Ally for Equality Award. After receiving the award he said that he was moved to be a part of “this community.” He added that LGBT human rights is a family issue and that “we are all equal partners in the family [of citizens].” He also said that for those who discriminated against the LGBT community that [we] “must disabuse them with the knowledge that we are right.”

March

03.13.15

Charlotte failed to pass an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance. After almost six hours of debate from nearly 120 citizen speakers, Mayor Dan Clodfelter called for a vote. There were six votes against and five in favor. Six votes are needed for anything to move through city council. A compromised package, which would have left out transgender bathroom and locker room protections, was also voted down.

There is hope that the non-discrimination ordinance will come up for a vote again and that it has a better chance of winning this time out, with what appears to be a more friendly city council.

• Time Out Youth expanded its outreach by re-opening its Q-tribe program for youth who are 12-20 and identify as transgender or are gender questioning or non-conforming. They also teamed up with Safe Alliance to host an eight-week skills-building group workshop for LGBT youth who have had traumatic sexual abuse experiences. In addition to that, they announced the opening of a new computer lab, made possible by a grant from the David Bohnett Foundation.

April

04.10.15

Transgender youth Blake Brockington was mourned and remembered after passing away as a result of suicide on March 23. He was named homecoming king as an openly transgender student, which is believed to be the first for an openly transgender student in Charlotte. He was active in the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as a spokesperson for transgender rights.

Brockington would later be one of the individuals for whom the LGBT King-Henry-Brockington Community Archive is named.

04.24.15

Transgender leader and Democratic Party activist Janice Covington Allison was awarded the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party’s Rosa Parks Award at their annual county convention on April 18.

The award is given annually to an individual who has been a trailblazer for equality.

Allison has been an outspoken proponent of LGBT equality in Democratic circles and the broader community in Charlotte and across the region. In 2012, she became the first openly transgender person elected as a North Carolina delegate to a Democratic National Convention, held that year in Charlotte.

May

05.08.14

The PowerHouse Project awarded Charlotte City Councilmember Al Austin, Nickel Bar owner Milton Howard and the Rev. Clifford Matthews, Jr., pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church. Austin is the second openly gay man to serve on the city council.

05.22.14

qnotes previewed Pride events around the Carolinas and beyond, as well as summer cycling excursion trails and tips, recipes for grilling out, foodie destination spots and Carolina day trips from the mountains to the coast to help get readers in the full swing of summer in the South.

SB 2 becomes law, even over Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto.

SB 2 becomes law, even over Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto.

June

06.05.15

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory vetoes an anti-gay magistrate bill. Senate Bill 2 allows for magistrates to opt out of issuing same-sex marriage licenses if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. The bill later become law when the veto was overridden. (A Charlotte-based law firm recently filed suit representing plaintiffs against the law, in a case called Ansley v. North Carolina.)

This is a bright spot in an otherwise less than stellar LGBT record for Gov. McCrory. He was praised by activists, who were deflated to see it become law nonetheless.

06.19.15

The anti-gay magistrate bill becomes law as the governor’s veto is overridden.

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Following the vote, Gov. McCrory released a statement expressing disappointment at the legislature’s decision.

“It’s a disappointing day for the rule of law and the process of passing legislation in North Carolina,” the governor’s written statement read. “I will continue to stand up for conservative principles that respect and obey the oath of office for public officials across our state and nation. While some people inside the beltline are focusing on symbolic issues, I remain focused on the issues that are going to have the greatest impact on the next generation such as creating jobs, building roads, strengthening education and improving our quality of life.”

July

07.03.15

Charlotte Black Gay Pride looked ahead to their 10-year anniversary. Jermaine Nakia Lee spoke with qnotes about the backlash and controversy he and fellow co-founder Damon Blackmon faced over simply wanting to represent their community.

“We knew that black and Latino LGBT people were very diverse, but they were just in hiding,” Lee recounts. “If they wanted to be with their peers, it would only be at the clubs at night or somebody’s house party or they would have to leave Charlotte to be gay.”

But all that has changed in a decade, Lee says. “What’s beautiful is that now people come to Charlotte to be gay,” he says. “Men and people of color come to Charlotte to be gay and people from smaller, surrounding communities don’t feel like they have to go to Atlanta or D.C. in order to celebrate and socialize and galvanize. I’m really proud of being a part of that change.”

August

08.28.15

Charlotte Pride hit records in 2015 for both attendance and alcohol sales. The festival, held Aug. 15-16, featured a parade which close to 3,000 people marched in on Aug. 16. An estimated 115,000-120,000 people were in attendance, and alcoholic beverage sales were up 20 percent over last year.

• An LGBT-inclusive Charlotte church was vandalized with anti-gay slurs overnight on Aug. 19.

Among the damage at Wedgewood Church in Charlotte’s Madison Park neighborhood were two lines marking out the words “LGBT Equality” on the church sign’s marque. Additionally, vandals spray-painted the words “Fags are pedos” across the church’s front doors.

Pastor Chris Ayers was taken aback when he saw the sign and doors.

“Heart-piercing was the thing that came to my mind,” Ayers told qnotes. “I really didn’t think about the church. I thought about the LGBT friends that I have. As a pastor, you hear all of these horrible stories for all these years. Everything is put in the context of these personal rejections that I know people have faced and this is just one more.”

The doors have since been painted over in rainbow colors.

September

09.11.15

qnotes presented its annual Best of Charlotte QList Awards, honoring businesses, organizations and individuals who stood out among the crowd for their work and excellence. Readers can find the complete list online at goqnotes.com/36554.

09.25.15

The Charlotte LGBTQ Archive was named at a ceremony at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte on Sept. 17. The King-Henry-Brockington Community Archive of Charlotte honors activists Donaldson King, Sue Henry and Blake Brockington. It contains publications, memborabilia, various ephemera and correspondence with connection and relevance to the local LGBT community’s history in the city. It is housed in the UNC Charlotte Special Collections in the J. Murrey Atkins Library.

An exhibit featuring a portion of the archive had its opening after the naming ceremony, in the art gallery at the UNCC Student Union, along with a timeline of LGBT events in Charlotte’s history, “Publicly Identified: Coming Out Activist in the Queen City,” which debuted in 2014 at Levine Museum of the New South.

qnotes also ran a more in-depth feature on the LGBTQ archive at goqnotes.com/38196, which ran in the Oct. 23 issue.

David Lane and other religious leaders place hands on Gov. McCrory and pray at a rally held at the Charlotte Convention Center, Sept 26. Source: YouTube screen capture.

David Lane and other religious leaders place hands on Gov. McCrory and pray at a rally held at the Charlotte Convention Center, Sept 26. Source: YouTube screen capture.

October

10.09.15

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory attended a prayer rally on Sept. 26, after previously trying to distance himself from it.

After speaking about substance abuse, Gov. McCrory asked for prayers, both for himself and for those who suffer from addiction, at which time religious leaders took to the stage and surrounded him where he sat.

They laid hands upon him and American Renewal Project founder David Lane spoke to the crowd, casting America as a lost country that “deserves judgment” and must be saved.

“The problem is us,” Lane said. “A Christian nation, founded for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith, has left God.”

He proceeded to lay out a litany of what he sees as offenses, including “homosexuals praying at the inauguration.”

• Wake County added sexual orientation and gender identity to its employment protections. It is the second largest county by population in North Carolina.

Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro said, “This is an important first step towards the full complement of necessary protections for gay and transgender Wake County residents. We look forward to working with local governments all across the Old North State on the county and city levels to pass similar protections.”

November

11.06.15

qnotes marked Transgender Awareness Month with several features on transgender issues. qnotes asked local transgender individuals to share with readers their hopes for the future of the community. Many topics were cited, such as the decrease in trans marginalization, an increased awareness in the issues individuals face, increased instances of violence and poverty and the passing of laws that will ensure non-discrimination.

11.20.15

qnotes marked World AIDS Day with the annual Life, Positively issue. qnotes ran a feature on what one needs to know about HIV if sexually active today, including a glossary of terms such as ART (antiretroviral treatment), a collective term for the medications HIV-positive people take to control the virus, and PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), a pill used to help prevent the spread of HIV.

qnotes also looked at advances in research over the past year which shows signs of progress in the fight against HIV. These included: human trials for a vaccine created by the same doctor who discovered that HIV was the virus that causes AIDS and who developed the blood test to detect it; a rise in the use of PrEP; and a new pill that fights an HIV/AIDS-related parasitic infection which hit the market, costing a mere $1.

December

12.04.15

qnotes reported on Charlotte Pride announcing they are switching to a governing board structure, and looked into why numerous board members have left over the past year. Some former board members, like Jonathan Hill, Dave Webb and Patrick Paige, report past instances of conflict. Paige and Hill noted an issue with management styles of the co-directors as part of the problem. All of this comes as the festival continues to grow year after year.

— from staff reports and press releases

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Posted by Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport and has lived in Charlotte since 2006.