Our People: Q&A with Kimberly Melton

Newly-appointed executive director of Charlotte Pride

Kimberly Melton has long been a proud participant of the LGBT community as well as an active business and nonprofit professional, so her recent appointment to the executive director post with Charlotte Pride is a natural next step. The Charlotte native has worked with the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and the Hospitality House of Charlotte, and brings extensive experience to Charlotte Pride’s ever-growing organization.

qnotes is no stranger to this upbeat professional with her warm smile. Melton was once featured on the cover of qnotes in the spring of 1992, while pregnant with her daughter, Casey, now 23.

What was your experience in making that cover story?

The reason why we did it was that Demi Moore did a very then-scandalous cover [for Vanity Fair] of her being pregnant. It was a very tasteful cover, but it was before the advent of women being pregnant and wearing whatever they wanted to wear. . . [qnotes’ publisher] approached me and said, “well what do you think about doing a cover like that for qnotes?” And I was like, “are you kidding? I mean me, and Demi Moore? Give me a break!” And he said, “I promise, it’ll be tasteful, and if you don’t like it, we don’t have to use it. But let’s just see.”. . . I made Demi Moore look like she wasn’t pregnant, I was so big. What it did was, it came out as such that, “lesbians get pregnant?” It was a really interesting article.

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What’s one of your most treasured memories of raising your daughter?

In ’93 there was a march on Washington, and we went. We were coming up the escalator, and Casey was in Lisa’s backpack in front of us, and I was behind her. D.C. was a throng of LGBTQ people. . . everybody was around and looking and saw this baby. And they all chanted at one time, “kiss the baby, kiss the baby!” And so I reached up and kissed her, and she was clapping. Then they said, “kiss the mommy!” so I reached up and kissed Lisa and [Casey] clapped and everybody clapped. That was pretty cool. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.

How do you see the development of Charlotte and of the LGBT community in Charlotte over the course of your life?

The profound change I’ve seen is the difference between the secretive and the un-secretive. And I think that’s really a very dramatic difference. It used to be that you hung out with a certain crowd. The only time that you were “home” in public was at the bar. When you engaged, it was never physical with your partner. There was no way you’d be walking down the street holding hands. So your affection or your communication with other LG — it was only lesbian and gay back then — and now, 25 years later, you have out, proud, and doing it. You’re walking down a mall and you can hold your partner’s hand, and you can be married to them, and all those kinds of wonderful things, and you can say in a business meeting at work, you can say, “my wife.”

What was your involvement in the LGBT community before this appointment to Charlotte Pride?

I was on the board of MCSP [Metrolina Community Service Project], which was an umbrella organization in the 80s and 90s that housed the switchboard — and I mean housed, not as in physically, but as in an umbrella organization — and the QCF (Queen City Friends) was a lesbian organization . . . Then I was one of the founding members of One Voice, and I also assisted with Out Charlotte, which was more of a cultural event in Charlotte that was held in the spring. I was also on the committee of individuals that brought the Pride march to Charlotte in 1994.

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Do you have a certain idea of how you want Charlotte Pride to grow?

Well, the board has brought me on to assist them in having us move from only being a weekend festival and parade — which is very important and is our pivotal event — but moving from only that to engaging, empowering and educating the LGBT community, also creating partnerships within our own community, but also in the non-gay community

There’s been a lot of concern about the safety of gathering the LGBT community since the Pulse nightclub attack. Is there something you want the readers to know about what you’re doing to protect attendees at Charlotte Pride?

The one thing that I can be perfectly clear about is that there is no difference in the level of seriousness that we take security. This year, last year, the year before, our police department and city officials take it very seriously, every event that happens in Charlotte. . . and security has always been an issue. We take it very seriously, and our police take it seriously, but we aren’t going to let individuals rule our lives by what they may or may not do. I highly encourage everybody to come out. It is a wonderful event. It is for families, for youth — we have several things we’re going to do specifically for youth this year — and, of course, the wonderful parade, the largest parade in Charlotte. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

How do you feel about the visibility of the LGBT community and Charlotte Pride at this point in time?

I think it’s important that we show love over hate, and doing that is saying, “you will not defeat me.” You know, Pulse will reopen, and I’m sure that the walls will not be able to hold all the people who will walk into Pulse to show support. I think that will happen to Charlotte. I’m not sure the streets will be big enough, because not only the LGBTQ community, but also our allies will be out, being there with us. They were there for the march in ’94. We had allies then and we have allies now. . . I think that this horrific event has given even more reason for them to come out and support.

What’s something about you that most people don’t know?

I am semi-fluent in American Sign Language.

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