RALEIGH, N.C. — Organizers of the annual Out! Raleigh festival say they had their biggest event in history on Saturday, May 5, as some 62,000 people strolled up and down Fayetteville St. in downtown Raleigh for the event raising funds for the city’s LGBT Center.
The annual festival, which attracted 160 vendors, is Raleigh’s LGBTQ Pride event and the largest fundraiser for the LGBT Center of Raleigh, raising about 60 percent of the organization’s revenue each year. The center provides programs for youth, seniors and nearly 30 other initiatives, including a lending library that is a partner with the local public library system.
This year’s theme for the festival was Love Without Borders, an intentional nod toward celebration and inclusion of immigrants and refugees.
“We are doing that theme this year because very specifically we want to show our commitment to intersectionality,” LGBT Center Assistant Director Kelly Taylor told Raleigh’s News & Observer last week. “We exist among other communities that have also been discriminated against, particularly our immigrant communities, our refugee communities. We want to stand with them and lift them up and celebrate everyone’s existence.”
The inclusive theme was carried throughout the event, where diverse organizations were present, including immigrant advocacy groups El Pueblo and El Centro Hispano. The News & Observer reported that Community United Church of Christ, a sanctuary church, was also present at the event. Common Woman Chorus also played into the theme, performing songs about traveling, exploration and coming home.
A smattering of anti-LGBTQ protesters attended the festival. Center staff, however, organized a way to raise funds from their presence, with individual donors giving based on the number of protesters present. The protester-fueled fundraising netted the Center $2,200.
LGBT Center Director James Miller updated Center followers after the event and shared a story he said stood out among the other experiences that day.
“There was a family that drove up from Elizabeth City with their kids,” Miller wrote on the organization’s Facebook page. “They wanted to show their children that people care and that whoever they want to be, they can be. We chatted for a bit, and I let them know that I grew up in Currituck — and they were astonished. They are planning on going to Outer Banks PrideFest this year, but this was great timing. The mother was weeping, looking down Fayetteville Street, looking at the Capital. She was genuinely worried about the future for her children. I walked them over to the LGBT Center of Raleigh Youth Programs tent and left them with OUR FUTURE LEADERS. Match made in heaven. Everyone was SO EXCITED.”
Miller added, “This is why we produce this festival. This is why we fight every day for basic human rights. This is why we exist. … OutRaleigh is our gift to the community. I hope you enjoyed it half as much as I did. Thank you again for believing in us.”
See more scenes from the festival in this report from ABC 11.