Stonewall vet, ‘Empire’ star special guests at this year’s Charlotte Black Gay Pride

Organizers hope event increases community education, awareness around issues faced by LGBTQ people of color

Charlotte Black Gay Pride returns for another year of week-long events from July 24-28, with special guests including Stonewall veteran Miss Major and FOX ‘Empire’ star Terrell Carter.

The main event, the annual Expo, will feature a day’s worth of entertainment and fun, but organizers hope that other events throughout the week help to shine a light on the experiences of LGBTQ people of color in Charlotte.

Chief among those events is each year’s community town hall, scheduled this year for Thursday, July 26, at Johnson C. Smith University, 100 Beatties Ford Rd. The topic at hand will be affordable housing and homelessness within the LGBTQ community.

Affordable housing and homelessness has been a hot topic in Charlotte over the past few years. The city and county’s Opportunity Task Force identified housing as a key issue. City leaders have been attempting to increase funding for more affordable housing units. It’s even been a topic covered recently by qnotes, in our cover story in mid June.

Still, Charlotte Black Gay Pride organizers believe the issue hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, especially as it relates to LGBTQ people.

“It’s a big issue right now that’s not being talked about,” says Gelissa Stitt, a Black Pride board member sine 2013.

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The town hall is an opportunity, organizers say, for community members to come together, learn more and take action.

“After they leave the town hall, people should have a sense of having the information and recognizing this is an issue going on, in hopes that we can set up steps to help with the issue,” says Charlotte Black Gay Pride President Shann Fulton, a board member since 2014.

A more education- and advocacy-focused event is also an opportunity to remind community members of the importance of Pride.

“Having a town hall meeting during Pride, for the younger community especially, reminds them what Pride is all about and our historical foundation,” says Director of Communications and Marketing Frank D. Dorsey II, who’s serving his first year on the board. “It’s beyond the parties, beyond the parades, beyond just having a drink in your hand. Sometimes it’s about being able to come together and talk about the issues having an impact in our community.”

It’s in this way, and others, that Charlotte Black Gay Pride differs from more mainstream Pride events, like Charlotte Pride. There’s an intense focus on grassroots community organizing and education, for one — the town hall as an example.

But for Fulton, Stitt and Dorsey, the event also differs because it highlights a unique sense of culture missing from mainstream events.

“What I’ve found missing [at larger events] is our culture,” Fulton stresses. “I also find it’s important to have Black Pride because a lot of people of color don’t feel welcome. We have different events where you can actually see black LGBT people participating, like the theatre event. People can see people like them.”

Another important distinction, Stitt says, is spirituality. Though Charlotte Pride hosts its annual Interfaith Service, at Charlotte Black Gay Pride, spirituality is infused throughout the entire week of their events.

“Pride is spiritual for us,” Stitt says. “All of our events, most of them at least, have some kind of spiritual backing behind them. Our Jazz Brunch, it has to have a spiritual aspect. In previous years, we would end the event at a church. We always have to have a spiritual part of Charlotte Black Gay Pride.”

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The focus on black culture isn’t a sign of exclusion, organizers stress. In fact, this year’s Mr. Charlotte Black Gay Pride is white, and Black Pride has a close relationship with Charlotte Pride and its Charlotte Latin Pride program.

Black Gay Pride is for the entire community, but it offers a unique chance for people of color to come together, while also offering a unique experience for white and other non-black allies.

“We face different obstacles in the world,” Fulton says. “I think it is good that we all can come together and we’re able to share space and have conversations.”

Special guests mark special week

Charlotte Black Gay Pride’s week-long celebration includes several special events and guests.

First among them is “CenterStage,” billed as a one-act theatre festival featuring scenes from playwright and Charlotte Black Gay Pride board member Jermaine Nakia Lee’s “A Walk in My Shoes.” Excerpts from four other black LGBTQ playwrights will also be presented. That event is slated for Wednesday, July 25 at the Little Rock Cultural Center, 401 N. Myers St. Tickets are $10.

In addition to the town hall on Thursday, July 26, community members will also have a special opportunity to meet and learn more about legendary transgender activist and Stonewall veteran Miss Major. She’ll be the special guest at a kick-off and welcome reception on Friday, July 27, 7-10 p.m., at Le Meridian Hotel, 555 S. McDowell St., North Tower in Uptown. Miss Major is coming to Charlotte in partnership with the Freedom Center for Social Justice, which will host Miss Major for a conversation with elder members of the community on Friday, July 27, 2 p.m., at Sacred Souls Community Church, 2127 Eastway Dr.

The main event — the Charlotte Black Gay Pride Expo — will be held noon-5 p.m. at Le Meridian Hotel on Saturday, July 28. Headline entertainers include singer and actor Terrell Carter of FOX “Empire” fame. Carter has also starred in several stage plays by Tyler Perry. T.S. Madison, an LGBTQ activist and transgender entertainer and entrepreneur, will also attend the Expo.

Finally, on Sunday, July 29, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Black Pride hosts its annual Inspirational Jazz Brunch. Tickets are $40 per person or $70 per couple. The event will be hosted at Nest Restaurant and Lounge, 505 E. 6th St. Cocktail attire is requested.

With the exception of the theatre night and Jazz Brunch, all Charlotte Black Gay Pride events are free and open to the public.

For more information on upcoming Charlotte Black Gay Pride events, visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/CharlotteBlackGayPride/ or online at charlotteblackgaypride.org.

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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.

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