Why We Canceled the Festival and Parade

We can and should still celebrate Pride — just in a different way.

by Nada Merghani (she/her they/them) | Charlotte Pride Programs Associate

NOTE FROM CHARLOTTE PRIDE: We are rolling out increased news and commentary coverage for our local LGBTQ community in Charlotte and the Carolinas, as part of our new online programming during the COVID-19 crisis. Charlotte Pride is committed to ensuring our community has the most up-to-date and accurate information during this time, so we are sharing and documenting the stories and experiences of our community. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and bookmark our website’s news section to get the latest updates.


Ah, Pride.

The one time a year where we fill the streets with Manic Panic dyed hair, pop-punk t-shirts, leather cuffs, laughter, dancing, and love while those outside of our community watch in confusion. For many, this is the one moment where they can escape from the monotony of life in the closet to enjoy a rainbow-filled weekend existing in a fullness they are not permitted to have in their normal day-to-day life. It’s a space where people can get tested for free; get connected to nonprofits, churches, businesses, and medical professionals that support them; go one weekend without being misgendered; make new friends; and feel completely and totally free to be themselves without restriction. Queer youth can escape unsupportive homes and be met with supportive mothers holding up signs for free hugs. People can kiss the ones they love on the street without fear of being attacked or harmed.

For those who don’t need those services or experiences, Pride may not mean much to them. For the folks who do, Pride can mean the world to them; and for a lot of people, their world came crashing down when they found out the 2020 Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade has been canceled for the first time in decades.

I want to start by saying pandemics don’t affect all communities equally. For our community, we are less likely to have access to healthcare, health insurance, medical autonomy, and housing than our straight counterparts. One out of every four LGBTQ+ adults are struggling to afford healthcare and medication as is, 24.7% of our community is without healthcare, one out of every five trans people are denied healthcare coverage simply for being trans, more than 175 anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare bills were proposed in 2016 alone, and 40% of all homeless youth are LGBTQ+ identified meaning they don’t have access to a home to be able to quarantine in if they were to get infected with COVID-19. There are no federal nondiscrimination policies that protect us when it comes to employment or housing discrimination. If we were to get infected, our likeliness of dying as a result is higher than our straight and cis counterparts.

We are simply not a community that can afford to get sick; and for those who have survived the AIDS pandemic you already know that our community can be one of the last to get help when people are dying.

Risking the life of just one member of our community is unacceptable. Let alone risking the lives of thousands.

But that doesn’t make this decision any easier.

After the stay at home order is lifted, it is likely we will still be encouraged to continue social distancing until a vaccine is found. Charlotte Pride’s summer events bring in more than 200,000 people each year, including tens of thousands of out-of-town visitors. Social distancing measures simply cannot be enforced with a festival of our size. We tirelessly searched and brainstormed for solutions, including several possibilities for both small and larger-scale event modifications. We considered postponing and rescheduling, but no dates in the fall were available for an event of our size. By all measures, there is no way to safely hold the festival and parade for the 2020 year.

However, that doesn’t mean that Pride is canceled.

No, we cannot meet and build community in the ways we did before. We won’t have the same physical space we did this year that we had in years prior to laugh and love, to eat and drink, to dance and feel free with one another, but we can and should still celebrate Pride — just in a different way.

The money you were going to spend on VIP passes, a hotel room, or that new rainbow costume for the parade? Spend it buying a meal from a local LGBTQ+ owned restaurant or donate it to the Campaign for Southern Equality, Twirl to the World, or any other organization getting food and money to vulnerable LGBTQ+ folks in the midst of this pandemic. Check in with your friends and families to make sure they have access to food and sanitation supplies. Share resources with people that need them. Send a meme or funny video every day to a friend who is stuck quarantining with an unsupportive family. Use your social media pages to share information that will help keep the people around you safe. Join your local LGBTQ+ organizations and participate in their online events, including our upcoming online and virtual events. We’ll be announcing more unique online engagement opportunities soon, too, and our friends at Charlotte Black Pride will also be presenting unique opportunities through the summer and into the fall. Follow them on Facebook for updates.

When social distancing is eased, join your community for new or perhaps smaller-scale social and educational events in the fall. At Charlotte Pride, our mission to bring you enlightening and engaging events won’t end just because we can’t host the festival and parade this year. We’re already making plans for our rescheduled Reel Out Charlotte, the Queen City’s Annual LGBTQ Film Festival and other events we can reschedule, like social nights, our scholarship program’s fundraiser, the annual Interfaith Service and Charlotte Pride Drag Pageant, and more. And we already have tentative dates for next year’s big event, when the festival and parade can return to Uptown Charlotte on Aug. 21-22, 2021.

This is a time where we need to love each other and protect each other like we never have before. The festival and parade show us every year how huge, diverse, and beautiful our community is. Now is the opportunity to show how that huge, diverse, and beautiful community can come together to protect each other.

We are all grieving the loss of normalcy as we knew it and the loss of events that we held close to our hearts. You are not alone in that; but know that when you go out and live the spirit of Pride in the way you treat yourself and others — you won’t be alone in that either.

In Love and Solidarity,

Nada Merghani
Programs Associate for Charlotte Pride

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Featured Photo: A photo of the 2019 Charlotte Pride Festival’s Health Zone, presented by Amity Medical and RX Clinic Pharmacy. Photo Credit: Francisco Vasto/Charlotte Pride.


ABOUT THE WRITER

Nada Merghani (she/her they/them) is the Programs Associate for Charlotte Pride. In 2015, Nada became the first-ever student in UNC history to simultaneously serve as President of both a Muslim Student Organization (UNCW MSA) and LGBTQ+ student organization (UNCW Pride). They joined Charlotte Pride in November 2019 after culminating over five years of nonprofit, political, student, and grassroots organizing experience by the age of 22 — including work with Ignite NC, Democracy NC, the Queer Mobilization Fund, 100,000 Poets for Change, and the Artivist Collective. Nada is a first-generation immigrant who was born in Sudan and seeks to bring visibility to the experiences of LGBTQ+ immigrants and Muslims. Their advocacy work has been recorded and published in various mainstream media outlets.


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