A(n Unusual) Year in the Life of Charlotte Pride

Featured Photo Above: Charlotte Pride Team Coordinators Raquandra Davis (she/her), left, and Dustin Crites (he/him), right, at Charlotte Pride’s In The Know kickoff reception and logo unveil event in March, the only official in-person event hosted in 2020. Photo by Second Life Photography.

Welcome to the 2020 Charlotte Pride Magazine! This article is part of the annual Charlotte Pride Magazine, published this year as a special year-end retrospective for 2020. You can see all 2020 Charlotte Pride Magazine content here, as well as finding distribution locations for our limited print run.

2020 was an incredibly trying and difficult year for our community. Amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic, the team at Charlotte Pride worked to continue offering programs and activities to virtually answer our mission: to enrich, empower, strengthen, and make visible the lives of LGBTQ people in Charlotte and the Carolinas.

Annually, our August festival and parade acts as the region’s largest celebration of the LGBTQ community and the primary fundraiser and launch point for our year-round activities, including our film festival Reel Out Charlotte, Charlotte Latinx Pride, Charlotte Trans Pride, Charlotte Women’s Pride, the Charlotte Pride Scholarship Program, our Charlotte Pride Interfaith programs, and many others. We have worked as a collaborative team with our community to craft a portfolio of programs that answer the needs of our diverse and intersectional community.

At the start of 2020, we unveiled a slate of new programming focused on continuing to uplift the Latinx, transgender, and women’s communities, as well as expanded offerings for our film festival and plans for a late March conference of Pride organizers from the entire Eastern coast. We were so excited for the promise of 2020 with a new logo, plans for creative solutions to incorporating our community’s needs even further into our programming, and a variety of new activations at the festival and parade. As we all know, 2020 had very different plans for us all.

In March and April of 2020, we quickly cancelled our conference and delayed our film festival. We knew this could mean the cancellation of our annual festival and parade, but we held out hope until early May. We faced this difficult decision and made the call to cancel 2020’s celebration with our community’s health and safety in mind, as we knew that LGBTQ people in Charlotte and across the region and country were being disproportionally affected by this pandemic. 40% of LGBTQ people work in the five most affected industries (restaurants, food services, hospital, education, and retail industries), as opposed to 22% of the general population (HRC, 2020). This inspired our COVID-19 Relief Program which, in partnership with the Foundation for the Carolinas and the United Way, offered 160 individuals micro-grants of $100 to help offset some of the lost income from industry and country-wide shutdowns and closures.

Our most recent in-person festival and parade in 2019 saw over 200,000 visitors over the course of the event weekend, so we knew that our team would need to work creatively to offer a virtual lineup of programs, including a virtual “festival and parade.” From the beginning of the pandemic, our team created a variety of new program offerings. Among our most successful and engaging included our weekly livestream conversations garnering thousands of views across our social media channels and covering topics like the Black LGBTQ experience, non-binary identities, local LGBTQ history, and many others. These conversations were also expanded through our Facebook group, “LGBTQ Charlotte: Queerantine Edition.”

This space offered a sense of community and camaraderie during a time where folks cannot gather in-person, and it has grown to nearly 1,000 participants. In July 2020, our team unveiled our festival and parade plans — virtually! We offered creative opportunities for the community to visit in-person “Pride Sites” that offered special activities, discounts, and benefits in a socially distant manner; we featured three LGBTQ history lessons; our annual Charlotte Pride Interfaith Service; and other fun week-of livestreams. We concluded our week with our parade livestream and a 10-hour festival livestream featuring LGBTQ performers, artists, speakers, and leaders.

We were honored to have thousands of attendees join us this day and throughout the year’s over 40 virtual activities — and we continue to work to create ways for our community to be together apart. We are incredibly excited to share that our in-person 2021 Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade weekend is scheduled for August 21-22, 2021, preceded as usual by our Pride Week celebrations. We are optimistic through conversation with community leaders in the City of Charlotte and through monitoring the timeline on public safety protocol that we will be able to host this event and bring our community back together in-person in 2021.

Interested in being a part of these special activities and programs in the future? You can join our team! Charlotte Pride is looking for folks to build up our Festival and Parade team and our ever-expanding Programs team. Whether you’ve volunteered with dozens of organizations or if this is your first venture into community work, you’re welcomed here. Learn more about involvement opportunities and apply at charlottepride.org/apply/.