Pride & Solidarity: COVID-19 Relief Program gives back

by Jerry Yelton (they/them)

Featured Photo Above: Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

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.

Our LGBTQ community — and, in particular, trans and Black/brown people in our community — has often been left behind by many movements and forgotten in moments of crisis. This year’s coronavirus pandemic has been no different.

History is a good teacher for us. Our community saw firsthand how another pandemic — this one in the 1980s — disproportionately affected LGBTQ people, trans people, and Black and brown people, as governments, social movements, and others forgot about us.

As we have faced this year’s pandemic and worked to respond to its heightened effect on marginalized communities, Charlotte Pride knew we had to step up to assist in whatever ways we could. We’d already been making intentional shifts of focus in our programming — creating space for the most marginalized and doing work to create visibility for those who need it most. Before 2020 unexpectedly blew us off course, we had plans to expand our visibility and awareness work to draw further attention to issues like wealth disparity, homelessness, discrimination, and many others.

So, it made sense, as COVID-19 cases continued to rise, that we would shift our focus to the intersections this pandemic and its effect on our community.

The LGBTQ community has an incredible array of health-risk factors that increase our susceptibility to COVID-19. From the increased likelihood of exposure to illnesses like HIV, the reticence to seek medical care due to risk of discrimination or lack of healthcare, a heightened use of tobacco amongst the community, and the higher portion of LGBTQ folks who work in customer service, gig-based jobs, and in nightlife, (40% versus 26% of general population, according to 2020 statistics from the Human Rights Campaign), our community has seen a disproportionate amount of hardship through this crisis.

However, though these hardships are noted by many LGBTQ publications (and a few mainstream ones), very few funding opportunities to relieve the burden of COVID-19 have been made directly available for LGBTQ folks. Charlotte Pride worked to help change this with our relief program that exclusively benefited LGBTQ Charlotteans.

Charlotte Pride wanted to help change that. With grant support from the Foundation For The Carolinas and the United Way of Central Carolinas, we launched our Charlotte Pride COVID-19 Relief Program, providing direct financial assistance in the form of micro-grants to LGBTQ people living in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

“At the heart of our organization’s mission is our community. Without the beautiful and diverse community that supports our work, attends the annual festival and parade, and makes life in Charlotte more enriching and vibrant, our organization would not exist,” Daniel Valdez (he/him), president of the Charlotte Pride board of directors, said when the program was launched. “In this important time of need, we knew it was our responsibility to give back and support our local LGBTQ community — with a focus on the people who have been hit hardest by the ongoing pandemic and its economic repercussions.”

The program’s original goal was to disburse 150 microgrants. Through crowdfunding and the additional generous support of Charlotte Black Pride, we were able to increase that number to 161 micro-grants, for a total of $16,100 in direct financial support going back to our community members. The micro-grants were dispersed in two bursts: one in mid-July and one the week after our virtual festival and parade in August.

As the largest LGBTQ visibility organization in the city, we wanted to take the opportunity to show our community that we see their struggles and hardship, and we are here to help support them. We look forward to continuing to develop and create new programs that individually support the needs of our community.

Charlotte Pride wants to extend thanks to the Foundation For The Carolinas, United Way of Central Carolina, Charlotte Black Pride, and the many individual donors who gave amounts both small and large to help support this important work assisting our community during this challenging year.

COVID-19 Relief Program Recipient Testimonials

“I was able to maintain food in my home and for that I am grateful and humbled.”
— Walton

“The $100 helped me pay my September rent. I love that there’s a donation to
people like me because we go through a lot of judgmental situations and now we know we have people in our corner even if they don’t completely understand it.”

— Shante

“Thank you much to Charlotte Pride and its benefactors for the much-needed help.”
— Q.

“The Charlotte Pride COVID-19 program helped me out a lot. Not only financially, but I felt as if the community had my back in this time of need.”
— Royal

“Thank you so much for the grant funds this summer. It was a great help to someone like me who hasn’t worked since March.”
— Phillip