After running scared from anti-LGBT protesters for five years, Charlotte’s annual LGBT Pride festival will finally move back to Uptown Charlotte and back into the public square.

From a Pride Charlotte press release:

The Queen City’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride festival will be held this year on Aug. 27 in Uptown Charlotte, along S. Tryon St. between 3rd St. and the new Levine Center for the Arts. Pride Charlotte, which attracts thousands each year, is the culmination of a week-long slate of events highlighting the social, cultural, ethnic, artistic and political diversity of the metro Charlotte area’s LGBT community.

“We are very excited to move our festival Uptown and to the heart of Charlotte’s artistic and cultural center,” said Jonathan Hill, Co-Chair of the Pride Charlotte organizing committee. “The S. Tryon St. location provides a unique opportunity for our event to grow and to raise more visibility for this city’s diverse gay community.”

I’m lucky enough, again, to serve on the organizing committee for Pride Charlotte. In fact, I should offer a full disclosure and say I wrote the primary draft of the release I just quoted. Regardless, this post (like every other post on InterstateQ.com) is entirely my own opinion; trust me, it doesn’t come even close to representing the official views of anyone.

Anyways… This year we’re not only moving to Tryon St. (exciting and landmark news in and of itself), but we’re also expanding and committing ourselves to greater community-level coalition building and teamwork. Speaking as someone who has seen Pride as both a current and former committee member, as the editor of the local queer paper and as a general community member and Charlottean, I think it all adds up to phenomenal news and a wonderful change in the pace of the last few years’ events.

For far too long, Charlotte’s queer community has been weak and timid in the face of anti-LGBT prejudice, protesting and bigotry. Despite the relatively small number, we’ve allowed anti-LGBT protest groups like Operation Save America and Coalition of Conscience to dictate to us the terms of our own community’s outspokenness, political involvement and civic engagement. No more. Come August, Pride Charlotte will be back in the public square and in the heart of Uptown. LGBT Charlotteans are no less deserving of full participation in the political, social, artistic, cultural, civic and religious lives of this city. This is the year we take back our God-given rights to be who we are, openly and proudly, and as fully-deserving citizens and residents of the Queen City.

Pride Charlotte’s move back into the public spotlight comes after five years of nearly-closeted Pride festivities. After a 2005 Charlotte Pride event in which scores of protesters caused distraction (and later proclaimed to the city council, “Charlotte Pride is back in the closet. And it’s back in the closet because the church of Jesus Christ came out of the closet. And because you, city council, helped us to do that very thing.”), organizers of a new event (“Pride Charlotte”) organized under the umbrella of the Lesbian & Gay Community Center moved the event to Gateway Village. The new, privately-owned Uptown venue left much to be desired; enclosed on three sides, a passer-by would never have known what was happening there. I never could understand why we were “hiding,” though organizers always rejected the accusation they were running from anybody or anything.

Last year, Pride Charlotte organizers took the closeting of Charlotte’s gays a step further. The N.C. Music Factory is a phenomenal building. Great bars and restaurants, and the Center is even located there (that’s an entirely different story, altogether). But, like Gateway Village, the choice to move Pride to the Music Factory felt to many, including me, another instance of closet-ization. How are we supposed to “Stand up, Stand out, Stand Proud” when no one in the city can see or even knows about our community’s premier cultural, political and social event each year?

I believe this year will be unlike any of the past years’ Pride festivities I’ve known. We’re out. We’re proud. We’re visible. We are what an LGBT community should be. With any luck, we’ll see that spirit spill over into other local, LGBT organizations. Perhaps, this is the year Charlotte will start working toward becoming a better, more LGBT-inclusive city. We’ve waited long enough, wouldn’t you say?

Photo Credit: JenelleRW, via Flickr.

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Audio: Matt Comer on ‘Line of Fire’

Below is audio from my appearance on Dr. Michael Brown’s “Line of Fire” radio show on Thursday, July 23, 2009.

You can also listen at Brown’s website. For background, read “On the edge: Religious militancy in the Queen City.”

Hour One

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Download here (Clip is approx. 40 minutes long)

Hour Two

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Introduction

The cover to a 6-disc DVD set of an anti-gay lecture series delivered by Dr. Michael L. Brown in February 2007.

The cover to a 6-disc DVD set of an anti-gay lecture series delivered by Dr. Michael L. Brown in February 2007.

How thin of a line exists between violent word and thought, and violent action and deed? That’s a question answered plenty of times before, from Christian Crusades and Inquisitions of ages past to the modern day of radical Islamic terrorism. But, it is a question yet to be answered in Charlotte, N.C., where I believe there is a potentially dangerous and violent threat ramping up its efforts to counter the annual LGBT event, Pride Charlotte.

In times of great social change, there are often two opposing extremes: One path seeks to change society through violent and militant means. The other seeks change in the spirit of non-violence, a practice of living — in thought, word and deed — modeled most famously by Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Charlotte, it seems some religious leaders have chosen the former path, preaching and teaching with violent and militant theology and rhetoric, painting the social conflict over LGBT equality as a “battle” and a “war.”

Continue reading this post…

After all the controversy surrounding the cancellation of Charlotte’s LGBT pride festival, the harsh, religiously-motivated prejudice and spiritual violence spouted off from Operation Save America and the eventual announcement that Charlotte would, after all, have a LGBT pride festival, things have finally started to cool off.

I haven’t heard much from Operation Save America (take a look at their most recent, sickening expliots along with the PDF poster) regarding Pride Charlotte here lately, but their claims to have pushed homosexuals “back into the closet and the grave” have been severely proven false.
I found this article via the Pride Charlotte website. It was published five days ago in the Charlotte Observer and is an op-ed from the executive director of the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Community Center.
Enjoy. (original source: The Charlotte Observer)

Why Pride Charlotte endures
by Laura Witkowski
May 25, 2006
For the Record, The Charlotte Observer

From Laura Witkowski, executive director of Charlotte’s Lesbian & Gay Community Center:

A few weeks ago, I was a guest on Keith Larson’s radio show on WBT after The Lesbian & Gay Community Center announced that we would be having a Pride celebration in Charlotte after all. I say after all, because shortly before our announcement, Operation Save America had held a press conference saying Pride had been “pushed into the closet” and claimed “victory” over the festival.

That is not the case. Pride Charlotte, a task force under the umbrella of The Lesbian & Gay Community Center, is excitedly and feverishly working on the festival, which will take place at Gateway Village on Saturday, Aug. 26.

The main question Mr. Larson asked me in one form or another was, “Why Pride?” From his perspective, it looks like one big party — a chance for the LGBT community to have a great time together based strictly on sexual orientation. What, essentially, is the point?

Although sexual orientation is what brings us together, Pride is a chance to find a sense of unity and acceptance in a society where LGBT individuals still do not have access to the same rights as heterosexuals. Pride is a chance for LGBT people and allies to come together and celebrate the diversity of our community.

For many, Pride is one of the few times a year they feel safe and comfortable — one of their only chances to truly be themselves. It is important to remember that regardless of the popularity of “Brokeback Mountain,” “Will & Grace” and “The Ellen Show,” LGBT individuals still run the risk of getting fired on the basis of our sexuality, are denied health care benefits for our partners because we cannot legally marry, and get no support from a Social Security system that we pay into should our life partner (who we cannot legally marry) pass away.

Despite opposition to the festival in the past, Pride Charlotte is too important and valuable to the community to just cave into the pressure and hassle of those who vocally oppose equal rights and acceptance for all Americans.

Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in this part of the country, and that growth means many younger professional people who are looking for a place they see as inclusive and accepting of all its community members. Richard Florida, author of “Rise Of The Creative Class,” points out that people in this younger, hipper, professional group actively look at how LGBT folks are treated in cities they are considering relocating to and businesses they are looking at working for — even if they’re not gay themselves.

Charlotte is a business-driven city with an enormous potential for economic growth. Shutting out events like Pride and perpetuating spiritual violence on Charlotte’s LGBT community isn’t just mean-spirited and wrong; it’s bad for the city.

I am proud to be a Charlotte transplant — and I hope that in its own way, Pride Charlotte can bring that kind of pride into the lives of those who attend the festival to celebrate the best kind of freedom of all: freedom to live as you are.

For The Record offers commentaries from various sources. The views are the writer’s, and not necessarily those of the Observer editorial board. For information about Pride Charlotte or the center, go to www.PrideCharlotte.com or www.GayCharlotte.com.

Pride Charlotte will be held August 26, 2006 at Gateway Village in Charlotte.