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Arts & Culture

HB2 Is Sure To Bring Big Crowd To Charlotte Pride

Courtesy of Charlotte Pride.

There have been many events canceled in North Carolina because of House Bill 2, but you can’t count this weekend’s Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade as one of them.

Kimberly Melton, is the Executive Director and first full time employee of Charlotte Pride. Melton pointed out this is one event that is expected to be in high attendance because of HB2. She spoke to WFAE’s Sarah Delia about the increased security around the festival and parade this weekend.

House Bill 2 may have deterred Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr from coming to North Carolina, but Charlotte Pride’s Kimberly Melton says, this weekend’s Pride festivities gives those who oppose the law a chance to have a voice.

"If anything they’ll be coming to speak out and to show the support for the community. Charlotte is a very supportive community. There’s going to be over 3,300 people marching this year so it’s one of the largest ones we’ve ever had and many of the groups will be using that as their voice to speak out," Melton said. 

In that respect, this year’s Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade could have some resemblance of Pride parade’s past. Melton describes the parades in the early days of Charlotte Pride as marches for Civil Rights. Now, it’s more of a big party.

"Of course Charlotte Pride is a celebration for the LGBTQ community, but it’s also a celebration for Charlotte," Melton said.

There’s of course a great deal of diversity within the LGBT community which can make it difficult to find the right balance when planning what  events and performers should be included in Charlotte Pride’s big weekend. 

MELTON: We have queer acts, we have trans acts, we have drag, we have a Charlotte band Dust and Ashes, there's variety in everything. 

DELIA: We’ve done a fair amount of reporting on HB2 and transgender issues and being connected to some people in the transgender community in Charlotte,  there’s been some chatter on social media that the Charlotte Pride weekend doesn’t have as much representation of people in the transgender community in than the gay, lesbian, bisexual representation of the weekend. What do you say to transgender people in Charlotte that don’t feel that this is a proper representation of the transgender community in Charlotte?

MELTON: We do have transgender acts that will be happening on the stage. Some people feel that there needs to be more, and I would say we can always do better. We always are striving to be more inclusive, to provide more opportunities for people. We have heard the voices and we take them very seriously. And we look forward to dialoge in the feature.

DELIA: How has the tragedy in Orlando effected planning Charlotte Pride this year?

MELTON: Orlando is a stain on our soul that will never go away. We have an entry in our parade called We Are Orlando that will be calling out their names and many of our over 130 parade participants will be acknowledging Orlando.

There will be more security this year. The Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade was declared an Extraordinary Event for the first time by the city which gives police more authority.

MELTON: We were concerned in one way for part of our community that feels marginalized by the police and then there’s other parts of the community who were very glad it happened. Because there are so many people in the parade we have mandatory parade meetings and the police were at those meetings to answer questions. And the questions were 'hey what’s the difference?' From what I understand to be true is that it allows the police to check a backpack if they deem the person to be suspicious. What that means is that they can take care of the situation right now. And hopefully most of the time when they check a backpack they’ll find bubbles, water, a towel, things that should be at a parade but it does allow them to handle a situation immediately.

Sarah: So a person who attends pride, what do you hope they take out of that experience?

MELTON: They will laugh, they will have fun, they will experience things they have never seen. The faith community will be marching, so I think 'we are family' speaks to it. We all need to love each other and support each other and listen.

The Charlotte Pride Festival kicks off Saturday, the parade starts on Sunday at 1 o’clock in Uptown.