FAQ City: Why Is Charlotte Pride In August, Not June?

Aug 14, 2018

Ever wondered why Charlotte celebrates Pride in August, and not in June, like most other major cities? WFAE listener Jennifer Lange did.

"In August, it's going to be over 100 degrees, and I love going to the parades and the celebrations in uptown, and it's just so darn hot," she told us.

Not only that, but June is Pride Month. It marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, which happened in 1969. That's why most major cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco - they all celebrate Pride in June. So why is Charlotte different?

Well as it turns out, it wasn't always so. On this week's FAQ City, we catch up with local LGBTQ historian Josh Burford, who helps guide us through the story of how Charlotte Pride was born, and how it ended up in August.

Charlotte's first "Gay Pride Day," held at UNC Charlotte in 1981.
Credit THE J. MURREY ATKINS LIBRARY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNC CHARLOTTE

Burford said the very first Charlotte Pride was, in fact, held in June. The year was 1981, which was a little late in the game compared to other cities. New York's first pride was in 1970, and the first pride parades in the South were around 1972.

"Charlotte wanted to do something visible," Burford said, "But the community wasn't in the right position to do a large, public pride."

Back then, to live as an out gay person in buttoned-up Charlotte was to put your job, your family, even your life on the line.

Samis Rose, who along with her partner Billy Rose and others, helped organize Charlotte's first gay pride in 1981.
Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE

But there was a small group of locals who wanted to change that. One of them was Samis Rose. At the time, she was living in secret with her partner Billy Rose, and the two were friends with a guy named Don King. They saw gay rights organizations starting to form around the country, and decided to start one here.

"We were tired of living in everybody's shadow," she said, "And we decided it was time for Charlotte to come into the light."

They formed a group called QCQ - Queen City Quordinators - and staged Charlotte's first gay pride event, to be held in June, of course. That was a conscious nod to the Stonewall Riots, Rose said.

It was mainly held at UNC Charlotte. There were speakers, a softball tournament, a family picnic and a "gold cabaret." Roughly 100 people attended.

"I was just on a cloud the entire weekend," Rose said, "It was like we could actually breathe there, you know?"

Darryl Logsdon, who helped organize the 1994 North Carolina State Pride, held in uptown Charlotte.
Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE

QCQ continued hosting annual pride events, and more and more people kept showing up - among them Darryl Logsdon, who moved to Charlotte in 1982 and attended that year's pride.

"It was in the parking lot of a local gay bar, and it was very good that they were supporting that and helping to get that launched, but when I went, I thought, 'Gosh, I wonder if we can take this to the next level, and have something a little more public,'" he said.

So Logsdon joined the QCQ board and helped grow the event even larger.

Fast forward now to June of 1994, when Charlotte was picked to host the North Carolina state pride. The was a huge deal. It was held in uptown, and for the first first time, Charlotte had a pride march.

Logsdon said the event was a milestone for Charlotte's LGBT community, partly because some 4,000 people attended — which was the largest crowd they'd ever had.

After that, Charlotte's pride event kind of went on hiatus. The city's LGBT community had limited resources that just got diverted to other LGBT organizations that were starting to get off the ground, Logsdon said.

Then, in 2001, a small group of LGBT organizors led by Charlotte resident Jeff Schmehl decided to bring Pride back, and thus began the modern-day Charlotte Pride organization. At first, the new Pride events were held in May, until 2006, when the switch was made to August. And why exactly?

Well, Burford said it was partly because they moved Pride from Marshall Park and other areas on the city's outskirts to the actual streets of uptown, and it really just came down to scheduling.

"If you're going to shut down uptown," Burfod said, "Then the city dictates when you have these festivals."

Matt Comer, a spokesperson for Charlotte Pride, confirms this. He wrote in an email that August "is just a good time with the city's calendar." Organizors are actually glad Charlotte Pride doesn't conflict with other major prides, that way, people can attend more than one.

So, it's kind of a simple answer, but there it is — plain old scheduling.

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