N.C. Pride Parade at Duke
By Hannah Simpson
Around the Town Editor
“Closets are for clothes, not people,” one sign read. The young girl carrying it was walking with a Baptist church organization.
Behind her, two females walked hand in hand, each carrying signs that read, “I’m a Christian.”
Protestors lined one side of Main Street, which ran throughout the entire campus of Duke University, on Sept.29 during NC Annual Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Festival in Durham.
The 10% Society of UNCP joined the fray as they participated in their first Pride Parade as an organization. The festival was themed “United in Equality.”
The Pride festival, Sept. 29 to 30, featured a parade and festival on the east campus of Duke University.
“God loves you, but he hates your sin,” protestor Stephen Bennet yelled into a microphone. He was surrounded by people holding signs and shouting as the Pride Parade, which featured churches, organizations and random supporters, moved throughout the campus.
“We came here to show our love for Jesus and let people know they don’t have to be the way they are,” said Deborah Wallace of Mount Zion Baptist Church, Durham.
It was only several minutes later, however, that a group of motorcyclists stopped directly in front of Wallace and the protestors, revving their engines so loud that not even the screams of approval from the gay community could be heard.
“This is my first time being protested against and I have all this support,” said Jamel Porter, president of the 10% Society.
Porter walked with five members of the 10%, a rainbow flag tied like a cape around his shoulders.
Several of the female members, including Amnesty International president for the UNCP chapter Laura Warwick, were able to clamber onto a float and ride through the parade.
10% members Jessica Wright and Elizabeth Workman said they kissed each other as they passed the protestors for the second time.
Warwick said she has been to Pride Week festivities in the past, but this was the first time she participated in Pride Weekend in NC.
“I was happy to see [the support],” she said. Many families participated in support of children and parents, Warwick said.
Porter said next year he would like to walk with a coalition of gay/straight UNCP students.
“It matters that we have the support,” he said.
Several members said they expected more from the event, such as town participation or forums to discuss issues for the gay community.
“It wasn’t in the town,” Porter said, noting the seclusion of the event to the east campus. “That makes me wonder, does the state really support it?”
Sophomore member ElizabethWorkman asked, “If you don’t involve the community...then how’s it uniting [anyone]?”
Floats and organizations from across NC participated in the parade, coming from as far away as Greenville.
Buddhism, Unitarian Universalism, Christian and Catholics offered support to the gay community by marching at the festival and offering the support of their respective organizations.
Vice President of the 10% Society Gerame Allison said he was surprised by the religious turnout.
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird spoke about the many achievements the gay community has accomplished.
Fight for rights
Kinnaird spoke of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which is currently being discussed by Congress.
“This is the civil rights issue in the legislature today,” she said.
If passed, ENDA would ban workplace discrimination against sexual orientation.
We must continue to fight for equal rights for all citizens, Kinnaird said.
“If the law applies to one person, it applies to everybody,” she said. “You have many fighters and we’re all in this together,” Kinnaird added, addressing the gay community.
Kinnaird also said “the right to marry is a fundamental constitutional right,” in regards to her position against the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Durham Police Department offered support by setting up a booth for recruitment.
Lawyers plagued the grounds, announcing their willingness to represent gay marriage in courts.
The Duke University LGBT Task Force Co-Chair Laura Micham said the gay community has a lot of support through the university. Micham said Duke University even provides a Sexuality Studies Program for college credit.
According to festival manager Ellen Cohen, over 160 vendors participated in the festivities, selling rainbow flags, clothing and “gay” art work.
Umm Shabazz had never been to a Pride festival when she decided to sell clothes from Africa.
Shabazz said she has respect for the gay community.
“I had that encounter once in my life,” she said, a smile on her face. “It was beautiful.”
A lone statue of a soldier carrying a satchel stood near the center of the festival.
His bronze figure was decorated with rainbow colored necklaces and in a bronze parcel at his feet was resting a dozen condoms.
Men and women in colorful outfits would pick one up randomly as they passed.
The East Duke Building was decorated with a rainbow of balloons for featured artist Randy Jones, the cowboy from the popular 70’s group “The Village People.”
Randall Williams, who joined the 10% in support of his friends’ sexual orientation, said attending Pride “opens your mind a little more.”
NC Pride Weekend takes place each year in Durham and Raleigh.
Asheville will be holding their Pride festival on Oct. 13.