Pride is a day to celebrate your partnership, your sexuality, your gender expression, and your right to live freely as you are. Asheville Pride 2012, held Oct. 6, was a culmination of bright shining smiles and bursts of color over Pack Square and the Roger McGuire Green.
“Since that first year of anxiety and doubt, we went from 1,500 participants to over 10,000 this year,” says Amy Huntsman, Blue Ridge Pride vendor chair.
Asheville Pride began in the parking lot of Scandals Nightclub in October of 2008. Amy thought, “This could be so much more.” She gathered together “a group of ‘experts': a well connected marketer, a local newspaper publisher, an events chair for a local organization, and an attorney. From these meager beginnings, we raised somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 to10,000 dollars that year and pulled off what many told us was the impossible in MLK Park.”
While Asheville Pride is a chance for people to get together and celebrate, Amy also knows that it’s more than a party. “It’s the idea of outreach and education to better citizens of this community who are diverse and under-represented,” Amy says. “It gives those folks in the community who may stay in hiding throughout the year a place to come out and be proud without judgment.” The bigger goal for Blue Ridge Pride is to eventually open a community center. Amy says that as the festival continues to grow it can be a funding source to help make this idea come to fruition.
Overall the day was filled with entertainment (comedy, slam poetry, drag show, parade, live music and more) but it was also a chance to educate the community on issues important to the area’s lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender residents. Booths represented an array of commercial vendors and information/services, allowing them to target a specific audience. Overall, event organizers called the bright and sunny day a huge success.
“We hope that the future brings continued dialogue about what Pride means to this community and engages new voices and individuals to come to the table to support the underlining meanings of our organization,” Amy says. Overall, 2012 has been a year of highs and lows for the LGBTQ community. On May 8, North Carolina voters approved the passage of Amendment 1. This passage amended the North Carolina constitution to say that heterosexual marriage is the “is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” This was a substantial setback to the LGBTQ community. The success of Pride 2012, however, proved that Western North Carolina’s queer spirit is still going strong.
At this year’s festival, there was a “direct-action” area where people could learn how to let their voices be heard. Campaign for Southern Equality and Youth Outright were just a couple of the organizations set up in this area. In October of 2011, Campaign for Southern Equality began their WE DO Campaign, in which 38 same sex couples have applied for marriage licenses in North and South Carolina. In January of 2013, the organization will begin stage four of this campaign where it will continue the fight for full federal equality and resist unjust state laws.
After this year’s election cycle hope has been renewed for LGBTQ folks. Residents in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington all voted to support marriage equality. As a nation, the reelection of President Barack Obama, the first American president to vocalize support for civil rights of LBGTQ folks, continued the positive trend.
Blue Ridge Pride is an organization set up on helping further the fight for full civil rights for LGBTQ folks. Once a year, participants get together to have a blast and to show some pride. But throughout the year, Blue Ridge Pride continues to work toward the goal of supporting LGBTQ people and bringing the community together. Plans for Blue Ridge 2013 are set for Oct. 5.
You can stay connected to the cause by visiting Blue Ridge Pride.