‘We didn’t want to cancel the pride’: Durham celebrates LGBTQ + community safely
In a typical year, the annual Pride Celebration: Durham, North Carolina wraps the Duke University campus with a parade, more than 125 food vendors, and festivities to celebrate the LGBTQ + community at across the Triangle.
But this year, due to the increase in COVID-19 variants, those festivities have moved to a hybrid format – offering in-person community resources and online social events.
Festival coordinator Travis Cinnamon said event organizers were forced to pivot to determine what safe activities they can organize while honoring the pride. The organizers launched the call for change in early September.
“It was really about figuring out what was safe, but it still showed pride,” Cinnamon said. “We didn’t want to take away the pride.”
Pride events were split between two areas: Duke East Campus and Durham LGBTQ Center.
Events on the East Campus focused on community outreach, with a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, free STI tests and free meals provided by Feed Durham. Meanwhile, at the LGBTQ Center in Durham, there was a self-guided youth scavenger hunt and two free food trucks.
“We have seen many groups of children and their parents coming forward of all ages,” said Freddy Perkins, program director for the LGBTQ Youth Center. “I’m really excited to see that, even though we had to pivot and not do what we really wanted to do or what we hoped to do, it’s still something that is well received.”
He added that the Oak City Fish and Chips and Epic Vegan vendors offer food for free.
Event organizers decided to host the event so that children can enjoy outdoor activities with friends while limiting exposure to COVID-19.
“[Pride] is a time to reflect and get a real perspective on what matters to who we are as a diverse community and how we continue to keep space and make room for all of our issues, needs and experiences. Said Jesse Huddleston, President of Pride: Durham, NC.
With only 59% of Durham’s population fully vaccinated, Pride: Durham, North Carolina offered an immunization clinic to residents. There was also a free and confidential STI testing center that offered testing for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis C, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Dennis Hamlet, a public health educator in the County Durham Department of Public Health, was part of the STI testing team, a service offered annually at Pride. This is part of the North Carolina Public Health Integrated Targeted Testing Services Project, which aims to provide testing in high-risk areas.
“Our goal is to provide accessible and free services to the most marginalized members of our community – low income people, men who have sex with men, the LGBTQ community, sex workers and women. injection drug users, ”Hamlet said.
Perkins said that while COVID-19 has been detrimental to overall mental health, it has particularly affected LGBTQ + youth who often feel isolated.
“Young people need [Pride] to be with people, “Perkins said.” It’s imperative that young people have this socialization. “
In addition to the in-person activities at Pride, there were a number of social events held virtually, including a yoga session, a family drag show, and a virtual pride concert. Event organizers hope they can return to the festivities and parades next year.
“Time will tell what we’ll be able to do,” said Perkins.
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