On June 21, visitors to TrianglePride.com saw only a brief message in white letters on a black screen: “The 2018 Triangle PrideFest Parade and Festival is suspended.”

Confused why the event—a recent rebranding of what would have been the thirty-third annual NC Pride festival—would be suspended just three months before it was scheduled to take place, some of those people picked up the phone and called the only person they thought might have an answer: Helena Cragg, chairwoman of the LGBTQ Center of Durham’s board of directors.

“It hasn’t always been clear to people who ran Pride,” Cragg says. “In some respects, people sort of assumed we did. We probably spent more time saying, ‘We don’t do Pride, but we go every year.’ When it became clear that Triangle Pride had, without much fanfare, put on its website that Pride was canceled, my phone started ringing off the hook with people saying, ‘What are we going to do?'”

Since its founding in 1986—at the height of the AIDS crisis, when same-sex marriage was a pipe dream—NC Pride had been a place for LGBTQ individuals to express themselves without fear and push an antidiscrimination agenda to the forefront of Durham politics. More recently, though, Pride has been mired in controversy and accusations that it wasn’t inclusive.

With that stark message posted on its website, it looked like NC Pride was fizzling out.

Until, that is, Cragg got a call from J. Clapp, also known as Vivica C. Coxx, the matriarch of House of Coxx, whose social-justice spin on drag has become a mainstay in Durham. Along with a diverse planning committee, Clapp and Cragg have revived the annual event as Pride: Durham, NC, scheduled for September 29 at Duke University.

It’s more than just picking up the tradition, they say. They also want to make the event more welcoming and accessible.

“I wanted to undo any questions that people had about whether or not Pride was for them,” Clapp says. “I wanted to see it become transparent—for people to not wonder what was happening. I wanted to see it organized well. I wanted to see it reinvigorated, and I wanted to pay homage to the people who had been doing it before.”

In 1981, the state’s first gay and lesbian march was held in Durham in response to the murder of a man beaten to death by a group of men who thought, incorrectly, that he was gay. But it wasn’t until five years later that the annual tradition of a Pride march began.

Betsy Barton, one of the organizers, still has the homemade sign she carried that day, bearing the words “We Are Everywhere.”

“We thought it was important because we knew then what many more people know now, which is that people don’t choose to be gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender. It’s something that’s part of our innate biology,” Barton says. “There was so much discrimination and prejudice. We were raised in an era where people we knew were gay-bashed just for holding hands on the street. We just thought it was really important to be out and proud.”

Barton continued to organize Pride events until the 1990s, and has attended off and on ever since. In the ensuing decades, the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage, became federal law, and, seventeen years later, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Three years after that, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right.

As LGBTQ individuals became more socially accepted, the “strong internal networks” that gave way to solidarity events, like the Pride march, faded.

“As that happened, the march became less political—and even just that, we called it a march,” Barton says. “We didn’t call it a parade. Over time, the march morphed into more of a celebration, because there wasn’t as much of a need to fight for recognition as people. It became more focused on celebrating who we were.”

In recent years, as gay rights became entrenched, social conservatives focused their attention on transgender individuals, which led to things like North Carolina’s House Bill 2, the so-called bathroom bill. Meanwhile, the number of reported murders of trans people, especially trans women of color, keeps rising.

The fight for equality is shifting and is now centered largely on intersectionality and the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community. But, critics say, NC Pride struggled to keep up.

In 2015, a Black Lives Matter activist accused a Pride official of assaulting her as she read a statement during the parade. Last year, organizers failed to notice they had scheduled Pride on the same day as Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, prompting a coalition of organizations to sign a petition urging people to abstain from that year’s event. The petition cited the poor timing, but it made clear this was just the latest example of “exclusionary practices” by the NC Pride committee.

After a month of public pressure, organizers canceled daytime activities and decided to hold festivities after sundown, when Yom Kippur would draw to a close. But the fix excluded young people and, overall, did little to affirm that inclusivity was a priority.

Jill Madsen, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill, which has participated in Pride for years, says all of this happened without the committee consulting the Jewish community.

“Scheduling conflicts are not something that’s new to Jewish individuals,” Madsen says. “So I don’t think that, in isolation, was what drew the concern. I think it was the complete and utter lack of response.” (This year’s event coincides with Shabbat, which is strictly observed by fewer people than Yom Kippur).

Such a lack of communication was a common complaint. John Short, the NC Pride committee director for seventeen years, often could not be reached for news articles (including this one), and information on anyone else involved in planning was virtually nonexistent. Even Cragg, who sought the blessing of the previous organizers while forming this new iteration of Pride, was unable to reach them.

Ultimately, she and Clapp decided to forge ahead rather than risk a year without Pride. With an ear tuned to community feedback, they’re hoping to build on previous Pride events, bringing more transparency and inclusivity to a tradition that hasn’t always felt inviting to everyone.

To that end, Pride: Durham has pledged to post financial disclosure forms on its website and give proceeds to the LBGTQ Center of Durham, a move that starkly contrasts with the NC Pride Committee, which lost its tax-exempt status years ago. It has also made public its planning committee, which, not coincidentally, includes Madsen as well as a former NC Pride organizer. The group is mostly people of color and represents a range of gender identities, orientations, and ages. Original Pride organizers—including Barton—will serve as the parade’s grand marshals and were consulted early on.

“I think it shows a different thought in what it means to hold a community event,” Madsen says. “If you really want it to be a community event, you need to make sure you have representation from those constituent groups in the planning, so they can be a part of the thought process of what is created.”

Pride: Durham has also looked to the results of more than one hundred community surveys for guidance. One of the main comments they’ve gotten is that Pride hasn’t previously been accessible to people of varying abilities. So this year, organizers have widened aisles to accommodate wheelchairs, provided priority parking and golf cart transportation, and expanded the visibility of the stage. (Anyone with accessibility needs should email pride@lgbtqcenterofdurham.org for information). They’ve created a low-sensory zone for a break from all the sights and sounds, two kids’ zones, and events for teens, like a lock-in at the Southwest Regional Library and a Youth Pride After-Party.

The surveys also indicated that people wanted reduced police presence, given a history of violence and discrimination against people of color and LGBTQ people. Organizers asked that officers who march do so in a personal rather than official capacity, without uniforms, badges, weapons, or squad cars—which in turn drew accusations that LGBTQ police and allies were being excluded. A Durham Police Department spokesperson says that, while officers participating in parades on an individual basis are not allowed to wear uniforms, uniformed officers will provide security, and DPD will host a booth at the festival.

For Barton, this year’s event marks a return to the emphasis on inclusion that marked the original Pride. Until Cragg invited her to be a grand marshal, she says, she hadn’t been asked by the organizers who followed her to be a part of the annual event.

“I feel really honored. I feel like we did something that was hard, and we made a difference. It feels nice to be recognized,” says Barton, the first openly gay person on any Human Relations Commission in North Carolina. “What I was feeling when she asked us to do that is remembering all that other work we did. The march was just one of many things.”

Clapp didn’t attend Pride events until his twenties out of fear that his family would see him on the news. But as he got older, Pride became a place to find community, and his hope is that Pride: Durham will be that space for others.

“For LGBTQ people, we don’t oftentimes feel confident that the people with whom we’re interacting actually support us or know what we endure,” he says. “Pride, for me, has always been that place where I didn’t have to question whether or not I was welcome. Pride is that place where everyone should feel comfortable and feel like their experience is valid. That’s the role it played for me, and that’s why we’re doing this—because we want those people to show up.”

NC Pride, Clapp says, needed a refresh, both in technology and philosophy.

That has manifested in a new website, with not only the schedule of events and vendor and parade applications that can be paid online for the first time, but also the values of Pride: Durham. It factored into a new logo designed with as much intention as the rest of the event. It incorporates the flag for Philadelphia Pride (the city recently added black and brown stripes to the traditional rainbow flag to highlight people of color in the LGBTQ community), as well as the asexual, trans, bisexual, gender nonconforming/gender-queer, pansexual, and gender-fluid pride flags.

“Pride is about everyone,” Clapp says. “But Pride also has the charge of welcoming a new cohort of people who have never attended Pride before. The majority of those people are under the age of thirty, and those humans are looking at technology differently. They’re also not considering marriage equality to be their number one priority. They’re considering workers’ rights to be a priority. They’re considering intersectionality to be a priority. And that’s where we focused our energy.”