When did you relocate and become involved in local Pride?
I grew up here, and my first Pride was when I was in high school. It was NC Pride, which is what Durham Pride is now. NC Pride was the predecessor to Pride Durham: NC. And I moved back after college to get my master’s at NC State in 2007, and then I moved to Durham in 2008. Yeah, and I, of course, attended Pride basically every year after I moved back. In 2018 NC Pride announced that it was canceled after receiving a lot of feedback and scrutiny. I said, you know, “Why? Y’all can quit, but that doesn’t mean Pride has to stop.” So I contacted the city and I contacted the LGBTQ Center of Durham—I was working at Duke at the time—and so I contacted the center and I said, “If I pulled this off, if I can make Pride happen, we have 90 days to do it, do you all support this and are you willing to make it a program of the LGBTQ Center of Durham?” Everyone said yes, and so essentially it went from being privately owned and operated, meaning all of the money went to an individual, to being affiliated with a nonprofit to fund the services of a community center and social services agency. All of that went down in 2018.
What does the community of drag families look like in Durham and the larger state?
The House of Coxx exists because there was only one show happening when it was the time for us to consider getting started. There was a hole in the market, if you will. Now there’s so many more drag performers in turn, and you’ve got shows popping up virtually as well. Back when the Mothership used to be open in Durham, there was a show called Ship Shows; some performers just moved back to the area and then they’re a part of drag families. But we’ve been working on connecting and making sure that Durham isn’t like other places where there’s tension between the families. We want to see everyone rise and have a good time.
What does it look like to be a part of this family offstage?
I mean, do you know what it looks like to be in a family? It looks like that. There are days that we all are cuddled up on the couch watching a movie. And there are other days where we’re having really intense conversations because we’ve heard each other’s daily. We’re a family. Thing about this family is that we don’t give up on each other. You’re able to connect and reignite. But because we’re a family, we know that we’re gonna love each other no matter what. And it’s really magical to watch that and to go and do fun things and, you know, we have a road trip coming up.
How did you transition into administering and organizing Pride Durham: NC? What matters to you most in your work?
I took over in 2018. There was no, there was no rising up the ranks. I came out of nowhere. And I announced that I would lead it in partnership with the LGBTQ Center of Durham. It was one of those moments where no one was stepping up, and I’m just a person of action. And I said, “Well, let’s go everyone.” I did so by bringing on about eight members of the community to represent different aspects of the community. And I am now the executive director of the LGBTQ Center of Durham, and I now only oversee the finances of Pride and I allow the community through folks who are selected to run in Pride. I am not the chair of Pride anymore.
So I oversee Pride which is like the distinction, other people lead it, and I oversee it because at the end of the day, the center is ultimately responsible. But at the center, what I predominantly do is administration, connection, and fundraising. So I provide the vision and finances for the organization. But when I think about the LGBTQ Center, I think about the work we do as a whole and how we are the largest LGBTQ nonprofit in the state of North Carolina, except for maybe EqualityNC and see depending on when you check our finances. And we are the only full service Social Services Center for LGBTQ plus people in North Carolina. So we do housing, domestic violence, employment security, financial security, legal support, at a distance, medical support at a distance, and the youth center. I just think all of that work is important. Because what we do is we keep queer and trans people of color alive, healthy and moving forward. In their lives. We do need more financial support because we can never meet the full need. But we are still fighting this battle.
What are you most excited for regarding this year’s events? What do you hope to accomplish coming out of a pandemic?
So this is our first year back is a fully realized Pride. While it will be hybrid in ways, it is mostly in person. And I’m excited about the parade, returning after three for the parade has not happened since 2019. And I am so excited about the fact that it’s happening. I’m also excited about the concert the pride committee has put together. I’m also excited to watch everyone let their hair down after really focusing and enjoying the reason we do pride which is the history and progress and fighting oppression. But also let’s have a good time and I’m excited about that as well.
Is there any aspect of upcoming Pride Durham: NC you want to highlight?
Yeah, I really want to point to the evening events. Everyone knows about the parade and festival. But we are taking over two different event venues that are adjacent to each other, a night party, one is a dance party at the Fruit and the other is a grown folks party at Suite Four. You can go back and forth between the two different spaces, but they are technically two different vibes in two adjacent buildings. And I just really want to promote this night party because it’s only the second time Pride has put on an official night party. So I want to lift that one up.
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