Pride is about bringing people together, but 2020 presented a unique problem—a pandemic that’s spawned necessary isolation topped off with a nightmarishly polarized political circus.
“This year we have to focus on: How can we fill the hearts and minds of people who are desperate for connection?” says LGBTQ Center of Durham executive director J. Clapp, who is spearheading the Pride planning this year.
The solution was simple: Instead of parading through the streets this year, the LGBTQ Center of Durham’s Pride celebration will be streaming over Twitch and Zoom.
The virtual festivities will span Friday, September 25 through Sunday, September 27. Though it will be entirely remote, the weekend is packed with programming that includes documentary screenings, “education and restoration sessions,” and a star-studded lineup of performances.
Performers include Atlanta-based musician and drag artist Taylor ALXNDR; rapper Dai Burger; Wafia, who was featured this year as one of The Advocate’s emerging queer artists; and Robin S., whom Clapp calls “a staple from the nineties nightlife scene.” Other performances from community members will also be featured on the Twitch stream.
Pride will screen three documentaries—El Canto Del Colibrí, Brainchild’s Born Again, and MAJOR!—each of which was selected in an effort to uplift the community’s most marginalized voices, Clapp says.
On Saturday, the party will segue into 16 breakout sessions on topics like mental health, sex education, skincare, the history of Pride in Durham, and voter rights. Pose actress Dominique Jackson will host a closed session, “Sister Circle,” with trans women and femmes of color.
If there’s room in the Pride lineup to fill, Clapp says, then Vivica C. Coxx, Clapp’s well-known drag alter ego, might perform—but only as “a bonus.”
“She doesn’t need the recognition,” Clapp says. “And I don’t really believe in nepotism, so I try and allow for other people to have access to the stage.”
In a year fraught with police brutality and a heated political climate atop a pandemic, Pride is an important space for hope and healing, Clapp believes.
“We have to strike a very delicate balance of remembering why we’re here to fight and providing the community with some joy and some love so that they’re not constantly inundated with the negative,” Clapp says. “Because at this point, to be queer, to be Black, to be Latinx, to be trans is to experience trauma. And we want to help alleviate some of that trauma.”
Clapp says part of what distinguishes Pride: Durham is that, as far as they know, it is the only municipal-based Pride in the Southeast that is led by a Black person.
“And that automatically makes us different,” they say. “Because so often these Prides are not given to people of color, because if it’s led by a person of color, it’s been perceived as being a Black pride or a Latinx pride, instead of just being a municipal pride that involves everyone.”
While Durham has its issues, Clapp says many queer and trans people say they wouldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s a diverse city where many residents live full and joyful lives, and this diversity comes alive during Pride: “One of those really, really amazing snapshots of the beauty of Durham.”
Clapp will miss that energy this year.
“What I loved most about last year is looking out at the concert and seeing families with their children of zero years old, all the way up to my elders, celebrating and laughing and loving and embracing the beauty that is Durham,” they say.
Participants are strongly encouraged to still dress up at home for the event.
“Don’t lose the little things,” Clapp says. “I will be wearing my rainbow attire. I might even be in drag that day.”
After exploring many ideas involving mask mandates and social distancing measures, the Center decided to take Pride virtual on August 1. Clapp says they’ve faced some challenges: “A lot of them emotional, but the rest are just a little operational.”
Fortunately, though, the virtual medium allows Pride to provide more diversity in its programming, like the documentary screenings, and it also frees up budget space to expand more fully into Friday and Sunday, they say.
Clapp says if cisgender straight people would like to attend Pride, then they encourage them to do so.
“I don’t think that Pride is only for queer people, but it is about queer people,” they say. “I encourage anyone who enters a space that’s not about them to use it as an opportunity to love and be present, but don’t take up space.”
There is no advance registration for the watch parties—participants can simply go to twitch.tv/lgbtqcenterofdurham. For the educational and restorative sessions, the Center will announce links soon.
Clapp wants the community to know two things:
“That we love them,” Clapp says. “And that we will be back as soon as we can to provide an in-person festival.”
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