“Pride to me is a day where we recognize there is not just one way to live.” Helana Cragg is the executive director of the LGBTQ Center of Durham. Her vision began in 2014 when she recognized a need to establish a center in heart of downtown. She recognized the center in Raleigh could not serve everyone, especially those in Durham. She wanted to create a space which is led by marginalized individuals to create a community-led environment.
“Originally, there was just one center that could not serve everyone, so we took action. We wanted to put people in the community in various leadership roles,” she explained.
During the startup of the center, a goal of $60,000 was needed to create a building which would not reflect a tradition commercial building, but feel like a home for everyone.
The center is a newly renovated home, decorated with bright colors sitting at 114 Hunt Street. Every guest is greeted by an open door and a warm plate of chocolate chip cookies when they arrive.
The LGBTQ Center of Durham wants to keep the people at the forefront for the 2018 Pride Festival.
“We have a committee which reflects a very diverse team and staff. It is and will remain a family-friendly, non-alcoholic space. This year, we are making special accommodations for elders and those who have disabilities by installing specialized viewing stations so they may have priority seating for the show,” said Cragg.
Cragg explained Pride 2018 will be very different from last year’s Pride experience. This festival will contain: a parade, giveaways, vendors, food trucks, special performers and live entertainment.
Due to the poor communication surrounding last year’s pride festival, the original coordinator decided not to be at the forefront of the planning process. After many conversations with “J-Clapp”, ex-convict and community leader, Cragg decided a new collaboration effort would be needed to continue the legacy.
Last year’s Pride occured the same day as the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, which did not sit well with the community. In any case, “J-Clapp” and Cragg knew it was their job to help re-brand the image of the Pride experience.
In 2017, a lot of smaller LGBTQ groups, including the Durham center, urged visitors to not attend the celebration for that year.
“This is a day where there is a total moment of joy for those within the community and allies to get together and celebrate life. Even shops close to come and celebrate with us.”
Pride, a day full of celebration still raises concerns for those within and allied with the LGBTQ community.
Cragg explained, every year the Pride festival is visited by protesters who make it clear that they do not agree with the Pride experience. This is also complimented by a hefty police force which takes away the safe environment the event coordinators aim to create.
“We have paid a lot of attention to what the attendees would and would not like to see. Surprisingly, the greatest concern is the amount of officers who are visible with uniforms,” she explained.
Cragg understand the police has to be present at any large public event in case of danger and the risk of protesters getting out of hand. However, having the police be front and center is not how the Pride experience should be.
“Pride should be an event where you can let your hair down. We want officers to be present, but only when there is immediate danger. Let the family-friendly event be treated as such,” said Cragg.
Cragg explained the community environment is what keeps her motivated. Any donations will go towards the efforts of the LGBTQ Center of Durham and other initiatives that accommodates the LGQBT community.
In 2019, the center plans to begin a program that addresses youth homelessness to have extra support for those who go through hardships of finding and accepting who they are and what those circumstance entail.
This year’s LGBTQ Pride experience, will take place Sat., Sept. 29, on the East Campus of Duke University.
“Please stop by our center and visit our website. Our open door policy is extended to everyone,” said Cragg. Any suggestions about Pride 2018 can be submitted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org You can visit the center at 114 Hunt Street or call at (919) 827-1436 for any questions about the center.