“We are here, we are queer”: Out! Raleigh marks the 10th annual festival
Since 2011, members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters have filled the streets of downtown Raleigh for the Out! Raleigh Pride Festival every summer.
Saturday was no exception.
Fayetteville Street was adorned with rainbows with festival-goers wearing t-shirts, hanging flags and painting their faces with the colorful LGBT pride symbol.
The street was lined with vendors, ranging from large healthcare providers like WakeMed and Duke Health to grassroots organizations, like the LGBTQ Center of Durham. Other local vendors include Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, Dusty Donuts and Kathi’s Klowns, where 6-year-old Emersyn Brook got her face painted.
Two stages featured performances by local artists and bands, a comedy show, DJ sets and drag performances.
The festival is a fundraiser for the Raleigh LGBT Center, the city’s leading nonprofit focused on LGBT issues and resources, and its community programs.
The event draws locals and strangers alike, like Donna Hamilton from Asheboro in Randolph County, about 70 miles west of Raleigh. She said she had attended Pride festivals in Raleigh and other cities across the state since her release in 1980.
“[Here] we can be ourselves, we can be free without fear of discrimination,” she said. “Pride here today is exclusive to individualism. It’s a day of joy, it’s a day of happiness.
But this year, the festival came on the heels of a Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 court decision that established abortion as a constitutional right. With the decision, the power to know whether a person can have an abortion was transferred to the states.
“I myself am happy that Roe v. Wade has been overturned,” Hamilton said.
For Zoe Sinton-Covens and Marshall Mulkey, who both attended the festival for the first time this year, Pride takes on added meaning in light of the Supreme Court ruling.
Growing up, Pride represented “free speech” for Sinton-Covens, and she saw events like Out! Pride Raleigh festival as a sign of the city’s growth.
But after Friday’s ruling, in which Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court should also “reconsider” same-sex marriage, Pride takes on a sense of “protest and power.” I am proud of myself and my community, and I will stand up for my rights,” Sinton-Covens said. “Pride events are more important than ever to show the community that we are here, we exist, we do nothing wrong and it is human rights at the end of the day. They cannot not be removed.
Mulkey added that it was “awesome” to see families with children “experiencing this from an early age” at the festival. They plan to perform at Comedy Worx on Saturday night as part of an improv show, where a portion of the proceeds will go to the LGBTQ center.
Imaja Chavis stood on the corner of Davie and Fayetteville streets shouting over the voices of street preachers who were proselytizing an anti-LGBTQ message.
“Don’t worry about burning in hell. Worry about burning in that scorching sun,” yelled Chavis, of Sanford. Chavis, 18, identifies as a lesbian and uses the pronouns they/they. When they asked their dad in 2019 if they could attend a Pride event, he told them to wait until they were 18.
“Well, I’m 18. He probably thought I was going to be straight by then, but no. I’m here and I’m queer and they’re going to have to deal with that,” Chavis said, making a gesture over his shoulder to the street preachers.
Chavis was joined by friends Easton Brewer and Ashton Lowery. Brewer, of Sanford, said it was important to show community at events like Pride because there is “a lot of hate in the world”.
Brewer identifies as queer and non-denominational Christian. He associates both his religion and his pride with love and positivity.
“My God is about love and not necessarily like gay, straight, bi, whatever,” Brewer said. “Just accepting the differences, working with them rather than hating them, because that won’t get you anywhere.”
Olivia Burston, Jose Barajas, Nate Sheed and Sydney Conway came to the festival together to have fun and support the LGBTQ community.
Especially after Friday’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Sheed said it was “more important than ever to be here”.
“We are here, we are gay, we are not going to leave,” Barajas said, adding that the festival was also about finding a community for him.
“It was easy to feel defeated at the national level” on Friday, Conway said. “But at the state level and at the local level, we can always fight for our own rights and … fight for local representatives to always fight for our individual rights. So I think it’s important.
Pride month activities will continue in Fuquay-Varina on Sunday afternoon, although the city government maintains its distance.
This story was originally published June 25, 2022 4:31 p.m.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story used an incorrect pronoun for Marshall Mulkey, who uses them.
Corrected June 28, 2022