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"We didn't want to cancel Pride": Durham celebrates LGBTQ+ community safely


From left to right, LGBTQ Youth Center Program Director Freddy Perkins, Host Home Program Director KC Buchanan, Program Coordinator Hunter and Co-chairperson for Pride: Durham NC Jesse Huddleston celebrate Pride in Durham on Sept. 25. 

During a typical year, the Pride: Durham, NC annual celebration packs Duke University's campus with a parade, over 125 food vendors and festivities aimed at celebrating the LGBTQ+ community across the Triangle. 

But this year, due to COVID-19 variants on the rise, those festivities shifted to a hybrid format — offering community resources in person and social events online. 

Festival coordinator Travis Cinnamon said the event's organizers were forced to pivot to determine what safe activities they could hold while still honoring Pride. Organizers made the call to shift in early September. 

"It was really figuring out what was safe, but still showed pride," Cinnamon said. "We didn't want to cancel Pride."

Events at Pride were split between two areas – Duke’s East Campus and the LGBTQ Center of Durham. 

The events on East Campus centered around community outreach, with a COVID-19 vaccine clinic, free STI testing and free meals offered through Feed Durham. Meanwhile, at the LGBTQ Center of Durham, there was a self-guided youth scavenger hunt and two free food trucks. 

"We've seen lots of groups of kids and their parents just show up of all different ages," said Freddy Perkins, who serves as program director for the LGBTQ Youth Center. "I'm just really excited to see that, even though we've had to pivot and not do what we really wanted to do or what we hoped to do, it's still something being received well." 

He added that vendors Oak City Fish and Chips and Epic Vegan offered food at no charge. 

Event organizers decided to host the scavenger hunt so children could enjoy outdoor activities with friends while limiting exposure to COVID-19. 

"[Pride] is a time to reflect and have real perspective on what matters on who we are as a diverse community and how we continue to hold space and make space for our whole issues, needs and experiences," said Jesse Huddleston, co-chairperson for Pride: Durham, NC. 

With only 59 percent of Durham’s population fully vaccinated, Pride: Durham, NC offered a vaccine clinic to residents. There was also a free and confidential STI testing center that offered screenings for HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis C, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia.

Dennis Hamlet , public health educator at the Durham County Department of Public Health, was part of the STI screening team, a service offered yearly at Pride. It's part of North Carolina Public Health's Integrated Targeted Testing Services Project, which works to provide testing in high-risk areas. 

"Our focus is to provide accessible and free services to the most marginalized members of our community – individuals that are low income, men who have sex with men, the LGBTQ community, commercial sex workers and injection drug users," Hamlet said. 

Perkins said although COVID-19 has been detrimental for overall mental health, it has especially impacted LGBTQ+ youth who often feel isolated. 

"Youth need [Pride] to be with people," Perkins said. "It is imperative that youth have that socialization."

In addition to in-person activities at Pride, many social events were hosted virtually, including a yoga session, a family-friendly drag show and a virtual pride concert. Event organizers hope to be able to return to festivities and parades next year.

“Time will tell what we’ll be able to do," Perkins said. 


@DTHCityState | |

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article, in addition to the photo caption, misstated Jesse Huddleston's title. They are the co-chairperson for Pride: Durham, NC. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error. 

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