I. You Support Our Community
In 2017, we committed to a substantially expanded mission. As much as we love our festival, our mission is to support our community and our welcoming allies. Following are some of the programs we are building.
1. Creating Safe Spaces to Gather and Work Together
WNC LGBTQ Community Center.
In 2017, we joined forces with Youth OUTright WNC and Tranzmission to open Asheville’s only center dedicated to serving the LGBTQ community. At-risk teens and transgender support groups are already meeting regularly at the Center. We are launching a racial justice program in order to explore how we can make the center welcoming to everyone in our service population.
WNC Virtual LGBTQ Community Center.
Our mission is to all western North Carolina. This summer, we are launching a second community center – a virtual center that can support everyone – especially those living in isolated communities. Organizations that serve the LGBTQ and allied communities in WNC will be able to post their services, groups, events and resources in one location. The center will also provide a gateway to virtual services, such as virtual peer support and counseling, webinars and online education.
2. Advocacy, Education and Outreach
Coalition Work / Turnout Asheville.
We have joined a coalition – with Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE), Equality North Carolina, and Tranzmission – that seeks to advance equality-focused legislation and to lobby for at-risk populations, such as transgender minors and LGBTQ elderly.
Welcoming Communities of Western North Carolina.
We hear all-too often from the haters these days. But the truth is, western North Carolina is full of people and organizations who embrace diversity and inclusion. Our Welcoming Communities program will work to give voice to organizations and individuals who throw out the welcome mat for everyone. It will also seek to help those who aspire to become more welcoming.
Earlier this year, we published a list of Welcoming Communities of Faith. In 2018, we plan to add more faith communities. We also plan to add other sectors: healthcare, education, government, business, and community service. We will offer educational programs that help those who aspire to become more welcoming.
We know so little about western North Carolina’s LGBTQ population – its people and families, their needs, their special stories. We have launched discussions with students and faculty at several universities. We want to launch two sets of projects: 1) research into our community’s most pressing issues and needs; 2) capture, in film and print, of some our community’s most compelling stories.
3. Celebrations with Purpose
Blue Ridge Pride Festival 2018: Focus on Community Expression, Development and Service.
We work hard to make sure that our festival reflects and supports our community. In 2017, almost all our performers were from western North Carolina. Half our exhibitors represented community services, social justice organizations, health services, and political candidates. In addition to musical entertainment, we invited poets, held a wedding, promoted local, minority enterprises, and raised money for hurricane relief.
Blue Ridge Pride Pageant: Rethinking Culture and Gender.
This year, we have opened a cross-cultural dialogue about the Miss Blue Ridge Pride Pageant. For starters, why does it have to be “Miss”? Our theme this year is to use the pageant to encourage more thoughtful discussions about gender, sexuality, culture, and identity. Our goal is to showcase different individuals’ and communities’ expressions of gender.
4. Community Support / Community Service
We are committed to reinvesting any funds we raise back into the WNC community. In 2017, we invested over 400% more in local, non-profit initiatives than in any year past. In 2018, we plan to grow these investments another 400%.