By Kadia King
Photos by Kadia King
One of the most anticipated events of the year, Winston-Salem’s Annual Pride Festival on Oct. 15 drew large crowds in celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community. The day began with a morning parade through downtown beginning at 11 a.m., featuring a number of organizations, including Salem’s LGBTQIA+ organization, Open Up.
After the parade, drag performances and live music brought the festival to life. Businesses, artists and vendors from throughout Winston-Salem lined the streets. Numerous LGBTQIA+ advocacy organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and the North Star Community Center were in attendance.
The event, hosted by the non-profit organization Pride Winston-Salem, has been a staple in the community for several years and is important to many LGBTQIA+ individuals. “Pride is being yourself… it’s showing that you’re not afraid of being who you are” said Aria, a volunteer with the North Star Community Center. Aria is new to the area but feels that the Pride festival has a positive impact on the Winston-Salem community. “I think it will really help North Carolina in general because there’s a lot of iffy laws.”
One such law, HB2, is still strongly contested. LGBTQIA+ advocates have continued to fight for its repeal since it was controversially passed in March. The wake of this backlash, along with the political climate generated by this year’s election cycle and other movements, was evident among the crowds. Some festival goers donned Black Lives Matter t-shirts and fervently voiced their opinions toward the presidential candidates, setting undertones that placed the celebration in a much broader context.
The festival ended in the afternoon, but the celebration raged on with an after party hosted in the Millennium Center. The building, like all of downtown Winston just moments earlier, was illuminated with the colors of the rainbow.
“It’s like my personal holiday. It’s a day where you just dress up and be yourself and there’s no shame” said Amanda Blount, a Salem senior. “Pride is everything.”