DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Pride: Durham, NC Parade is returning Saturday for the first time since 2019.
"I'm really, really pumped about the parade. I can't wait to walk these streets and soak it all in. It's going to be great," said Jesse Huddleston, who serves as Co-Chair of the Steering Committee for Pride: Durham, NC.
The event, which was held virtually in 2020 and in a hybrid format last year, is being held just days after Durham Police Department reported three acts of vandalism in the city, two of which occurred at businesses with LGBTQ+ displays. Those incidents included red and blue spray paint on windows, which police believe occurred early Wednesday morning. In a news release, authorities did not mention whether they believe the incidents specifically targeted the LGBTQ+ community, and DPD did not respond to a follow-up request for further information.
One of the businesses vandalized was 21c Museum Hotel. General manager Ron Morin sent this statement:
"Very early Wednesday morning, several locations throughout downtown Durham were defaced by graffiti, including 21c. Even Durham's prized bronze bull, "Major" was not spared. It's unfortunate that this act of vandalism was carried out but it will not deter us from continuing to celebrate diversity and inclusion. We are cooperating with local officials on their investigation in hopes this will not happen again."
Huddleston, a Duke alum who now works for the university, learned of the vandalism through the media and did not want to spend much time dwelling on it.
"Anti-queerness, homophobia still persists. And that's lamentable. And I know we all internalize those cultures in all kinds of ways. And it's our responsibility, our opportunity I think to again amplify our voices collectively and be very clear what we're about. Love will always outshine hate," Huddleston said.
Outside of musical performances and the parade itself, Huddleston highlighted other efforts to address needs within the LGBTQ+ community.
"When we host our programs, we do our best to be comprehensive and holistic. It's not just rainbows and pride slogans. People have real needs and real hopes and fears. And when we come together as a community, we hold space for all of those things. So if you need food, we have way to make sure that if you don't have access to food, if you don't have the money to buy, we want to make sure you get a plate. We don't want you leaving our experiences hungry. Similarly, if you have healthcare needs as it relates to monkeypox, COVID, we'll have testing available. We'll have vaccinations available," Huddleston said.
As ABC11 reported in January, data from the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey highlights the disparity in hunger rates among transgender people. Nationally, more than 17% of transgender people reported they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat, compared to 8% of the rest of the population.
According to NCDHHS, there have been 510 monkeypox cases in North Carolina, largely amongst members of the LGBTQ+ community; 97% of cases are in men.
Friday, crews were placing flags along and around the parade route, which encompasses W. Main Street, Ninth Street and Broad Street. Bull City Fair Trade, located on the route, had a sign outside, stating they were donating 10% of their in-store and online sales this weekend to the LGBTQ Center of Durham.
"Pride I think is a direct statement that says that queer people are allowed to exist, and not are only are we allowed to exist, we're going to, regardless of if people agree with us being in public space or not. And it's about celebrating who we are," said Noah Lee, a Community Program Manager with Bull City Fair Trade; the store is celebrating its 30th anniversary next weekend.
Lee interned with the LGBTQ Center of Durham while getting his Master's degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, and will be attending Durham Pride for the first time since moving to the city.
"It's more of a joyous time I think. We haven't been able to do something like this for so long. It's just a gentle reminder that things aren't always going to be the same, and our world is always changing, and we're always going to have new challenges. The intersections of being part of the LGBTQ+ community and someone who has lost a family member during COVID or has been grieving, and we've all been having collective grief around. We've lost so many people and it's been such a different time. So I think it's extra special," Lee said.