In the heart of downtown Fayetteville, Nathan Cuffee wears his pride on his shirt and in the rainbow flag he hands outside Blue Moon Cafe.
Nathan and his husband, Joshua, have owned the downtown business for more than two years now. The month of June a reminder of the progress made for the LGBTQ+ community.
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"Remembering and celebrating those that fought before to be able to get where we are," Cuffee said.
With the worst of the pandemic behind us, trickles of normality are returning, including pride events in the Sandhills and Triangle that were cancelled in 2020.
Cuffee says those events can be "safe spaces for the LGBTQ community."
But the Fayetteville Pride Fest that attracts more than a thousand people will still have to wait another year. A decision Fayetteville PRIDE President Sam DuBose said was made to be mindful of those in the community who are immune-compromised; a decision we're seeing be made across the region and nation.
"It's good to see the vaccinations going up, but we're just not in a place yet where we feel we're able, in a position to potentially expose somebody to something," DuBose said.
Fayetteville PRIDE is a local non-profit that's been around since 2017, introducing the Sandhills to the inaugural pride fest in 2018.
DuBose says these particular events, during Pride Month, are vital for creating community for people who may not have it at home or in their lives.
"It's these places where people can go and be together and opportunities to be together. And, you know, humans, we're social animals," DuBose said.
A sentiment shared by Cuffee who says the loosening of restrictions at places like bars, venues and restaurants equates to the return of safe havens for those in the LGBTQ+ community.
That's why, despite the cancelation of the main pride fest, Cuffee and other downtown businesses are helping sponsor an outdoor drag show in downtown Fayetteville on June 25. The event will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Maxwell Street with tickets starting at $25 for general admission.
"It's going to be a great time!" Cuffee said.
Other virtual and smaller, local events will also be happening throughout the month of June with the intention of education and being an inclusive space for everyone.
For Cuffee, the month of June is about progress and championing further change for his community. "To be able to have a business downtown, to be able to fly a rainbow flag outside."
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