Pardon us… we’re growing.
Everyone loves a festival. We were certainly proud of ours this year. We broke records: We had more entertainers, more visitors, and more food vendors than ever before. We had more varieties of beer and a record turnout of exhibitors. Still, we felt bothered. Isn’t there more we could be doing for our community?
Our answer was a resounding “yes”.
We have ambitious plans for 2018. We have put away our festival tents for the winter. Click on the tabs below to see what we are working on. Soon, we will relaunch our web site and social media pages to better reflect our broader mission. We look forward to growing our community together!
We wish you a joyous holiday.
… The Team at Blue Ridge Pride
WNC Community Center Partnership. We recently joined forces with Youth OUTright WNC and Tranzmission to open Asheville’s first LGBTQ Center, located at 417 Biltmore Avenue. Although we are still completing our remodeling, several organizations are already using the space. We look forward to opening the center to additional groups in the year ahead.
WNC Virtual LGBTQ Community Center. Our mission is to all of western North Carolina. Towards that end, we plan to launch a second community center in 2018, 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 an easy-to-search database and calendar. Users can go to one screen to find the groups, events and services that meet their needs. “Who offers programs for queer youth in Henderson County?” “Where can I get help with a legal name change near my zip code?”
The online center will also provide a gateway to virtual services. We are in discussions with several developers. One is testing a service that would enable people to participate in peer support groups online. Another is launching a virtual counseling service. A third is developing an “Identiversity”, a web-based center for educating LGBTQ allies.
Coalition Work / Turnout Asheville. We have become a lot more active in coalitions this year. We are partnering with groups like Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE), Equality North Carolina, the Human Rights Campaign, and Tranzmission. We aspire to extend these partnerships to other allied causes and organizations, such as the ACLU, the NAACP, SONG, and Planned Parenthood. We are especially excited about Turnout Asheville, a coalition launched by CSE. This coalition is working with local community leaders to advance equality-focused legislation and to support equality-minded candidates.
Welcoming Communities of Western North Carolina. Lately, it seems like all we hear from are the haters. But the truth is, western North Carolina is full of people and organizations who embrace – or seek to embrace – diversity and inclusion. We are launching our Welcoming Communities program to give voice to organizations and individuals who throw out the welcome mat for everyone. We 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 expand and enrich this database. We will add more faith communities. We will also add other sectors: healthcare, education, government, business, and community service. We will offer educational programs that help the public to understand what it means to be welcoming and why it is so rewarding. When we open our hearts and minds, we all win.
Blue Ridge Pride Festival 2018. Next year marks a major milestone: our tenth annual pride festival. Yes, we were proud of the records we broke this year. But we were proudest of our efforts to diversify our programming. Still, we have a long way to go.
A priority next year is to make the festival even more representative of and inviting to our entire community. We want an even greater variety of entertainers and vendors. We are opening a dialogue about the Miss Blue Ridge Pride Pageant. For starters, does it have to be “Miss”? How can we use the pageant to encourage more thoughtful discussion about gender, sexuality, culture, and identity? Finally, we are looking into organizing our first Pride Parade through Asheville. We may start small, but we are determined to add a parade of some sort.
Other Events. Events can have a strong allying effect. Beyond producing our own events, we plan to make it a priority in 2018 to support other organizations’ and communities’ events. We will also work with allied groups to establish a stronger LGBTQ presence at signature events and parades in 2018.
Blue Ridge Community Development Fund. We are committed to reinvesting any funds we raise back into the WNC community. This year, we have already invested over 400% more in local, non-profit initiatives than in any year past. In 2018, we plan to grow these investments another 400%. We are establishing a formal process that will allow local groups to apply for funding online and for the community to track our award decisions.
We have partnered with Youth OUTright and Tranzmission to open Asheville’s first LGBTQ Center. Your contributions will go directly to support the operating costs of the center.
Please … help us to create a safe space for those at risk in our community.