Commonhouse Aleworks helped open Park Circle Pride on June 1 | Photo by Sam Spence

There are clear tensions in the modern pride movement: birthed by the labor of Black and Latinx trans women through street protests against police brutality, pride celebrations across the country are now largely corporate-sponsored parades and festivals lasting a day, a week, or a month at the most. Many pride organizations are navigating what it means to truly uplift and advocate for LGBTQ+ Black- and brown-lived realities during Pride Month and beyond. 

With a simple yet empowering motto, “You being you, makes us, us!”, North Charleston’s inaugural Park Circle Pride modeled an inclusive approach that reimagines what’s possible when nearly 50 eclectic small businesses collaborate to celebrate pride. Produced by Vive Le Rock Productions in partnership with the Park Circle Business Collective, there were an impressive 35+ events held the first six days of Pride Month.

Ruggerio

Park Circle businesses hosted an array of community-building events — everything from panels, a youth fest, drag brunches, a farmer’s market, an art walk, a poetry stage, restaurant specials, lectures, dancing, a cabaret show, bingo, a silent disco, a worship service, just to name a few. Truly something for everyone!

I couldn’t think of a better way to venture out of a year-long slumber than:

To drink pints of Commonhouse Aleworks’ Acceptance IPA, a brew created just for Park Circle Pride, with all proceeds supporting the community-based organization, Alliance for Full Acceptance

To celebrate the proclamation of Rita Taylor Day, an honor to the late trailblazing gay nightclub owner of Deja Vu II. 

To observe a panel of LGBTQ+ practitioners and youth discuss the importance of quality mental health services and the challenges of accessing those services for members of the community, particularly trans and non-binary folx.

To sweat through drag performances at DIG In The Park, and the Bearded Ax’s pageant with the Charleston Blockade Rugby Club — an “It takes a village” fundraiser for a couple hoping to adopt.

To witness the pride-dyed fur babies at Park Pets, the Black-owned pet supply store.

To hear the laughter and gaiety of Queer Youth Fest, a five-hour youth festival organized by staff of the nonprofit We Are Family, and hosted at Commonhouse Aleworks, Condon Family Law and Itinerant Literate Books.

In addition to centering local small businesses and the diversity of LGBTQ+ experiences, two other elements made Park Circle Pride a game-changer for the area’s LGBTQ+ community. 

First, Park Circle Pride was a benefit for both Alliance for Full Acceptance, and We Are Family — two social justice, advocacy and direct-service nonprofit organizations. These organizations work tirelessly year-round to serve LGBTQ+ people in the Lowcountry and across the state.

Second, Park Circle Pride events highlighted that we are capable of holding multiple truths — seemingly contradictory ones — in our hearts and minds. In the same event, we can honor a trailblazer and hold our elected officials to a higher standard on racial justice. That’s a sign of a healthy and honest community. 

There’s no doubt this inclusive approach to celebrating pride better meets the needs of the multiplicity of experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. We are at our strongest when we can foster a dynamic, evolving LGBTQ+ and allied community that is empowered to explore, embrace, and learn from the complexities that exist within and between our experiences. And that community-building takes more than one week or one month out of the year.

Domenico Ruggerio served on the board of Charleston Pride, is vice president of the Charleston Blockade Rugby Club — the state’s first gay sports team — and is the incoming executive director of We Are Family.