James Parker, President of Hampton Roads Pride, shares his perspective on the recent Out in the Park event.
There are some days I wake up and wonder why we do the things we do.
Some of us do things for recognition; from those around us, from our friends, from the people we work with. Some of us do things to get ahead financially; to get a raise at work, to get a special bonus, to get a tax write-off. Then there is a small number of people who do things for the good of those around them; they get no tangible benefit from what they do.
Hampton Roads Pride, the non-profit organization that puts on the Out in the Park festival each year, strives to be filled with people who do things for those around them with no tangible benefit to be seen. Planning for the event begins the day of the current year’s event. Lists of lessons learned are made by the event organizers as to what worked, what didn’t work as well as was planned, and what didn’t work at all. Once that year’s event is complete, a meeting to discuss these lists is held to begin constructing a plan for the next year. Along the way, some of the members of the organization change positions or job titles, and some move on away from the organization. This is not different from the way any other organization that plans events operates. The major difference Hampton Roads Pride has to contend with is the fact that we plan one of the largest LGBT Pride events in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Recently, an article was written by a former board member of Hampton Roads Pride about the way we do some of the things we do. Without calling attention to any faults, I wanted to address those issues and the reasons we continue to do things the way we do them.
First off, I wanted to be clear that I appreciate what the community has to say about how we plan and execute their Pride event. We always accept constructive criticism from members of the community and are always willing to listen to new ideas. None of the members of the board of directors are experts on all subjects, so we will always listen to someone when they have a new idea and can show how that new idea will work. Just giving us a new idea is not the solution, but taking that idea and fleshing it out to a possible outcome gives us a direction in which to begin. It may not be the right direction, but gives us more than just a starting point, it gives us a map to when we can possibly go.
Moving on to a second point of question is the location of this large event called “Out in the Park.” To call this event “closeted” would be inappropriate since it is held in arguably the largest, if not one of the largest, parks in the Hampton Roads community. Yes, the event in the past was held in smaller venues, back in the corner of a park, but that is far from the truth now. This year was the fifth year the event was held in Chesapeake City Park, the very same park the holds the Chesapeake Jubilee every year. It would be amazing to be able to move the event to Town Point Park in Downtown Norfolk, but at this time that possibility is not feasible. All events held in Town Point Park are run by FestEvents, the city funded LTD that plans and manages all events held in Town Point Park. There are some non-profit groups that work with FestEvents to put on major events, but currently we do not have the funding of over $10,000 just for the space rental to move to Town Point Park, not to mention the increase in security and the increase in cost to our vendors. We have maintained our costs low to our vendors and have been able to keep the event free and open to the public.
Finally, the dreaded question that we at Hampton Roads Pride are continually asked; where is the parade? There is not a simple answer to this question. Many in our community have asked this question with not much of an answer. Well, I will do my best to answer that question, but will probably not give anyone the answers they want. First, we have to get a permit for a parade. Most parade permits require full city approval, all the way up to the Mayor’s office. Not many of the mayors in the Hampton Roads community has been very receptive to the needs of the GLBT community, with the exception of the City of Hampton’s Mayor, who recently allowed a GLBT diversity event to be held there a week before the Out in the Park event.
Does Hampton Roads Pride want to have a parade? Yes. Is it in our foreseeable future? No. Security issues prevent new parades from getting permits, insurance costs for the parade and it’s participants are high, and once those hurdles are passed, we have to find people to march in the parade and to watch the parade.
We have been extremely lucky in the Hampton Roads area to not have to deal with too many protests recently involving our community. We are still fighting for equality, but doing so by helping the community at large realize that we are an integral part of the community. By supporting causes that affect us all, like children needing school supplies, toys and food at the holidays, clean the bay and animals in need of rescue, the GLBT community proves that we matter. Hampton Roads Pride is continually working to make the GLBT community more visible to the community at large and to help us fight for equality for all of us.
This fight is not Hampton Roads Pride’s alone; the fight belongs to all of us who care about equality in our community. We have come a long way in the 41 years since the Stonewall Riots, but we have a long way to go to reach full equality.
For more information about Hampton Roads Pride, how to help plan for the 23rd Annual Out in the Park, or what you can do to help, visit www.hamptonroadspride.net or go to www.facebook.com/hamptonroadspride