Certain days have a way of coalescing life experiences, bringing them all crashing into sharp relief at the least probable moments. And while such an experience didn’t happen during my acceptance speech for my long-awaited Pulitzer or totally deserved Best Onscreen Kiss, it was deeply meaningful, nonetheless. So there, on one of Raleigh’s busiest downtown sidewalks, it happened. Sure, the nearby diners probably wondered why I stood with my neck craned, my mouth slightly ajar like it often is in the presence of chocolate. But tracking my gaze quickly answered their questions, or at least prevented them from pressing “Send” on their imminent 911 calls.
Having such a reaction to a street banner might cause a lot of folks to bless my heart a few times over. But those people often take for granted certain civil liberties and rights that are not afforded to members of the LGBTQ community. With its rainbow color story, the OutRaleigh 2012 banner isn’t just representative of another downtown festival; its acknowledgment by Raleigh is a testament to the impacts seemingly infinitesimal actions can make on a local level, and how those can translate to meaningful change for future generations. And as May 8th draws closer, all of us with a vested interest in equality hinge our hopes on victory.
While I’ve strived to become much more proactive in assuming an activist mantle over the past few years, I haven’t ever really made the connections between simple dialogue, logistical planning, and task execution until yesterday. As part of a larger group of committee members and friends, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of the year-long planning process to bring to fruition the second annual OutRaleigh on May 5th. Until this experience, I took for granted such festivals, because I thought a bunch of magical nymphs just waved their wands and, abracadabra, instant festival. Not only has this experience proven my Zack Morris phone’s inadequacy for accessing and fielding hundreds of emails, but it’s reminded me just how fortunate I am to be surrounded by friends dedicated to equal-rights protections for LGBTQ individuals and their allies.
Amidst the hustle-and-bustle of bill-paying jobs, we’ve all banded together because we share a vision of a more inclusive, multivocal future. Of course it hasn’t always been rainbows and puppies; there have been tirade-laden meetings, catty commentary, and hair-pulling frustrations aired. But even those aren’t all bad; they’re signs of something being built, of passions writ into something formative.
Maintaining momentum can always be difficult. But with so many other projects, groups, and organizations doing their parts to combat prejudice and deeply sown bigotry throughout North Carolina and the greater Southeast, I have the closest thing an atheist can to faith in a higher power—a faith that people-power changes things. Together, OutRaleigh 2012 syncs with Equality North Carolina, The Vote Against Project, Race to the Ballot, Protect All NC Families, Human Rights Campaign, Alliance of AIDS Services-Carolina, and innumerable others to embolden each person to effect change—to help author a more tolerant landscape for us all.
So as May 8th draws closer, and as you weave through OutRaleigh 2012’s festivities this Saturday, take a moment to look around. Not necessarily at the bounce-houses, or the onstage performers—but at one another. Because our collective future depends on each and every one of us coming out against intolerance.
All together now: Activate!