I had gone to the CV (Chattahoochee Valley) Pride Festival, my first-ever pride event, in September 2013, along with my older sister, my two nephews and my youngest niece. I had made it a point to see the raucousness and festivity of LGBT pride on display, and I was not disappointed. Activists, clerics of local Christian congregations, “fierce” drag performers, and community organizers all making use of the inside and outside of a single cabin in Flat Rock Park to distribute information on their services and activities – Health, Politics, Legal Issues, Entertainment, etc. All of this was my first exposure to LGBT Pride.
However, while the CV Pride Festival has been a mainstay of the LGBT community of Greater Columbus since 1999, it was not until this year that the leaders of the festival considered cementing the festival’s utility to the community inside a specific headquarters.
When I learned of CV Pride Center, I was very much surprised that there was an LGBT community center in this area. When I arrived, however, the leaders of the festival’s organizing committee were busy cleaning the space, formerly the location of Speedmaster Signs. The interior of the building
When I learned of CV Pride Center, I was very much pleasantly surprised that there was an LGBT community center in this area. When I arrived, however, the leaders of the festival’s organizing committee were busy cleaning the space, formerly the location of Speedmaster Signs. The interior was dusty, seemingly opened only for the first time in years. The CVPride volunteers were putting together a cabinet to move into the back.
Talking to the folks who were helping with the cleanup, I got a sense of how lacking that things are in Columbus, Georgia. One told me that many LGBT people stay closeted at work or in other aspects of life, fearing bullying by peers or discriminatory firing by employers. Another volunteer told me that he is one of the few people – if not the only one – to be openly gay at his public-sector workplace.
I was also told that many LGBT servicemembers and workers still serve in the closet on post at Fort Benning, even after Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed.
After talking a lot about the current state of things for LGBT people in Greater Columbus, I stayed to wipe down the dust from the tables and the vent. The volunteers organized chairs, tables and couches, vacuumed the floor, nailed things together, set a painting on the wall. By the time that we were ready to leave, I got a general sense of what the interior of the CV Pride Center will look like after the dust settles.
But, as I left, it was something that CEO Kevin Blackstock told me that really stood out as a potential catch-all description of the general sentiment among the volunteers. He told me that when people talk about the CV Pride Festival or the CV Pride Center, he does not want his name to be at the center of conversation. He wants the CV Pride brand and legacy to stand on its own, not to be associated with specific persons such as himself, “even after I’m dead.”
And that is very reasonable.
I also hope that CV Pride, as a brand, stays around and flourishes into the future of Columbus.