Cville Pride returns to Charlottesville this weekend to lift LGBTQ voices in the heart of rural VA
It’s been an interesting five years for Amy Sarah Marshall and her fellow LGBTQs out in Charlottesville. While equality seems to have increased at the legal level nationally, her and others like her have been working to increase visibility for sexual minorities in the traditionally conservative part of the state, and Charlottesville Pride, known as Cville Pride, has been a manifestation of all that hard work.
The 5th Annual Cville Pride event will be held this Saturday, September 17th, at Lee Park from 11AM to 6PM. This free, day long celebration will feature musical performances, drag shows and more events for all ages as they hope to celebrate queerness in Charlottesville and the surrounding area.
Marshall, President of the Charlottesville Pride Community Network (CVille Pride), began the organization in 2009 hoping to take the many but small LGBTQ community events into a larger, more comprehensive festival. Her group has since acted as a hub for resources as well as offered a day for folks to gather and show support.
But back at that first festival so many years ago, Marshall expected only few hundred people to show to up. Sure enough, what she saw unfold far exceeded her expectations when over a thousand folks attended.
“It felt as if people were ready and waiting for it to happen,” Marshall said in an interview with GayRVA. ”All it took was for someone to strike the match.”
Marshall said city leadership has been very supportive of the event, with many elected officials have even showing up regularly – but it wasn’t always that way. She remembered one politician who questioned the number of LGBTQ folks in the region who would show up for the event. Marshall showed up at the politician’s office with a list of names and folks showing support for the cause and all issues were cleared up.
But it seems that politician wasn’t totally off base. While she’s found tons of support from local businesses and straight allies, she’s struggled to increase the presence and voice of the queer community in the area.
“I believe that’s a Southern thing,” she said. “This idea of ‘things should just be as they are,’ so many marginalized people when they are more visible don’t want to feel vulnerable.”
But that difficulty getting the queer community engaged hasn’t dissuaded Marshall, and she often looks to her own story as a queer Southern woman for inspiration.
She describes one interaction with a group of teenagers who couldn’t believe that she was a lesbian because she didn’t have short hair or dressed in a more masculine way.
“Because I present in a more traditional feminine way, they didn’t believe that I was gay,” she said. “It really motivated me to be as out as possible, for kids and teens to see what gay looks like. So they can have a role model and they can know they can have their own space in the world to be as out and gay as they want.”
Packed park of pride!! pic.twitter.com/dfw2niQ1eB
— cville pride (@cvillepride) September 13, 2014
Marshall, who is no stranger to controversy around LGBTQ and Southern issues, said events like Cville Pride are particularly important, especially in the South, where people feel like they shouldn’t rock the boat. “We had a couple that have been together for 13 years at the last festival who told us that this was the first time they’ve held hands in public,” she said. “The festival is a space for everyone, queer or not, can be as free as they can want… The joy that people feel while being at the festival and finally being accepted, carries over throughout that rest of the year.” Even the location of the festival, Lee Park in the heart of Charlottesville, acts a stance against what Marshall believes is the Southern inclination to bury voices like hers. “We hold the festival in the heart of Jefferson County where the problem exists, to be visible and vocal as possible for the people who can’t be,” she said, noting Lee Park’s titular statue of Robert E. Lee has been a point of contention. Marshall has spoken out hoping to get the statue removed as she believes acts as a reminder of Virginia’s oppressive past. “Nobody is equal, nobody is earning equal rights, until everyone is,” she said. “We assume that we aren’t going to be accepted because that is the norm of our experiences. You can’t be silently tolerant. That doesn’t change people’s experiences, or challenge the norm, you need to be visible.”
Cville pride festival is hopping!!! pic.twitter.com/W3qqMGGME9
— cville pride (@cvillepride) September 13, 2014
No matter your politics, Marshall hopes to see thousands come on down to Charlottesville again this year for their Annual Cville Pride event this Saturday, September 17th, from 11am to 6pm at Lee Park. And there’s plenty to do leading up as well. Check out the full list of events below and head to Cvill Pride’s website here for more info as well.
Thursday, September 15
Wine & Cheese Cocktail Hour
6-8 pm @ Whole Foods
Join us for a meet and greet of LGBTQ business owners, allies, and others.
Friday, September 16
Pride Preview Party
7:30-11:30 pm @ Firefly
Can’t make it to the Saturday festival? Then join us Pride Eve for a jam-packed show of music and drag, food and friends! Arrive early for dinner, stay late for fun!
Saturday, September 17
All Kinds of Families: Storytime at JMRL
10:30 am @ Central Library, E. Market St
Celebrate the beautiful diversity in all our families with stories, music, and a rainbow craft. Best for families with kids 7 & under.
5th Annual Pride Festival
11-6 pm @ Lee Park
Pride After Party Block Party
8pm @ Escafe, Mono Loco, South Street & more!
Come early for dinner and stay to dance. Wear your festival wristband for popup specials!
Sunday, September 18
Happy Brunch!: Enjoy brunch specials with your Pride Festival wristband at Marie Bette Bakery & Cafe, 3 Penny Cafe, and The Pie Chest.
Film Screening: Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing
2 pm @ Vinegar Hill Theater | Tickets $5.00
Local LGBTQ filmmaker Linda Thornburg brings us this powerful film that touches on themes of aging, politics, feminism, and homophobia. Based on the groundbreaking autobiographical novel by American author and poet May Sarton, this moving story reveals the real changes in the fortune of women and lesbians in the political shifts across two continents from the 1920s to the 1960s.
Learn more about the film.
“The range of events this year highlights the fact that the LGBTQ community is, itself, diverse.”August 29, 2016
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