Raleigh’s first Gay Pride Celebration held in 1988
On Wednesday, the Durham Bulls will hold their first-ever Pride Night, with rainbow flags, Bulls Pride pennants and Pride-themed tickets.
For many baseball fans, the game will be affirming. For Matt Hickson, an assistant principal at Neal Middle School in Durham, it will be momentous.
Hickson is a multi-sport athlete who spent his high school days playing football and baseball.
But one day, he decided he’d had it with high school athletics.
“It was my junior year of high school,” he said. “I was in my weightlifting class, and one of my friends was recognizing the Day of Silence for LGBTQ awareness and other students were picking on him, and my coach just said absolutely nothing.”
“At that moment I felt like, ‘Wow, I’m really not welcome here.’ My friend was being treated so poorly for sticking up for others, and I decided that was it.”
Hickson didn’t know anyone else on his teams who was gay and believed no one would ever welcome or support him. He even turned down scholarships to play college football.
The Bulls’ Pride Night is part of Pride Month, which begins Saturday and marks what organizers say is the first month-long celebration of the LGBTQ community in the Triangle.
The event at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park is in partnership with Equality NC, the LGBTQ Center of Durham and the Durham Police Department’s Safe Place initiative.
“Events like this give a sense of affirmation to every corner of life that we can participate in,” said Helena Cragg, executive director of the LGBTQ Center of Durham. “It makes the night special because this has never happened before, that people could openly celebrate with their community. Bringing facets of your life together is always very powerful for even something as simple as a baseball game.”
Cragg and Hickson hope that this event will help others, specifically young people struggling with their identity and feeling left out.
“How powerful would it be if a younger person saw this event and said, ‘Hey, I could be apart of the Bulls baseball team’ and have that option open to them,” Cragg said.
Before the game, a Bulls Pride flag will be placed in center field by an Equality NC representative. The first pitch will be thrown by City Council Member Vernetta Alston, who is a member of the LGBTQ community.
Matt Sutor, director of marketing and communications for the Durham Bulls, hopes it sends a message.
“We have to educate people who don’t know that, unfortunately, there are members in our community who don’t feel safe and still feel excluded,” he explained. “As a community, Durham has a little ways to go in promoting inclusivity, and we are trying to show that Durham Bulls baseball is for everyone.”
Hickson said events like Pride Night might have kept him on the playing field.
“I think there are hundreds if not thousands of athletes for whom those opportunities are denied because people feel like they’re not welcome to take those opportunities to take it to the next level,” Hickson said. “The Durham Bulls are showing that this is not the case for all athletic programs and that they welcome LGBTQ folks and they hope that all community members participate in their sport.”
▪ Saturday, June 1: The House of Kanautica Presents: A Fundraiser!
▪ Wednesday, June 5: Durham Bulls Pride Night
▪ Friday, June 7: Intersections: A Community Conversation on Youth Homelessness
▪ Thursday, June 14: Electric Velvet at Arcana
▪ Friday, June 15: Schools Out Summer Pride Party
▪ Saturday, June 22: Pride Day at Honeygirl Meadery
▪ Saturday, June 22: Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall
▪ Saturday, June 22: The Conjure at Pinhook
Tuesday, June 25: Summer Celebration
▪ Wednesday, June 26: Pride Music Bingo
▪ Friday, June 28: The House of Coxx Presents: Queer Nation, a World Pride Celebration
▪ Sunday, June 30: World in Motion Brand New Belly Dancer Dona Class
▪ Saturday, June 1: Pride kick-off at Videri Chocolate Factory
▪ Saturday, June 1: Run for Love 5K
▪ Multiple Dates: Raleigh Pride Open Mics
▪ Wednesday, June 5: National Association of Out Professionals Networking Social
▪ Sunday, June 16: Crape Myrtle Festival Drag Brunch After Party
▪ Sunday, June 16: Stonewall Sports Raleigh Sidewalk Mural Unveiling
Saturday, June 22: District Discotheque featuring Luxe Posh
For more information about Raleigh events go to bit.ly/2QKKeJz
▪ Saturday, June 1: Pride Piper March
▪ Thursday, June 6: Breakfast with Mayor Lydia Lavelle
▪ Thursday, June 14: LGBTQ Readings at Town Hall
▪ Friday, June 14: 2nd Friday Art Walk
▪ Saturday, June 15: LatinX Festival
▪ Wednesday, June 19: LGBTQ Panel
▪ Wednesday, June 26: Coffee with a Cop
▪ Wednesday, June 26: Pride Dance Party with Food Trucks
For more information about Carrboro events, go to bit.ly/2HMYxtX