Faces of Pride: Charlotte Black Pride Founders

CHARLOTTE — Jermaine Nakia Lee says there’s something he came to realize with his co-leaders in Charlotte Black Pride.

“There is no better time than now to be African American and LGBTQ in Charlotte,” he said.

The 2023 Charlotte Black Pride’s theme: Black Renaissance Made for Now.

Nakia Lee is a native of Miami, and he says he grew up with people who were openly gay and lesbian in his family.

“So coming to Charlotte was a bit of a culture shock,” he told Channel 9′s Erica Bryant. “This would have been in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, and Charlotte culturally was a different place than it is right now. So I was struck by the invisibility, particularly of Black LGBTQ folks in the community.”

Nakia Lee is a local singer-songwriter, playwright, director, producer, and one of the co-founders of Charlotte Black Pride. He identifies as gay.

He said at the time he came to Charlotte, the only time he saw people who lived and loved like him was when he would go to nightlife events.

“You know, not commonplace places. So I sought to make a difference and do something to change that for our community,” Nakia Lee said.

“We were super excited when Charlotte announced that we would have a PRIDE. And after the first year of programming, we noticed that there didn’t seem to be offerings for Black and brown people in the entertainment and the programming,” Nakia Lee said. “And so year two, and year three, and year four, we offered to provide programming for them. Pro bono, we would do all of the work.”

“After about three years of soliciting them and not getting any response back or not getting a genuine response back, we decided to establish Charlotte Black Pride in 2005.”

Liz Schob, the communications manager for Charlotte Pride, says Nakia Lee is “exactly right.”

“Charlotte Pride failed in a lot of ways,” Schob told Bryant. “Our community is diverse‚ we are not monolithic and it is important to make sure that every voice is represented, not just white people.”

“In those early days, Charlotte Pride did drop the ball and we’ve worked really hard to rectify that,” Schob added. “We consider our relationship with Charlotte Black Pride to be a lot better. We’re very much sibling organizations now.”

The co-founders of Charlotte Black Pride are Damon Blackman, Monica Simpson, Corey Handy, and Nakia Lee.

At the time, we were all movers and shakers in the community,” Nakia Lee said. “So in 2005, what we came to realize from conversations from think tanks with the community was that Black folks who identified as LGBTQ in Charlotte, they wanted an institution of their own, and they were ready to support it.”

The first Charlotte Black Pride holds a national record for attendance at an inaugural Black Pride event, with over 8,000 people.

“Charlotte Black Pride is a cultural institution at its heart,” Nakia Lee said. “And so in the same way that I attend the Greek Festival every year and the Latin festival every year and the Renaissance Festival every year - We want people of all walks of life to come and celebrate African American LGBT culture with us.”

You can support Charlotte Black Pride by clicking this link.