Salisbury Pride wins civil rights award

SALISBURY — Salisbury Pride has won the 2014 Trailblazer Award from the Human Rights Campaign’s North Carolina Gala.

Since its inception in 2011, Salisbury Pride has made strides in promoting visibility and increasing public support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, the Human Rights Campaign said about the organization.

Despite its location in the “buckle of the Bible belt,” Salisbury is one of most tolerant and inclusive communities in the Piedmont, thanks to the efforts of Salisbury Pride, the campaign said.

“The accomplishments of this small, grassroots organization are extending beyond the boundaries of Salisbury,” according to the campaign.

The award was presented at the 19th annual Human Rights Campaign gala Feb. 22 in Charlotte.

“While the city may be small, the hearts and minds of the people who live here are getting much larger as each year passes since Salisbury Pride came to be in 2011,” Beth Meadows, a Pride co-founder and spokeswoman, said in a news release.

Pride was started by a small group of like-minded straight and gay people, including Meadows, Mike Clawson, Brandon Major, Mary Frances Edens, Jo-Nathan Ramsey, Tamara Sheffield, MaryJa Mee, Mona Borkowski, Jeff Jones, Bradley Fite, Toni Hooker and Gayle Brooks.

Meadows said they hoped 500 people would attend the first Pride event in downtown Salisbury.

“Imagine the surprise when over 2,500 people showed up for the day,” she said.

The crowd included gay, straight, old, young, families with kids, grandparents, local business people and visitors, she said.

More than 100 protestors also showed up, but police issued only one ticket to the wife of a minister who kissed a protestor. Meadows said while protestors have a right to their opinion, Pride supporters have learned through the years that “we do not have to listen.”

“And they have been less and less relevant as the years have passed, with only a handful of them showing up this past year,” she said.

Corporate support for the event has grown, with twice as many vendors and sponsors participating in 2013 as the roughly 30 who kicked off the first event in 2011.

Pride will take place this year from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 21 on Fisher and Lee streets.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization in the country. Founded in 1980, the organization has more than 1 million members and supporters, including more than 23,000 in North Carolina.

The campaign hosts annual galas throughout the country as fundraisers to support the mission “to build an America where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families and individuals can be open, honest and safe… at work, at home and in the community.”

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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