Monday, June 4, 2012

Central Alabama Pride

June is Pride Month, and since I featured Memorial Day in Pensacola, Florida, last Monday, I have decided that each Monday in June, I will feature a different gay pride event in the South.  Since I am in Alabama, I wanted to feature a gay pride event in my home state.  Since Mobile Alabama Pride was in April, I decided to choose the Alabama pride event going on this week: Central Alabama Pride in Birmingham.
From June of 1979 to the present day, the organization that is now known as Central Alabama Pride, Incorporated has gone through numerous changes. The following documents the history of the organization, along with some of those leaders that helped to take the original "Day in the Park" celebration to the "10 Days of Pride" that we know today. 

Central Alabama Pride History Timeline

  • June 24, 1979     
Birmingham's first organized PRIDE celebration is held
  • June, 1989           
A parade through Birmingham's Southside District is added to the "Day in the Park"
  • June, 1991           
The first Miss Gay Pride Pageant is held with Zee Jones crowned as the first Miss Gay Pride – Birmingham
  • July 30, 1998
An organization meeting of the Pride99 committee is called by Co-Chairpersons Michael Fortson and Daniel Richey. Those in attendence appoint a "Committee of Seven" to proceed with the incorporation of an on-going Pride Organization that would plan and operate Pride99.
  • October, 1998    
Through the diligence and hard work of the committee formed earlier in the year and the PRIDE99 becomes a corporate entity. The name chosen for the new corporation is Central Alabama Pride (CAP), Incorporated. This name is selected in an effort to include the cities of Tuscaloosa, Anniston, Gadsden as well as other rural communities in the greater Birmingham metropolitan area. Leading the newly formed corporation during the first year is: President – Don Mills Vice President – Edward Clayton Treasurer – Ed DiAngelo Secretary – Julie Price Members-at-Large – Sean Michaels, Robert Eskridge, Russell Drummond and Richard Barham Pride Day Event Chairperson – John McDole In addition to those serving on the Board of Directors, an Advisory Committee was formed with representatives from LGBT organizations and businesses from the areas being served. The Board of Directors and Advisory Committee meet Quarterly to gather more community input for future Pride events.
  • August, 1999      
The Board of Directors for 2000 is elected: President – John McDole Vice President – Brian Burton reasurer – Judy Jones Secretary – Marshall Johnson Members-At-Large – Sean Michaels, Steve Blankenship, Rachel Payne PRIDE Day Event Chairperson – Don Mills. Again, the Advisory Committee was formed with representatives from the GLBT community.
  • October, 1999 – June, 2000          
The new corporation embarks on new avenues of fundraising, instituting Pride Partners (a program where donors can contribute as little as $25.00 to as much as $2,500.00 and receive benefits and "perks" as a result of their donation. The first year of Pride Partners brings in over $8,000.00. Other fundraising efforts resulted in a total revenue of over $18,000 which was used to fund the first "10 Days of PRIDE" and the annual "Day in the Park" and PRIDE Parade. The "10 Days of PRIDE" included a bowling event, pool tournament, karaoke contest and title pageants for Mr., Miss, Ms., and Mys-Her Gay PRIDE. The "Day in the Park" and PRIDE Parade was attended by approximately 1,000 people, who enjoyed two stages of live entertainment featuring the PRIDE Pageant title holders, local talent and a headline entertainer, Abigail. In addition, there were some 27 vendors and organizations represented with information and concession booths.
  • June, 2000             
The parade is moved from Sunday afternoon to Saturday night and is presented "Mardi Gras Style" parade, in the tradition of the world's largest LGBT Celebration, Sydney, Australia's Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.
  • June, 2001             
The Town Hall Meeting is added to the "10 Days of Pride" and becomes integral part of the LGBT celebration activities.
  • June, 2002             
The "Day in the Park" becomes PRIDEFest as the days planned activities move to Historic Sloss Furnaces, where it remains today.
  • May, 2008                
Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford announced that he would neither sign a proclamation nor provide a permit for gay pride based on his religious beliefs that do not "condone that lifestyle choice." The mayor went so far as to forbid city workers from attaching Pride banners on city poles.
  • August, 2008         
CAP filed a complaint against the city. Birmingham decided to allow a national antigay firm to represent the city, who filed a motion to dismiss the case.
  • December, 2008      
Lambda Legal joined the case as co-counsel, after consultation with CAP and their lawyer, Birmingham civil rights attorney David Gespass.
  • February, 2009         
Lambda Legal joins the case in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama, at the request of Central Alabama Pride (CAP).
  • September, 2009      
A settlement agreement is reached in the lawsuit. The city must pay legal costs and attorneys' fees in excess of $40,000, and will establish non-discriminatory regulations for the approval of the hanging of banners on city property by city employees to announce upcoming public events.

Pride Week returns again in 2012, and the events this year are similar to past years. "We haven't changed the schedule because people seem to like it," Gil Mobley, the current president of CAP, said. However, Pride Week 2012 is spread over eight days — from Sunday, June 3 to Sunday, June 10 — rather than 10 days as it has been in recent years.

On Sunday, June 3, all previous Pride title holders are invited to participate in the Pride Title Holder's Reunion show at Al's on Seventh at 7 p.m. On Monday, CAP will host Birmingham AIDS Outreach's monthly bingo game at BAO headquarters (205 32nd St. South) at 7 p.m. That event benefits BAO, and Don Mills, the first president of CAP and current events chair, said the event brings in a huge crowd for BAO.

CAP's annual Cosmic Bowling Night is on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. at Brunswick Riverview Lanes.
"What we do is we actually rent the whole bowling alley from nine until 12," Mobley said. "We usually pack it out. It's been great."

On Wednesday night, Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) of Birmingham will screen Love Free or Die, a documentary on Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. That showing is at Edge Theater at 7:30 p.m. (wine and hors d'oeuvres at 6:45 p.m.) and tickets cost $23 ($20 in advance). That event will raise money for PFLAG.

Pride Skate is on Thursday at Skate280 at 7 p.m. In addition to the VIP party on Friday, Pride Week will also feature a Pride Dance at Covenant Community Church (2205 3rd St. NE, Center Point) at 7 p.m.
"The bowling event and the skating event are two events that everyone can come to," Mills said. "It's not just for adults," Mobley said. The Pride Dance is also all ages, and no alcohol is allowed.

This year Pride Week will also feature a VIP party Friday night for sponsors (those who donate $100 or more) at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. BCRI was chosen for the reception because the institute is currently featuring an exhibition called Living in Limbo featuring photos of lesbian families in the South. That exhibition runs through June 10.

One of the photos in the Living in Limbo exhibition at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute through June 10.
The week is capped off with two main events, a parade through Five Points South on Saturday evening and Pridefest, an all day celebration of gay pride at Sloss Furnaces.

The parade on Saturday starts on Highland Ave. at Temple Emanuel and runs about a mile, to the corner of 7th Ave. South and 24th St. South. It starts at 8:30 p.m. and lasts about an hour.

"There's a lot of people that come out—we've had huge crowds for the parade every year," Mills said.
Pridefest, on Sunday June 10, will feature performances by the Magic City Choral Society and the choir from the Covenant Community Church and local entertainment from a women's band called Sudden Impact. The event is rounded out with shows from various bars in Birmingham, introductions of various community supporters and introductions of the kings and queens of local krewes. The Sunday event often draws around 3,000 people, according to Mobley and Mills.

"We're going to try and keep Sunday as PG as we actually can," Mobley said.

Central Alabama Pride is an all-volunteer non-profit organizaton, and they manage to put together eight days worth of events with no paid staffers. I asked Mills and Mobley why Pride Week was important to them and to the community.

"I think it's important to carry on the tradition that started back when the struggle was really hard," Mills said. "It's still a struggle, but back in the early days there were people that started a tradition here, and I think it's important to carry on the tradition and to try to keep moving the work forward. It's a time when we can come out and celebrate without any kind of fears."

"Pride Week is one that's just for our community," Mobley said. "Everything that we do for that is just for us, it brings us all together—the GLBT community. At no other single time during the year does that occur."
"It's a celebration, is what it is."

If you'd like to celebrate with CAP, check out the organization's website at


fan of casey said...

Joe: So will you be joining in any of the festivities planned for CAP?

JoeBlow said...

FoC, I wish I was joining the CAP festivities, but I don't have a single day this week that someone hasn't already planned out during what is supposed to be my summer vacation.

TiggerTheTiger23 said...

Very informative. Thanks!