Typically, the NC Pride Parade and Festival is day of enthusiasm and acceptance. So why are so many North Carolina LGBTQ+ community members not attending this year?

This summer, the Pride Committee of NC scheduled the annual parade—traditionally held on East Campus—for Sept. 30. But there was one problem. Saturday is Yom Kippur—the holiest day of the year for the Jewish faith. After outcry from local LGBTQ+ and Jewish groups, NC Pride rebranded the parade as “NC Pride @ Night,” and rescheduled it to be held on Rigsbee Street in downtown Durham, starting at 4 p.m.—still on Saturday.

For many in the North Carolina LGBTQ+ community, the scheduling mishap and subsequent handling of the issue underscored a pattern of discriminatory behavior from the state's pride committee. Notable LGBTQ+ and Jewish organizations published an open letter titled #LiberateNCPride that denounced the committee's decision to keep the event on Yom Kippur.

“NC Pride has a history of demonstrating a lack of transparency and accountability and an underrepresentation of historically marginalized communities,” the letter stated.

Some students echoed the sentiment displayed in the letter. 

Senior Savannah Lynn, a student programming assistant at the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, said that NC Pride does not represent the entire LGBTQ+ population.

“I think the NC Pride committee as a whole has been basically lacking in viewing queerness and gender nonconformity through any lens except for a white, cis[gender], male, gay lens," Lynn said. 

Lynn criticized the committee's "blatant disregard for their Jewish members," as well as their choice to relocate the festival to an area surrounded by bars. By choosing that location, the committee was not cognizant of the young people who frequent NC Pride nor those in addiction recovery, Lynn added.

Junior Max Bernell—co-president of Blue Devils United, the largest student LGBTQ+ group on campus—said he believed more should have been done to address the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals with different backgrounds. He added that his club’s official statement encouraged people not to attend the event in order to hold NC Pride accountable for historically neglecting queer people of color and now, queer people who are Jewish.

In response to the backlash, NC Pride released a statement this summer on its website asking for forgiveness from the Jewish community, explaining that the pride event is normally held on the last Saturday of September, so there was little they could do. 

As of Sept. 25, their site claimed that “NC Pride @ Night” is accessible to anyone who wishes to attend. However, Josh Orol—Wake County chair of the Carolina Jews for Justice—indicated that this statement was not true, highlighting the fact that Yom Kippur requires 24 hours of fasting.

"I will be abstaining, whether I wanted to or not, because I'll be fasting all day until it's dark, and will certainly not be going out and partying after that," Orol said.

Rebecca Simons, director for Jewish life at Duke, noted as well that the opportunity for Jews to celebrate their identities has been “eliminated” by scheduling Pride on Yom Kippur.

Furthermore, the rescheduling of the event signified the loss of the parade on East Campus this year. Since the 1980s, Duke has provided Pride with a space to celebrate.  

“[It was a] wonderful opportunity for students to go to a parade and festival on campus and to be celebrated the way that they are,” said Nick Antonicci, director of the Duke Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. “As first-years, it’s really amazing to walk out of your residence hall and a few feet away is the pride parade—for not just Durham, but all of North Carolina."