It is not okay for North Carolina Pride to violently silence LGBTQ people of color," the letter begins.
Titled "Not My Pride: An Open Letter to NC Pride from the Black Queer Woman You Assaulted," the letter appeared Sept. 30 on the website of 28-year-old musician and activist Laila Nur, who lives in Durham.
Nur alleged that four days earlier, an NC Pride official had used physical force to silence her as she was reading a statement with a Black Lives Matter group in Durham's NC Pride Parade. Then, she claimed, Pride officials had the police remove her group from the parade.
"Within a minute of receiving the microphone, I was assaulted," Nur wrote. "A Pride affiliate stepped on my foot so I was unable to move, grabbed my arm and ripped the microphone out of my hand while yelling words I do not recall. I let go without struggle. I was in complete shock and almost in tears."
Nur contextualized the incident in terms of broader discrimination within the LGBTQ community, against people of color in general and transgender ones in particular.
"From social dating sites to Pride, and up the ranks of many LGBTQ organizations, we literally and figuratively see—'White Only,'" she wrote. She requested an apology from the aggressor and the Pride Committee of North Carolina, the Durham-based company that holds the parade.
Since 1981, the NC Pride Parade has been an important, celebratory flashpoint for equal rights in a state where they're often in peril. Nur has participated many times as a marcher, musician or performer with the radical drum corps Cakalak Thunder. Her fond memories and sense of safety, both now marred, make the pain of the experience linger.
"We were really hoping to show up to a space that once felt very inclusive, where we felt valued and heard," Nur told the INDY. "Even if we were bringing up things challenging to them, we hoped it would spur discussion."
Nur's account spread widely on black and LGBTQ activist social media. It was shared more than 200 times from her Facebook page and many hundreds more through others'. It was picked up by blogs such as Afropunk and Awkward Black Girl.
Still, almost a month later, NC Pride has yet to respond to the charges, either publicly or to Nur. After the blog went up, NC Pride director John Short declined to give a phone interview or identify the staff in question. Instead, he emailed a statement to the INDY that broadly refuted Nur's account, saying it rested on "false allegations of violence and racism."
The conflict was brief and chaotic, so it isn't surprising that the details are hotly disputed. Still, Nur's story nonetheless hints at underlying racial fractures within the broader LGBTQ community.
"Trans and queer people of color experience larger and unique forms of violence because of those intersectional identities," she says. "Even LGBTQ spaces are often not welcoming, and sometimes blatantly racist, for black and brown folks."
What is not in dispute is that a white NC Pride official and a queer black activist faced off over a microphone at a time when violence against LGBTQ people of color is on the rise.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, transgender women of color are among the likeliest victims of hate crimes in the country. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reports that LGBTQ people of color are more likely to be murdered than LGBTQ people as a whole.
In this context of unequal risk, the confrontation cannot be characterized as evenly matched, and whatever happened, NC Pride is remiss not to address it.
Nur is most troubled by the lack of communication—during or after the confrontation—with NC Pride, whose director won't acknowledge that anything happened at all.
"There was no conversation before I felt someone grab me," Nur says. "It's not like I was showing up in a rage. I would have been receptive to it. I'm still 100 percent open, wanting that ownership back. If [NC Pride] ever reached out to me, I would respond instantly. It's this lingering thing throughout the community until then."
- Photo by Jeremy M. Lange
- Laila Nur