For a growing local group, people respecting inclusion, diversity and equality are all MVPs for a weekend full of special events.
The Grand Strand PRIDE Celebration will span numerous sites across the city of Myrtle Beach, from Thursday through Sunday. The highlights happen Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, with a Business Expo with the Coastal Business Guild, 4-7 p.m., with free admission; and a Gala with dinner, including Sea Cruz in concert, 7 p.m.-midnight (check ticket availability at 843-839-3511 or www.grandstrandpride.com).
Terry Livingston and Steve Gamble, the co-founders of Grand Strand PRIDE, previewed preparations for the weekend and about the year-round work in helping promote awareness, and continued growth in acceptance, of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.
Q: PRIDE events have become annual traditions in cities nationwide through parades and festivals. How has Grand Strand PRIDE’s connection in this area made inroads as a community force in positivity?
A: Nationally, the month of June was chosen for LGBT Pride Month to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots that occurred in Manhattan. … Here at home along the Grand Strand, although we don’t hold our Pride Celebration in June, we do begin working very hard on planning our celebration. … In our beautiful area of the world, the beach is simply a little less crowded once school is back in session, which makes event planning and pricing a little better.
In our own small way, we created a PRIDE event to connect the LGBT community to the ally community. … When individuals and businesses come together as a means of celebrating the respect for inclusion, diversity and equality, the outcome is very positive.
Q: How many large, annual events has Grand Strand PRIDE coordinated, and how does this package of activities each year help build growth, education and outreach for the next major endeavor?
A: Grand Strand PRIDE started on Oct. 6, 2006, with “First Friday Happy Hour,” the Gay Professional’s Happy Hour, where everyone is welcome. Once a month, a location was announced, people showed up, and our organization grew. … In July 2014, Grand Strand PRIDE re-branded the organization establishing the mission statement – “Advancing acceptance of the Grand Strand LGBT community through increased visibility.” With this change, we were able to transform our organization and expand to activities beyond happy hours.
In August 2015, we added more depth to our mission by creating a program called the Coastal Business Guild, … focusing attention on the business community, where we want to increase visibility and support of coastal South Carolina-area gay-owned, gay-managed, and gay friendly businesses through professional networking, marketing, and education. The focus of our group has changed from primarily a social group to an organization that has many layers, including, but not limited to, social, business promotion, and LGBT advocacy.
Since then, Grand Strand PRIDE and Coastal Business Guild have worked together to create the annual PRIDE Business Expo & Gala – so this is our third annual event. The guild also sponsors quarterly “Lunch & Learns,” which tackle such subjects as “Financial Planning for LGBT Individuals and Families,” “LGBT Legislative Updates,” “Transgender Issues,” and “Diversity in the Workplace.”
Q: Anyone who glances as the Coastal Business Guild directory of members will see an array of entities from so many fields. What does that showing of united team support, and the 30 local 2017 PRIDE Celebration sponsors, reflect about this community’s diversity and care about the mission that PRIDE emphasizes?
A: If you look at the support from big companies for the court cases surrounding LGBT issues, you will see that big companies get diversity, but here in Myrtle Beach, small businesses get diversity, too, and they understand the need for it. Myrtle Beach and Horry County is a welcoming area for the LGBT community. During our planning process, we called on Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes and Horry County Chairman Mark Lazarus to issue letters of welcome for our group, and both responded with very positive comments. We also received a proclamation from the Myrtle Beach City Council recognizing Aug. 24-27 as the Grand Strand PRIDE Celebration and encouraging residents to respect our diverse community by celebrating a culture of inclusiveness and acceptance. Mark Lazarus’ letter encourages our group to enjoy “the welcoming hospitality for which our community is well known.” Diversity means that each individual is unique and that we should recognize others for their differences. By accepting others who are different from us, we are able to expand our level of understanding and be more successful as a community by encouraging collaboration. It’s pure and simple: Diversity is good for business.
Q: How lucky or strategic was the timing to work out welcoming as keynote speaker, Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff from the U.S. Supreme Court case that, in 2015, legalized gay marriage nationwide?
A: Our goal was to bring a keynote speaker to Myrtle Beach who can share his message of dedication to the fight for equality, not just for the LGBT community, but for civil rights for all. Jim Obergefell’s moving story is one of love, loss, dedication and commitment that rings true, not only for the LGBT community, but all of mankind. We are excited that he will be at the Business Expo, selling and signing copies of the book he co-wrote with Debbie Cenziper, “Love Wins – The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality.” Obergefell’s work and sacrifices epitomize the mission of our organization.
Q: What other kind of marketing partnerships – such as the Myrtle Beach Pelicans game outing on Aug. 24 – might Grand Strand PRIDE pursue, to expand that visibility to help widen the good influence all these good people involved have made to date, and might an outlet arise for a weekly radio show or a concert series, to help the whole community band together in other new ways?
A: In the past 10 years, we have developed informal partnerships with a variety of members of the local community to help increase visibility of the LGBT community. As examples, we work with local LGBT artists to create artwork for the gala that is featured as the covers of our program booklets and then reproduced as limited edition prints for fundraising; we work with local radio stations, which produce ads and create feature stories about our events; we work with the local TV stations when a LGBT issue is in the national, state or local news to lend the LGBT opinion of current events; and we worked with a professor at Coastal Carolina University and the diversity coordinator of TD Bank for our “Lunch & Learn” programs.
We would like to create a coalition with the Horry County School Board and South Carolina Equality and coordinate efforts to establish safe zones and gay straight alliance organizations within Horry County high schools. … Weekly radio shows, a concert series, and even a gay chorus are all great ideas as Myrtle Beach continues to attract LGBT residents, and we can expand what Grand Strand PRIDE offers.
WHO/WHAT: Grand Strand PRIDE (People Respecting Inclusion, Diversity and Equality) Celebration
WHEN/WHERE: Thursday-Sunday at various sites across city of Myrtle Beach –
— “PRIDE & Hip Hop,” opening event, during Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ third annual “Old School Hip Hop Night,” 7:05 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark, with DJ Spinderella of Salt-N-Pepa playing music for post-game concert. Tickets $9 for game only, $20 for game and buffet picnic that opens at 6:05 p.m., and $30 for game, picnic and T-shirt – all with promo code TGS2017 – also available through Pelicans’ box office.
Friday, Aug. 25 – Grand Strand PRIDE Friday Happy Hour, 6-8 p.m. at Mr. Fish Seafood Restaurant, 6401 N. Kings Highway; and “Friday After Party,” 10 p.m. at Pulse Ultra Club, 2701 S. Kings Highway.
Saturday, Aug. 26, at Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, 8121 Amalfi Place – Business Expo with Coastal Business Guild, 4-7 p.m., with free admission; and Gala with dinner, including Sea Cruz in concert, 7 p.m.-midnight, for $60, if tickets are still available.
“Sunday Brunch and Moments of Sacred PRIDE,” – the latter led by the Rev. Barry Stopfel – 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, at Mr. Fish Seafood Restaurant, with buffet meal by reservation, for $10 donation, plus gratuity (cocktails also for sale).
INFORMATION: 843-839-3511 or www.grandstrandpride.com