When Sandhills PRIDE executive director Michael Bleggi was a teenager growing up in Moore County, there were few resources for the LGBTQ+ population. Coming off of the energy of Pride month and the area’s first publicly-available drag show, it’s evident that the area’s LGBTQ+ community has come a long way.
On June 13, an abundance of spectators and participants made their way to the Belvedere Plaza courtyard, waving pride flags, laughing, singing and dancing as queen Naomi Dix put on a comedic and musical performance. Co-hosted by Sandhills PRIDE and The Leadmine, Drag at the Mine exceeded Michael’s expectations.
“It was a comedy, it was dance — it was drag, Michael says. “And it really showed that drag is a performance, and drag is art. It’s how LGBTQ+ people have historically interacted with the world.”
Only about 50 tickets were for sale initially, but as the party started, the crowd nearly doubled as community members walking around downtown stopped to join the celebration.
“I was so moved that I almost cried. I looked around and saw people of all religions, people that are black, brown and white. It was everyone together in one space,” Michael says. “I didn’t grow up in a town that was comfortable with that. We’ve come so far here.
Although a date isn’t in the books just yet, Michael says they hope to do it all again in the near future.
Creating a Safe Space
Sandhills PRIDE colonized in June of 2015 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Since forming, Sandhills PRIDE has not only expanded in numbers, but also in resource capacity for the community. From providing discussion groups and inclusivity programming for the LGBTQ+ students, allies and parents to providing four $2,500 scholarships to students in the area each year, Sandhills PRIDE aims to provide educational, informative and emotional support.
“Whether we’re providing training for school administrators or even business owners, every individual comes to the LGBTQ+ community with some background knowledge,” Michael says. “We try to meet people where they are and go from there.”
Their Safe Zone training program offered to schools and now even businesses does just that. The first part of the program is what Michael calls LGBTQ+ 101. The second part involves working with inclusivity scenarios and providing constructive critiques.
The Future of Sandhills PRIDE
Michael says the organization hopes to provide more activity and discussion groups and for the transgender, asexual and nonbinary communities moving forward. Their main goal? To deepen the understanding of gender by answering questions and providing a safe space for LGBTQ+ people and allies.
“We are here to serve, and we want the opportunity to do just that,” Michael says.