Moustafa Nassar and his friends were frustrated at having to travel out of Danville to find a sense of community.
A year ago, they formed Collidescope, a grassroots organization supporting the LGBTQ-plus community in Danville.
“We decided to turn that passion into action,” Nassar said during an interview Tuesday.
June is being celebrated internationally as Pride Month, so Nassar and group co-founders Liz Cervantes and Maureen Belko have a line-up of events planned for the coming weeks.
LGBTQ Pride Month marks the June 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York following a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in the city. The riots were the culmination of frustration over the police department’s targeting of gay clubs, according to history.com.
The riots led to the formation of many gay, lesbian and bisexual rights organizations, according to the website.
Since forming in early June 2018, Collidescope has garnered support from LGBTQ-plus community members, straight allies, Danville City Council, local businesses, nonprofits and a few faith-based centers, Cervantes said on behalf of the co-founders.
“Other LGBTQ-plus organizations have reached out with their support as well,” Cervantes said.
The group has more than 50 local organizations on its ally list and more than 400 likes on Facebook, she added.
“We’re still growing and still seeking more people,” Nassar said. “The response has been fantastic. Not only do we have [LGBTQ] supporters, we have allies, people who are not in the [LGBTQ] community who vocally supporting us. It’s been just amazing.”
Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones was scheduled to read a proclamation at City Council’s meeting Tuesday night declaring Pride Month in the city.
The proclamation, explained Jones, is part of the city showing support for all of its citizens. Cervantes, it turns out, had called and asked for it.
“We supported the request for the proclamation just as we do all other requests,” Jones said.
City Councilman James Buckner said it’s only appropriate that council recognizes the group since Danville is a city of diversity and inclusion.
“Let’s all love one another and accept each other for who we are,” Buckner said.
Vice Mayor Lee Vogler emphasized the signs at the city’s entrances that say: “Welcome to Danville, a city of diversity and inclusion.”
“Our goal, as a city, is to exemplify those words,” Vogler said. “We welcome and celebrate all of those who contribute to our city in a positive way. Tonight’s proclamation is another example of that.”
During an event at Ballad Brewing at the end of June 2018, then-Mayor John Gilstrap read a proclamation recognizing the LGBTQ community and declaring Pride Month in Danville.
Though the world has progressed on LGBTQ rights, the work of groups like Collidescope is far from done, the co-founders said.
“There is still a small, loud, and influential sect of people who hold power in this state and country that are going to try to suppress LGBTQ-plus rights due to fear and misunderstanding,” Cervantes said. “Our goal is to promote a cultural shift toward understanding, love and acceptance. We want to change attitudes.”
Groups like Collidescope are important because they can help provide people on the margins of society a way to express themselves, Nassar said, and its partnerships have shown they can be their true selves and not be worried.
“Danville is progressing a lot in being a welcome and open environment, but we still have a ways to go,” Nassar said. “Organizations like Collidescope [are] here to make sure it keeps moving forward.”
This month’s events include a “Theology on Tap” discussion: “Queer, Love and the Bible” at 6 p.m. Thursday at 2 Witches Winery and Brewing Company, salsa dance lessons at at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Cottontail Weddings & Events, and other activities.
Middle Border Forward, a local organization, is providing funding for the event.
Stickers for businesses and organizations that support LGBTQ rights will also be available at the events or by contacting Collidescope via Facebook or at email@example.com.
Collidescope can be found on Facebook at Collidescope Danville, VA.
All events are free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome.
Other events include:
» People’s Choice Movie Night at the Ruby B. Archie Public Library at 6:30 p.m. June 13.
» Quiz Night with the Danville Historical Society at 6:30 p.m. June 17 at 2 Witches Winery and Brewing Company.
» Collidescope Bingo at Ballad Brewing June 21.
» Second Annual Collidescope Pride Event at 5 p.m. June 22 at Ballad Brewing.
» Drag Brunch at noon June 23 at Ballad Brewing.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.