Work is scarce to come by for artists these days. Uniting Pride of Champaign County wants to change that.


In an effort to provide opportunity, as well as bring some deeply missed live entertainment to the public — and just in time for the end of Pride month — Uniting Pride found as many LGBTQ+ artists in town as possible and fit their performances neatly into a live stream. 

Now we all know this isn’t as glamorous or socially engaging as the usual in-person event we would get to attend. But hey, it’s something, and made me feel closer to my LGBTQ+ family in Chambana during the long summer slump. It also inspired me to learn more about what and how Uniting Pride has been doing amidst the world’s recent tumult, which led me to set up a chat with Uniting Pride members Zev Alexander and Darya Shahgheibi. 

The event that I watched on Saturday was Urbana’s contribution to Global Pride, part of a worldwide initiative to get people involved with pride despite the social limitations of the pandemic. Local queer-owned business Rose Bowl TV helped with the technological side, while queer artists rocked the stage. But Uniting Pride is doing so much more than one event this summer to bring joy to Urbana’s LGBTQ+ community.

IMAGE: Global Pride graphic, predominantly black background with white overlaying text. Photo from UP Center.
Photo from UP Center of Champiagn County.

In order to curb the pains of isolation, Uniting Pride has moved the majority of their weekly support group meetings online. These groups include teen, preteen and adult sections; virtual trainings for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace; weekly happy hours and coffee hours; biblical self defense training with the Community United Church of Christ; and, newly launched — due to popular demand — a group specifically for transgender individuals. 

Zev Alexander feels that holding online events are in some ways easier and even more effective than holding them in person. Online programming is significantly more accessible and more able to accommodate people’s busy schedules. “When you eliminate the need to find the perfect location, you can be really responsive to the needs of the community,” they noted.

However, as the world continues to struggle against digital burnout, holding the attention of and forging deep connections with individuals is becoming increasingly difficult. Alexander also mentioned that it is trickier trying to stay in touch and coordinate work with other agencies when everything is virtual.

Despite these roadblocks, Uniting Pride managed to host multiple activities on top of their standard programming in order to celebrate Pride: Drag Queen Story Hour at the Urbana Free Library; a screening of Moonlight, facilitated by public health professional Derrius Carter; and a Black Lives Matter protest with Champaign ABLM.

Going forward, Alexander elucidated how things will be different.

Uniting Pride is still planning on holding its annual Pride Fest this September. Both Alexander and Shahgheibi mentioned that they are still working with local authorities, such as the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, the City of Champaign Public Works, MTD, and more, to ensure that the event will be as safe as possible. They want the process of building and celebrating Pride Fest to foster collaboration and support for and by all members of the community.

Organizations like Uniting Pride have been working harder than ever during this difficult time to make sure that all LGBTQ+ individuals feel supported, loved, valued, and connected to their local communities. Whether that work is through events like Global Pride or Pride Fest, you can help them achieve their goals by interacting with their Facebook page as well as donating to them online. If you are interested in assisting the Pride Fest committee and have experience in web design/virtual programming, please email pride@unitingpride.org. You can also donate to and get involved with the organizations they support, including Champaign ABLM and HV Neighborhood Transformation.
Top image from Uniting Pride Center of Champaign County's website.