Amy Upham is the executive director of Blue Ridge Pride. The nonprofit works to promote equality, safety and quality of life for Western North Carolina’s LGBTQIA+ and allied communities.
Xpress: What was one of your organization’s greatest successes in 2023?
Upham: This year we hired our first full-time paid executive director.
Has Blue Ridge Pride expanded its partnerships this year? If so, who are some of the newest organizational members?
Blue Ridge Pride has greatly expanded its partnerships this year. We teamed up with 10 breweries for our Fridays With Pride monthly social, hiked with service members at Pisgah National Forest, greened our festival with the help of Blue Moon Water and Clean Crew, promoted LGBTQIA+ foster care opportunities with Caring for Children, partnered with Explore Asheville and Go Local on our business alliance’s Purchase With Pride initiative, and have teamed up with Grail Moviehouse, Bill Kaelin Marketing and WNCAP to launch a regional film series beginning in December.
What have been some of the greatest challenges your organization faced this year?
Our greatest challenge by far has been the anti-trans laws passed in North Carolina. They have hit our community hard and turned time that could have been spent serving individuals to time grieving with community and fighting back against senseless and oppressive laws.
How has the community shown up to show its support for Blue Ridge? Where might additional support be needed?
We are indebted to our community for their volunteerism (over 100 at the Pride Festival alone), our sponsors for their constant and enthusiastic support, and this year our donors who, through a new initiative — Blue Ridge Proud — are expanding our capacity to be more than just a festival. We definitely could use additional support from major donors, as well as institutional support from funders to ensure we are showing up in the ways our community needs. We are the major local Pride organization, and as such should serve as a resource hub for the LGBTQIA+ community.