Editor’s note: This blog is by Justin Ziegler, one of the organizers of the April 22 meeting to discuss whether there is a need for an LGBT community center in Atlanta. To share your opinion, please comment here or email column submissions to editor@thegavoice.com.

A little over two dozen organizational leaders, community activists and members of the media crowded into the loud, smoke-free space on the dance floor at Mixx last night. The topic: “should Atlanta pursue building a world-class LGBT community center and would our community support it?” Shockingly, there was an overwhelming support for the idea, despite arguments about implementation and next steps. The answer is “yes.”

In 1987, my mother was given the choice between job opportunities in rural South Carolina, upstate New York and Atlanta. This type of decision is never easy to make for young parents but, after great thought, we ended up in Atlanta. Fast-forward 10 years to a young gay high school student, so grateful to be living in the gay Mecca of the South. Perhaps it was destiny that my parents’ gay son would end up in the city Advocate Magazine just named “gayest city in America.”

This honor, bestowed upon us by the Advocate, really pushed me to start thinking about the community I have grown up in and around. An activist at heart, I have spent much of my time advocating for the rights of others and advancing causes that affect our community. Even after such a high-exposure mention, I felt Atlanta was still missing something: a world-class LGBT community center like the ones in Chicago, NYC or San Francisco. How had we missed out?

Last night, as I stood in front of colleagues, peers and community leaders, a sense of pride came over me. We had come together, in times of financial uncertainty, to discuss the prospect of building a multi-million dollar facility to serve the needs of everyone, not just our individual organizations. What we learned was that several things would have to be achieved before this dream could be a reality. They were:

  1. We must ascertain the needs of our entire LGBT community (including those not represented)
  2. Existing infrastructure, in the form of the Phillip Rush Center, is already in place to help bridge the gap between the faces present and those absent
  3. A small amount of capital would significantly expand these existing resources while allowing valuable research to be completed that will assess the needs of our community

As John F. Kennedy addressed the Massachusetts legislature in 1961, he opened with the following statement “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” This concept rings true to this day. I personally challenge those who have the capacity to give and possess interest in investing for our future to step forward. Four individual donors with the ability to give $25,000 each will underwrite the cost of expanding the existing Rush Center by approximately 33% for a sustainable five years while also underwriting the cost implementing surveys and focus groups to access the needs of our entire community.

I challenge these investors to come forward and be known (publicly or anonymously). I will meet with you and present the opportunity to make a real difference, right now, while laying the foundation for future greatness. Together, we can achieve great things and build toward a better future.

Yours in activism,
Justin “JZ” Ziegler

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