Unlike some other large cities, Atlanta Pride won’t feature a celebrity at the front of the parade. That’s largely because Atlanta Pride doesn’t believe in paying grand marshals, Sheffield said.
Celebrities were included in the list of nominations but their fees were too high for Atlanta Pride’s budget, he said. The exception was Don Lemon, the CNN news anchor who recently came out as gay. Lemon was nominated and did not want to be paid, Sheffield said, but his duties as a journalist would not allow him to be a grand marshal. Lemon is expected to participate in Atlanta Pride, however.
“We don’t have that kind of budget to write a $5,000 check for someone to ride in the parade,” Sheffield said. “But we also have the philosophy that it should be an honor to be a grand marshal. We have so many people in community doing really great work — it doesn’t seem fair to not pay them and to pay a celebrity.”
This year, Atlanta Pride will also have a “Group of Honor” featuring representatives of HIV/AIDS organizations from across the state to mark the 30th anniversary of the epidemic.
“Selecting a group provides the opportunity to honor individuals, while providing a visual impact to our patrons that shows the magnitude of community involvement,” Sheffield said.
The six individual grand marshals include:
• Lynn Barfield: The woman who keeps the guys in line at Blake’s on the Park and is known affectionately as “Mama Lynn.” Barfield has also volunteered for several LGBT groups including YouthPride, CHRIS Kids, the AIDS Walk and Open Hand.
• Dee Dee Chamblee: A longtime transgender activist, Chamblee is the founder of LaGender Inc. and was recently honored by the White House as a “Champion of Courage.”
• Duchess Claud: Known as “The Duchess,” this leather woman came out in 1959, long before there were gay pride parades. She volunteers with Touching Up Our Roots.
• Paulina Hernandez: Hernandez is co-director of Southerners on New Ground, an organization working for equality for working class LGBTQ people of color and those living in rural areas.
• Topher Payne: He’s an award-winning playwright and actor and also writes the column “Domestically Disturbed” for the GA Voice.
• Rick Westbrook: Westbrook is a community outreach coordinator for Positive Impact, and co-founder of the Chuck Jenkins Foundation, the nonprofit that produces the annual East Point Possums Show. Westbrook is also Sister Rapture Divine Cox.