“I’m ecstatic to be recognized. This is the first time they have honored an openly gay person,” Rafshoon said Thursday morning. “It speaks to the impact Outwrite has had in the community.”
News of the award comes before his 50th birthday celebration on Saturday and then a week-long trip to Puerto Vallarta.
“I’m blown away. I just want to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of Outwrite — the community, my family, the book industry,” he said.
The prize committee nominated Rafshoon “because of the invaluable leadership he has shown in the Atlanta community,” according to a press release.
Rafshoon said he was not out when he attended Georgia Tech in the early ’80s.
“I had two lives — one at Tech, one in Midtown,” he said.
After Rafshoon graduated in 1983, he began a career in mainframe computer sales before founding Outwrite in 1993. Located in the heart of Midtown on what is known as the gayest corner in Atlanta, Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street, the bookstore has become a gay institution in the city.
Authors who have appeared at Outwrite include Armistead Maupin, Augustin Burroughs and Edmund White. Celebrity authors also frequently stop at Outwrite on a book tours, including Chelsea Handler, Roseanne Barr and Jackie Collins. In addition, Outwrite has hosted local authors and poets, provided a space for people to gather, and been a strong supporter of local nonprofits.
Another of Rafshoon’s goals in opening Outwrite was to participate in and offer support to community organizations such as Atlanta Pride, AID Atlanta, AIDS Walk Atlanta, Georgia Equality, Out on Film, and many others.
Rafshoon will receive the Legacy Award on March 15 at the Founder’s Day Luncheon.
Ivan Allen was the mayor of Atlanta and the only white southern elected official to testify before Congress about his support of the Civil Rights Bill, making him “a pariah to many Atlanta citizens including the prominent and powerful. It is this kind of moral and ethical courage that is the extraordinary legacy of Ivan Allen, Jr.,” states Georgia Tech’s website.
Top photo: Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse’s Philip Rafshoon (file photo)