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Wanda Sykes on coming out and coming to Cobb Energy Centre

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Wanda Sykes has been making people laugh her entire life. Her successful career as a writer, author, actress, and stand-up comedienne has garnered a solid following of fans, numerous comedy awards and even an Emmy.

Her public coming out in 2009 at a marriage equality rally and speaking for LGBT rights has earned her the love and admiration of the queer community at large. 

Wanda will be performing her standup routine at the Cobb Energy Centre during Atlanta Pride weekend on Oct. 12. In an interview with GA Voice, Sykes talked about her multilingual family, coming out to her parents later in life and her expectations for the Atlanta show audience.

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Atlanta police: East Atlanta crimes not gay-related

Mary's Atlanta

A recent rash of crime in the East Atlanta Village area, including two incidents in which gay people were the victims, has LGBT residents and others in the community on edge.

On Sunday, July 7, three armed men used assault weapons to rob a man of his money and a smart phone after he left an East Atlanta gay bar, Mary's, around 2 a.m.

Several weeks earlier, on May 25, a gay man, Marcus Peden, was shot in the leg during a robbery while his roommate, Patrick Cotrona, was killed. Both assaults remain unsolved.

The crimes are not related to the victims’ sexual orientation, according to Atlanta Police Department spokesperson Carlos Campos.

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Backpack in the Park grows up

Backpack in the Park

The back-to-school sales ads are out and parents are beginning to show up at their local retailers with their list of school supplies. Many of Georgia’s children in need, however, will not have the opportunity to go shopping for supplies. For The Kid In All of Us, an Atlanta-based non-profit group whose mission it is to brighten the lives of Georgia’s children in need, hosts its 8th annual “Backpack in the Park” event July 28 to help provide these much needed supplies.

Since 2008, the Backpack in the Park event has distributed more than 7,100 backpacks filled with school supplies and gift cards to give to organizations that serve Georgia’s less fortunate children.

The event, traditionally held at Piedmont Park, will move this year to the elegant Fraser Center in Cator Woolford Gardens. Last year’s event set a record when they collected more than 1,800 backpacks loaded with gifts and supplies for Atlanta’s underserved children. This year, the goal is to set a new record of 2,000.

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Joan Baez on music, activism and kissing a girl

Joan Baez

Joan Baez. The name conjures images of a hippie-era folk musician who performed at the legendary Woodstock concert (while pregnant) and dated fellow musician Bob Dylan. Her renditions of songs like “Diamonds & Rust,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “We Shall Overcome” remain iconic to this day.

But Joan Baez, now 71, is still going strong. She just kicked off a tour this week and will have 10 special shows where she will perform with Atlanta’s own Indigo Girls, including shows at Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amphitheater June 14-15.

The concerts won’t be the first time Baez collaborated with Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. The three have performed together since back in the early 1990s. They also recorded “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” together for Baez’ album “Ring Them Bells,” on which Baez also covered Indigo Girls’ “Welcome Me.”

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Comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer and musician Steff Mahan join forces for Atlanta show

Comedy and music coming to Atlanta

The pairing is far from typical, but then typical isn’t what you would expect from either Suzanne Westenhoefer or Steff Mahan. Westenhoefer was the first openly gay comedian ever to appear on television and is a staple on the comedy circuit. Mahan has firmly established herself as a popular singer/songwriter with a loyal Atlanta following. Together, they plan to be the first music/comedy pairing ever to perform at the new Red Clay Theatre in Duluth.

The March 8 show is put on by Eddie Owen Presents, the new venture from the founder and former owner of Eddie’s Attic, which put many acoustic musicians on the map.

“Atlanta is becoming quite a music scene. It’s amazing what’s coming out of there,” says Mahan, who hails from Nashville but is an Atlanta mainstay. “I am so excited to play at Eddie’s new place (The Red Clay Theatre). He’s excited. He’s never had a comedian in his club.”

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Pride: Amy Ray is home for Sunday show

Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls

Hometown hero and Indigo Girl Amy Ray was chosen by Atlanta’s Pride committee to headline this year’s event. She will be finishing out the festival on Sunday, October 14. The GA Voice caught up with her to talk to her about her own coming out, being a gay musician and living in a conservative community.

GA Voice: Congratulations on headlining Atlanta Pride. How does it feel to be a part of this event in your own home town?

Amy: It’s awesome. It’s one of those things where I can’t express the level of love that I have for my city. I love that I can bring my band into my hometown and play a Pride show. It’s like having your best friend and you really want to share with them something that’s really important to you.

When did you realize that you were gay?

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A conversation with legendary Janis Ian

Folk singer Janis Ian

Janis Ian, the Grammy award-winning musician, singer and songwriter, began her career challenging stereotypes, gaining both fame and controversy for songs that took on racism (1967’s “Society’s Child”) and sexism (1975’s “At Seventeen”).

Ian, who came out as a lesbian 15 years ago, performs at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur for two shows Sept. 1-2. She spoke with GA Voice about the different format for the shows, her nonprofit foundation and life as a lesbian.

Tell us about your upcoming shows at Eddie’s Attic. It’s a different format than when you played Eddie’s last year.

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Swilley’s story: A gay pastor, his wife, and a deeper ministry

Bishop Jim Swilley came out to his congregation in Oct.

Bishop Jim Swilley founded Church in the Now, the massive, non-denominational congregation in Conyers, in 1985. But as the church grew over 25 years, and throughout his almost four decades of ministry, Swilley struggled with a secret that he hid from his congregation.

“I am approaching my 39th year in ministry — All I have ever done is preach the gospel,” Swilley told his congregation in an emotional sermon last month, noting that his parents tell stories of him preaching while still in diapers.

“There are two things in my life that are an absolute: I did not ask for either one of them, both of them were imposed upon me, I had no control over either of them,” Swilley said.