My Sister's Room owners Jen Chase-Daniels (left) and Jami Maguire / Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood

Members of Community Follow Up on Atlanta Pride Reforms with Town Hall Meeting

Several community members met again for a community town hall meeting at My Sister’s Room last Thursday (October 14) to demand answers from the Atlanta Pride Committee (APC).

On September 16, a group of 20 to 30 members of Atlanta’s LGBTQ community attended a meeting organized by My Sister’s Room owners Jen Daniels and Jami McGuire and X Midtown owner James Nelson, to discuss reforms they’d like to see made to APC. The meeting culminated in a list of 26 questions that were sent to APC on September 20, which the community members requested to be publicly answered and addressed.

APC never provided a public response to the questions, which prompted the follow-up meeting on Thursday. Some answers are available on their website,, and in publicly available documents via GuideStar.

“We compiled some questions from the community and everyone that attended the last meeting, and we submitted on September 20 to the Atlanta Pride Committee a list of 26 questions,” Daniels said at the beginning of the meeting. “To our knowledge, those questions were not answered. We also personally invited them to town hall meetings. We did not give them ample enough time, per [Executive Director] Jamie [Fergerson], to attend the meeting, so we apologize for that. But we also did send your questions, and your job was to answer those questions to the best of your ability because the community deserves those questions to be answered. It is your due diligence; it is your job.”

Several former APC board members and staff attended the meeting, including former board members Tony Kearny, Kevin Calhoun, and Chris Jones and former Executive Director James Parker-Sheffield. No current APC board members or staff attended.

Among the topics discussed at the meeting included concerns regarding APC becoming a self-perpetuating board. On September 25, the board voted on changes to the organization’s by-laws, one of which changed the process for electing board members. Prior to the vote, APC’s full membership voted on board appointments. Now, according to APC’s updated by-laws, appointments to the Board will be determined by “the majority of the Directors present” at “a regular or special meeting of the Board of Directors that shall occur no more than thirty days prior to the Annual Meeting of the APC.”

Jones noted at the meeting that direct election boards are common among smaller, newer non-profits, but “for a non-profit the size of Atlanta Pride… that is a little bit unusual.” However, self-perpetuating boards are common, including among LGBTQ organizations in Atlanta like For the Kid, Joining Hearts, Lost n Found, Georgia Equality, and Out Georgia Business Alliance.

Jones decided not to run for board re-election in 2019 after the board voted six-to-five to remove him. The vote failed, as the motion needed two-thirds of the vote to pass. Fergerson initiated an investigation into Jones’ professional background, finding no proof of his experience as a CPA and detective that he listed on his application. During his time on the board, Jones publicly raised concerns about APC’s leadership and finances in the midst of a financial scandal. In 2019, internal documents containing “illegally obtained” information were leaked to local news outlets. The internal report, done by tax attorney Patti Richards, was reported to suggest that the organization undergo an audit, overhaul the board, and replace Fergerson. Fergerson, however, told Georgia Voice in 2019 that “some of the things that are in that specific memo are not correct” and “at no point in any of her communications that I’ve seen did Richards recommend that anyone be separated from the organization, including me.”

Another issue discussed by the meeting’s attendees regarded a perceived lack of connection between the organization and the community’s desires.

“[T[he Executive Director of Pride does not answer to us; she answers to the Board and Membership, according to by-laws,” Jones said. “That is normal for a lot of boards. My opinion would be that it doesn’t seem that the membership or board members have the same concerns that the rest of the community does.”

APC has made several public attempts to hear from the community, particularly regarding the cancelation of this year’s festival and parade. Recently, APC published the results of a community survey that preceded the cancelation on Facebook. More than 40 percent of respondents said that they were unsure about their plans to attend because of COVID concerns, and 25 percent said there were no mitigations that would make them comfortable attending in the pandemic. Only 7.5 percent said that they were comfortable attending the events as they’re normally held without extra COVID-19 mitigations, and only 13 percent said they should go ahead with the event no matter what.

The meeting resolved with several solutions being suggested by the meeting’s attendees, which included Fergerson and all board members stepping down or hosting a private mediation meeting with old board members, current board members, and business members.

Watch the full meeting via Facebook Live here.