Meeting tonight to discuss possibilities

Time for gay Atlanta to have a ‘first-class’ community center?

Some local activists think Atlanta needs a “first-class” gay community center like the ones in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York and will meet today at 6 p.m. at Mixx to discuss the idea. Mixx is located at 1492 Piedmont Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30309-3389.

A Facebook page, named “First Class Gay Community Center in Atlanta… why not?” has been set up to float the idea with community members.

Many on the Facebook page say they support the idea. Others, however, argue that raising millions of dollars to purchase a building in a time when numerous Atlanta and Georgia LGBT non-profits are suffering is not a wise way to spend money.

There is also the fact that the Rush Center, named for the late gay and community activist Phillip Rush, serves as space not only for the home for Georgia Equality, the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative and MEGA Family Project, but also a space for numerous other groups to meet and hold events.

In a post on the page, Linda Ellis, executive director of ALHI, writes, “It’s been my consistent experience that our peers across the country, particularly those in Chicago and LA, enjoy a level of local and state government support ($$) that we can’t (at least for the foreseeable future) count on.

“That lack of support impacts, if not how high we dream for community, at least our plans for we get there. I believe that we’ve been successful in our efforts here at the Rush Center thus far because we’ve not tried to reach beyond what the existing organizational partners can sustain — and I think that’s one reason why, after only a year, we’ve already got a very full calendar and are beginning to look at how we can expand the effort. I also think that it means that as the political winds shift and funding is more readily available, we’ll be ready.”

Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, explained the Rush Center provides space for the Circle of Grace Church, two Weight Watchers groups, two domestic violence support groups and a cancer-survivors support group for African-American lesbians. The Atlanta Macintosh Users Group, the Atlanta Pride Committee, Human Rights Atlanta, Charis Circle, the HIV Consumer Caucus, the Georgia Mental Health Consumers Network Consumer Caucus, Georgia Shares, Positive Impact, Someone Cares, AID Atlanta and Stonewall Democrats have also used the Rush Center, Graham said, and talk is underway of how the center might provide a space for LGBT elder services.

“We have been intentional in not labeling the Rush Center as a full-fledged LGBT community center,” Graham says in an email posted to the page. “To date this has simply been a partnership of two organizations whose goal is to provide a meeting place for organizations who serve and support members of the LGBT community. While we are not yet to the point of programming outside of the agencies who are currently using the space, a wide variety of services and programs are already provided here.”

Justin Ziegler, an activist and executive director of gay business group Atlanta Executive Network, writes, “The Rush Center has been an amazing project and the intention here is not to derail it’s success in any way. This plan is about taking an existing idea and pushing it to the limit. Consider the gay center in Chicago, ‘Center on Halsted.’ This facility is located right in the heart of Chicago’s LGBT community, covers more than 55,000 square feet, was designed as a green space and hosts numerous organizations serving the LGBT community. It also has meeting space for organizations, gallery space, a recreational center, a technology center, gardens and parking. The programming in the center includes mental health services, HIV/STD information, resources for domestic violence and many others. Each day, more than 1,000 people pass through the doors. There isn’t a community-based organization in Atlanta that wouldn’t benefit from a center like this, with that scope and size.”