Our annual Pride issue, the year’s largest, marks my third as the new editor of Georgia Voice. As I indicated in an earlier note and as GAVO Managing Partner Chris Cash mentioned in a story published in late October, I share a history with some staff members of Georgia Voice when we worked together at the former Southern Voice and even further back when I worked as a studio coordinator at a public access television station and the A&E editor of the now defunct Etcetera Magazine.
My point is – I go back. Perhaps a little further than I care to admit, but far enough that I can recall a time in 1990 when Atlanta’s annual Pride celebration was a smallish event for a city of its size – attracting a crowd of somewhere between 3000-5000.
The following year a new crew of people threw their hats into the ring, becoming involved with the event and – quite likely – changing the course of Atlanta Pride history. Many names and faces come to mind: Barbara Snell, Padraig McManus McLaughlin, Samantha Claar, Lynn Cauthren, Cherry Hussein, and Jack Pelham, among countless others.
Pelham’s involvement was particularly significant. As the media liaison, he reached out directly to LGBT publications and organizations throughout the south, alerting the region to the 1991 summer Pride celebration. What he and others involved that year accomplished was nothing short of miraculous: an event that had once been relatively low key exploded from approximately 5,000 to 20,000.
I’m proud to say I was part of it in a small way. I covered it for the gay and straight press at the time, and I was on hand to witness the mind-boggling numbers of people pouring into the park following the Pride’s largest parade to date. It had jumped leaps and bounds beyond any of our wildest imaginations.
At the time, it was the largest gathering of LGBT people I had ever seen in one place in my life.
In the years that followed, the crowds continued to grow, big name entertainers took to the stage, city politicians gushed out hearty endorsements, tolerance evolved into acceptance and eventually, enthusiastic welcoming.
Then I left.
Just shortly over a decade later I’ve returned to find a city that not only welcomes its LGBT residents and visitors, but practically rolls out the red carpet to make sure we feel safe, at peace and at home.
In the past month since my return, I’ve reconnected with old friends and made many new ones. Only in the past two weeks have I finally settled on a neighborhood I’m ready to call home: Poncey Highlands.
For the first few weeks I stayed with a friend in Inman Park – a beautiful mix of posh and historic – and now I’m staying with other friends in West End, another amazing neighborhood, full of incredible architecture. Since the late 1970s, it has been more-or-less home base for the city’s intown African-American community.
I’m surrounded by neighborhoods like Mozley Park, Cascade, People’s Town, Cascade and Adair Park. There are plenty of friendly folks that now include many of the elderly residents who have lived here for decades (along with many of their children and grandchildren) mixed in with an ever-growing sprinkling of gay and lesbian couples, artists and musicians from all walks of life.
There have been two particularly exciting things I’ve realized while staying in this neighborhood and waiting for my new place to become available. According to a report in the Advocate, Atlanta has the largest gay population in the United States. A story in the Huffington Post confirms Atlanta is also home to the second largest African-American community in the country.
That blend, along with a sea of other forward thinking, good hearted progressives from every walk of life, has made Atlanta grow from the city that’s too busy to hate, to a city that is ready to embrace everyone: including you.
Whether you choose to come only for a visit during Pride, or fall in love and eventually decide to call it home – we welcome you.
When you take a break from the revelry of Pride, don’t pass up the chance to explore some of the other things the city has to offer – as detailed in sections included in this issue that delve into neighborhoods, clubs, dining establishments and various tourist attractions. I bet you’ll be as excited about being part of Atlanta as I am.