Pride month is already underway with cities across the country honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in many different ways. But here in Atlanta, city leaders are creating a monumental exhibit to highlight the trailblazers for LGBTQ rights over the past fifty years. The Georgia Voice caught up with Malik Brown, LGBTQ Affairs Coordinator for the Mayor’s Office, about the significance of this exhibit and how the LGBTQ community and its allies can understand just how important Pride month really is.

What is the importance of this exhibit and how do you think members of the community will take in such powerful images from such a monumental period in time for the LGBTQ community?

“It’s incredibly important to highlight the lives and stories of the people who have brought LGBTQ Equality to where it is today. Not only to honor their legacies but to educate people on our history. I hope that members of the Atlanta LGBTQ community will walk away from this exhibit learning about at least one changemaker that they didn’t previously know.

We have such a vast and diverse community and there have been so many people contributing over the decades. I learn about new and amazing people all the time — many who have not received the attention and widespread praise they deserve. The City of Atlanta has an opportunity to highlight LGBTQ champions, both well known and obscure, and I’m proud the Mayor has given us the opportunity to do that. I can’t wait to see all these diverse faces displayed in City Hall and I hope everyone will stop by and explore them.”

Where did this idea come from? How long will the exhibit be up and running?

“This idea is part of the Mayor’s One Atlanta initiative to shine a light on often forgotten communities and to build a bridge towards greater inclusiveness across the entire city.  After we invited the entire community to celebrate Atlanta Pride at City Hall last October, including City Hall’s first ever drag performance, Mayor Bottoms asked us to do more to tell the stories of extraordinary LGBTQ people.

The changemakers were identified by the City of Atlanta staff and members of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board. The exhibit will be displayed within Atlanta City Hall from Friday, June 21st to Friday, June 28, from 9am to 5pm.  Sadly, City Hall isn’t open on the weekends so won’t be open on Saturday (6/22) and Sunday (6/23).”

What kinds of images are you using for the exhibit?

“We’re going to use powerful photos of each changemaker including influential figures like Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, and Sylvia Rivera. Each of the 50 changemakers represents hard-fought battles that have faced the LGBTQ community since that first brick was thrown outside of the Stonewall Inn in 1969. And with each battle, victories and defeats have continued to push LGBTQ rights to the forefront of a nation plagued with inequality. It’s important for our Atlanta community to know just how much of an impact each changemaker continues to have in 2019 and how their ability to not be silenced, allows each member of this community to harbor the same rights as our hetero counterparts. “

How have the Stonewall Riots changed the way the LGBTQ community is viewed and protected here in Atlanta?

“The Stonewall Riots changed the LGBTQ community everywhere. Atlanta was one of the cities that had a Pride gathering the year immediately after Stonewall — a lot Atlantans don’t realize that. The 50 people in this exhibit have all moved LGBTQ equality forward in their own way, and we feel it daily here in Atlanta. We were the first city in the Southeast to incorporate LGBTQ people in civil rights protections 20 years ago this year. We all have a long way to go, but every move forward is on the shoulders of activists in Atlanta, New York and across the country. Atlanta’s LGBTQ history is being by collected, cataloged and shared by groups like Touching Up Our Roots and at Emory University’s Rose Library. I think it would be great to share more of Atlanta’s own impressive LGBTQ stories at City Hall in the future.”

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