The Atlanta Pride Committee’s goal is to have a little something for everyone every year at Pride, and as part of that ongoing mission they, in partnership with AARP Georgia, are bringing back a popular programming piece from last year called Gray Pride.
“We conduct a semi-annual survey of festival attendees, and we noticed that older adults were underrepresented as attendees,” says Jamie Fergerson, executive director of the Atlanta Pride Committee. “We started thinking about and talking to community groups about how we could make the festival more accessible and welcoming to elders. When AARP offered to sponsor and partner with us on Gray Pride, we happily took them up on it.”
Gray Pride is catered to Atlanta’s LGBT 50-plus population and takes place throughout Pride weekend at the Piedmont Park Visitor Center and includes a story-collecting site, historical display and special prizes among many other things.
Idea originated in San Francisco
The idea for Gray Pride came from a similar programming piece put on by San Francisco Pride, says Hillary Thomas, AARP Georgia’s program specialist for community outreach. Thomas’s main job responsibility is outreach to Atlanta’s LGBT community, and the idea came to her attention in 2014 after networking with a number of local LGBT groups, including SAGE, Atlanta PrimeTimers and The Health Initiative.
“I said, ‘Well if it’s gray, then I think AARP will be a great fit,’” she tells the Georgia Voice. It’s also a great fit considering the Oct. 4 announcement that SeniorAdvice.com named Atlanta the number 4 city in America for LGBT retirees.
So Thomas started having meetings with the Atlanta Pride Committee about it, and with enough room in her budget the following year, Gray Pride came to Georgia. It was a hit, with AARP Georgia offering music acts, spoken word performances, line dancing, caregiving conversations, a display of the timeline of Atlanta Pride history and more.
But for many, it was just nice having a cooling off area to get away from the crowds.
“We were told by several people from several of the groups that I worked with that what a lot of what the older adults would like is just a place to sit down that’s not in a folding chair, that’s not in the middle of the park,” Thomas says.
They’ll be bringing back the Atlanta Pride timeline this year, along with snacks, a meet-up space for LGBT senior groups, a DJ and prize giveaways. Plus, this year AARP’s national office is sending a team in to do a photo booth pop-up to give people something to remember the weekend by.
Having fun and honoring the trailblazers
For Thomas, who says this is the biggest project AARP Georgia has done for the state’s LGBT community, Gray Pride is not only about providing a safe (and fun) space but honoring those who laid the foundation for where we are.
“It’s really important for us to realize that without the sacrifices and contributions of the older adults who were there at the beginning, who were there and can remember Stonewall, or who lost friends during the AIDS crisis during the ’80s…when you think about the sacrifices and the lives that these people have lived, I think that we should have some way of honoring them at every celebration and having a special place for them.
“And it’s a way of letting the younger generation have a time to talk or meet with or see a lot of people that they may or may not see in their regular interactions, because these are the people who made it possible for everybody to be out and be in with mainstream society as opposed to having to feel sheltered or be in a segmented part of society.”