Georgia Voice readers share their unforgettable Atlanta Pride memories

Georgia Voice readers weigh in on those Atlanta Pride moments that have stuck with them over the years:

My first Pride was the year the B-52s entertained. That Sunday night at the Starlight Cabaret, The Goddess Raven was speaking of the hate of protesters. As she was lifting our spirits a rainbow appeared above Piedmont Park. In that moment I felt like I was where i needed to be! Pride was no longer just a hot weekend in Atlanta. I carried pride 365 days a year. Also I would like to add that an APC (Atlanta Pride Committee) member Greg Barrett has since passed away and I think we should remember his service for Atlanta Pride.

-Sam Acker

My first Pride was in 2013 and my girlfriend and I stayed at the Georgian Terrence. The morning after the kick-off party I made sure her and I were up to watch the sunrise over the Atlanta skyline on the roof of the hotel. As we watched I turned to her and told her I loved her for the very first time. Her smile the first time she said it back is something I will never forget. Now we are five days away from our wedding!

-Tiffany Balli

My favorite memory was Pride 2010 when I walked in the parade with Angel Action Atlanta and we rounded the corner at 10th and Peachtree to face one of biggest and most vile hate groups we had ever faced…and as we slowly and peacefully approached them they momentarily looked confused…and then we turned our backs to them as the roaring and cheering crowd drowned out their ugly hate space and tears rolled down my face.

-Leslie Kimbell

Early 90s when First Baptist had armed guards patrolling their grounds and police wouldn’t even let us stand or walk on the sidewalk in front. Across the street, Saint Mark’s had welcome banners, members to cheer people on and give hugs and water for the dogs. Spoke volumes.

-John Justen

The first time I went and wasn’t afraid of being caught on camera.

-Blaquelorelei Eban

Atlanta Pride parade 2015 when my boyfriend and I walked with Stubby’s Heroes and our little girl was less than a year and slept in her stroller most of the ride. Then she woke up towards the end waving and thinking the whole parade was for her. Everyone watching the parade was so kind, they all wanted to love on her and give her toys and candy and it was a day full of such love and beauty.

-Nicole Anderson

First Pride 1977, maybe 200 to 300 of us and I was wearing an “Anita Bryant Sucks” T-shirt and marching with my brother and his partner. It felt so good to be out of the closet and into the streets! It was more of a protest march than the fun festive Pride that we have today.

-Don Hunnewell

Moshing in the rain and mud to lesbian punk bands pride ’96.

-Clarence Boothill

I forget the year. There were a lot of protesters and when it started to rain they shouted, “See, God does hate you.” Then out of nowhere a rainbow just appeared over the park. Everyone was kissing and hugging. I’ll never forget it.

-Justin Blake

I brought my 11-year-old girl to Pride last year, just so she could experience being among thousands of people celebrating those of us who have been treated badly for so long. I want her to be armed with truth and empathy should she ever be confronted with hatred—be it against her or others. She cheered every group that passed by, and not once did she show anything but love and support for all. She had a great time, and has asked to go again this year.

-Al Effendi

Not really more of a memory but a feeling—it’s one of the very few times that my husband and I can walk around holding hands and feel like we aren’t being judged.

-Michael Hoard

My favorite was more recent. It was the year Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. Corps of police officers, active military, and retired military led the parade without fear of destructive retribution. I stood there with tears in my eyes and gratitude in my soul, with my hand over my heart. I’ve attended Pride since 1985 and I have never been more affected.

-Russ Lenox

My first Pride was 2001. Me and my late girlfriend did the commitment ceremony. She passed away a year later. It was amazing. She was so happy. Best Pride.

-Tracie L. Williamson

Marching in 1978 with a total of about 500 people. I was a part of the gay group Evangelical Outreach Ministries which was a small 10-15 member group of Christians trying to open communications with pastors and churches in the metro area. We were a very small group but I think we really had a positive impact.

-Steve Shipman

One of my most unforgettable Pride memories is the year that I was working in a booth in Piedmont Park. It was beastly hot that June and we were watching the usual late summer afternoon storm clouds roll in. At some point a bizarre ground twister started picking up dirt, trash and was headed our way. It was a little tiny tornado. We were all watching helplessly as it got closer. Everyone started grabbing merchandise, tables and tent stakes as the twister ripped through several tents scattering people and paper all over the place. Fortunately no one was hurt. We all put our tents back in order and carried on as we scratched our heads wondering what had just happened. If anyone ever wonders why Atlanta holds Pride in October instead of June like everyone else, it was several years in a row of drenching and hot weather events like this that started the discussion.

-Cathy Woolard

Always the angels marching in white with regal wings!!!

-Shane Reed

I moved to the US on June 17th, 1997. Attending Pride is one of my first memories of being in America. I remember tents on the hill close to 10th Street, folks having a great time, a big stage with great local acts and the marketplace: just a few rows of booths with a flurry of rainbow-colored merchandise. The whole celebration wasn’t as big as it is today, but to me it represented the openness and the freedom of being who I always was, but in a new country. It was the welcome party for a brand new LGBTQ immigrant! I felt loved.

-Leo Martinez

Atlanta Pride 1996. Coretta Scott King.

-Paul Shapoe

Favorite Pride? The first few years of Southern Voice (1988 & 1989) are the most memorable to me. There was an energy after the National March on Washington in 1987 that, to me, has never been matched. Looking back, I can see there was both an innocence and a passion that truly warranted the label “community.” We were losing friends daily to AIDS, fighting for the most basic of rights and celebrating every small victory. It was a golden time and I am grateful I was there to witness it.

-Chris Cash

When Debbie Gibson was a guest, and when all of us lesbians used to slide down the muddy hill.

-Charlene Chamlee

My favorite Pride memory was shared with thousands along the parade route last year. With the support of Power 96.1, me and my partner at the time (now my husband) were riders on the float and unbeknownst to him, we stopped the parade and I got down on one knee and proposed to him in front of the greatest, supportive crowd ever. To top the proposal, we were married in Times Square on New Year’s Eve a couple of months later.

-Alexander Westbrook-Eisele

Arm-in-arm, laughing with friends and just being our absolute selves.

-JD Isaacs

Pride 10 years ago, my roommate and I had Westboro-type protesters outside of our apartment across from Piedmont Park. After yelling at them for a few minutes I went back inside, grabbed a piece of cardboard and some shoe polish (couldn’t find a marker) and then spent the next 30 minutes having the time of my life while the most vile and horrible things were said to me [White made a sign that said “Homo Sex is Great”]. I was even pushed in front of a car. It was awesome. My friend posted the pic on flickr and Neal Boortz picked it up and from there it went viral.

-Joshua White