Making History: Norcross Holds First Pride Festival

Pride month is in full fabulous swing and as celebrations are underway, we would like to shine a light on one local group who has managed to organize Norcross, Georgia’s first ever pride celebration.

Rolando Guzman, the lead organizer of the upcoming Norcross Pride 2019, is a member of the Norcross Gay Club — a social club that strives to unite both members of the LGBTQ community as well as supporters of the LGBTQ community. Rolando states, “Our goal is to connect our community by creating local activities and at the same time support local businesses. Events are held at least once a month and everyone is welcome to join; we strive to be a true community, where everyone is, and feels, welcomed.”

It is within this group that members began floating around the idea of hosting a special event to honor the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, with quick and collaborative planning they have managed to gain a lot of support and awareness for their celebration — “We only started planning less than a month ago, on May 16. On that day I told the team, let’s do our best to have 40 people show up, then we’ll work harder every year until it becomes a full festival, everyone agreed; we secured permits from the city for less than 100 people. But destiny had other plans. Our Facebook page event, which was our only promotion tool, started getting tons of attention. Then, the AJC picked up the story and as they say, the rest is history. This amazing response from everyone, perhaps more than anything, validates our initiative and speaks volumes about the need for more events like this.”

As they work hard to kick off this debut event and grow it over time, Rolando explains why it was so important to them to form a pride festival specific to their area. “In my mind, every town, and even down to every organization, should have a day to celebrate who we are, acknowledge the accomplishments of our community in the pursuit of equality, and commemorate those who paved the way for us. These events create safe spaces where the members of our community and our allies can feel acknowledged, welcomed and validated. They send a clear message that there is a place for us in our communities and that place is equal to the place available to a heterosexual person.”

For those wondering what fun activities they can expect at this powerful premier pride, Rolando detailed some of the event’s main amenities; he states, “Norcross Pride is taking place in the heart of Norcross at Thrasher Park, a two-acre open green space with an outdoor performing stage surrounded by historical buildings and within walking distance of the top restaurants in the city. We’re keeping the original picnic theme, so we’re encouraging people to bring their blankets and baskets and enjoy the live music. If bringing your own food is not your thing, there are several amazing restaurants within walking distance and we’re also working to have local neighborhood restaurants offer food on site.”

Besides excellent food and togetherness, attendees can also expect to be well entertained as local artists take to the stage — including Jazz/Blues artist Leah Maloof, Folk-rocker Debra Lynn Rodriguez, as well as, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalists Jeremy Keen and Ashton May. Rolando and his team have done amazing work to pioneer this festival, they have transformed a simple idea into an inspirational event which will increase awareness and support within the local community.

“Locally, I want to raise awareness of the presence of the LGBTQ community in the suburbs. There seems to be this misconception that everyone lives in midtown when there are many of us living in the suburbs,” he said. “This lack of visibility has generated underrepresentation and because of that, the laws, protections and the attitudes, in general, are not as LGBTQ friendly as they are in the City of Atlanta, and we have to change that. I believe that the vast majority of detractors are so because they haven’t had the chance to really get to know someone from our community. Our differences become insignificant when we take the time to understand each other, so hopefully visibility will eventually lead to a better understanding.”

They are hoping to create an environment where people can not only come together, but they can do so while simultaneously learning to respect and appreciate each other’s differences. For Rolando and his team, Norcross Pride 2019 is much more than a celebration in the making — it is a revolution in the making.

Rolando encourages any and everyone to attend and/or join the Norcross Gay Club, whether a member or a supporter, they welcome with open arms. To join the club all one has to do is like their Facebook page: where they publish all of their events, from here participants are free to volunteer their time and efforts to the group’s numerous efforts.