Every year Atlanta’s grand marshals are comprised of individuals and organizations in Georgia who have contributed significantly to the LGBT community in Atlanta and the state of Georgia. Tens of thousands of people line the streets of Midtown to watch the annual parade, the largest one in the city that will include more than 200 entries, from politicians to drag queens to gay sports teams to LGBT non-profit groups.
Heading up the parade and riding in cars will be people honored by their peers for their contributions to the community — the grand marshals and the honorary grand marshals.
Atlanta Pride’s Parade grand marshals list reads like a who’s who of LGBT movers and shakers and staunch allies of the community.
On the list are such notable individuals and groups as Dr. Christina Bucher, Lorraine Fontana, Mark S. King, Evelyn Mims, Charles Stephens, the Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and Charis Circle.
All will be featured in the annual Parade that takes place at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13.
Here’s a look at some of the 2013 grand marshals:
Dr. Christina Bucher Dr. Christina (Tina) Bucher lives in Rome, Ga., where she is an Associate Professor of English, Rhetoric, and Writing at Berry College. For most of her 18 years at Berry, she has been one of many people who have worked persistently to gain official status for Listen, an LGBT student organization. This goal was finally achieved in September 2012.
She functioned as an advisor to LGBT students and allies for the years when a group was still unofficial, wrote for campus publications and spoke on panels raising awareness on LGBT issues, collaborated with the Dean of Students to bring Safe Space training to the campus in 2008, and served with other dedicated colleagues and students on the committee whose work led to approval of Listen last fall.
The group made its inaugural march in the Atlanta Pride Parade in October 2012. In addition, Dr. Bucher created Berry’s first course in gay and lesbian literature, now listed in the college catalog. She served as a PFLAG representative in Rome from 2007-2012 and is an active member of the board for the AIDS Resource Council of Rome. She shares life and adventures with her partner, Sherre Harrington.
Lorraine Fontana Lorraine Fontana was raised in a working class Italian family in Queens, NYC. She became a supporter of the Civil Rights and Black Empowerment Movements and an anti-war activist early in life.
Joining VISTA in 1968 is what brought her to Atlanta and she came out there among other leftist and feminist women who together founded the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA – 1972 to 1994), and later DARII (Dykes for the Second American Revolution).
Her legal training (1976-79) at the People’s College of Law in L.A. led to work as a staff person with the National Jury Project, a brief period doing poverty law with Georgia Legal Services, and later using her legal skills as a paralegal back in NYC for the EEOC (Oct 1999 to Jan, 2004), and in Georgia as a Legal Assistant for Lambda Legal Education & Defense Fund (2006- 2012). In the mid ‘70s and ‘80s she often served as an ALFA rep to coalition/partnership projects with both others in the growing “out”-LGBTQ community as well as the larger progressive community.
More recently she became a member of the short-lived Queer Progressive Agenda (QPA), and has endeavored to be an ally to queers of color-led organizations in the ATL. She’s also member/supporter of First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta’s Social Justice Guild, the Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition, Charis Books, the Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace, SAGE Atlanta, and Southerners on New Ground.
Evelyn Mims A longtime friend and supporter of Atlanta’s LGBT community, Mims has been a regular contributor to WXIA for several years, During her career she has served as the only African-American chapter president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.Her television career spans more than 30 years. A graduate of Jackson State University in Mississippi, her first job was at NBC affiliate WLBT.
She later rose to Program Coordinator of WXIA, another NBC affiliate in Atlanta. Working in front of the camera as well behind the scenes, Mims has received three Emmy nominations for her role as the “Soap Sultress” on 11Alive’s top rated ‘Noonday’ show, which has lead to guest appearances on the daytime soap opera “Days of Our Lives.”
INTERVIEW: Honorary Grand Marshal Daniel Hernandez
Daniel Hernandez, the intern credited with saving U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) after she was shot in 2011 while visiting with her Arizona constituents, is now the target of an anti-gay campaign to remove him from a local school board.
Months after the shooting, Hernandez, 23, was elected to the Sunnyside Unified District School Board, which covers southern Tuscan and areas in Pima County in Arizona.
In August, however, he became the target of an anti-gay smear campaign as part of a recall effort hoping to unseat him as well as three other school board members.
One flyers used by those in his recall effort reads, “Put a REAL man on the Sunnyside Board” and also states, “Daniel Hernandez is LGBT. We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids. We don’t need someone who hates our values. RECALL Daniel Hernandez TODAY.”
“Ay yay yay,” Hernandez, 23, says with a sigh during a phone interview while driving between speaking engagements. “We’re in 2013 and people still think this is OK.”
The recall effort means he is currently in fundraising mode to keep his seat in office. But that won’t dampen his spirits when he comes to Atlanta where he is being celebrated as an honorary grand marshal.
“I am so excited. I love coming to Atlanta,” he says. “I’ve not had the opportunity to go to a Pride in about a year so I’m excited to see all the great work being done in Atlanta, especially with it being in the south and being a mecca for LGBT people.
“I especially look forward to eating at some of your finer Southern restaurants,” Hernandez says. “You can’t really find that great Southern food in Arizona.”
As a young, gay, Hispanic man, his heroic efforts to help save Giffords put him in the spotlight. He was honored by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama during the 2011 State of the Union speech and has spoken out on behalf of gay and Hispanic equality in English and Spanish with dozens of local and national media outlets.
Hernandez also wrote a book, “They Call Me a Hero: A Memoir of My Youth.” In the book, he recounts the tragic shooting on Jan. 8, 2011, outside a Safeway supermarket near Tuscon, where he raced toward the gunshots to find Giffords bleeding from a head wound.
He used his bare hand to put pressure on the bleeding wound and held her head in his lap until paramedics arrived, then rode in an ambulance with her to the hospital.
The two don’t speak as often anymore because both are so busy, Hernandez says. He’s busy speaking to various groups and at universities while Giffords and her husband, retired Navy Captain Mark Kelly, founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, a super PAC that raises funds to urge Congress to find ways to reduce gun violence.
Giffords did tweet support of Hernandez last month when the anti-gay campaign made national headlines, writing, “Daniel Hernandez is #ArizonaStrong. He helped save my life. We all benefit from his courage & strength. #StandWithDaniel.”
The people behind the anti-gay flyers are cowards, Hernandez said. And the reason they are coming after him in this way is because they know LGBT people are making amazing advances.
“One thing I said right after this happened is the reason they are doing this is because we’re winning on so many other issues,” he says.
The recent Supreme Court rulings on Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act as well as the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are major victories in the LGBT movement. Hernandez firmly believes that scares some people.
Hernandez is concentrating on making sure he doesn’t get recalled from his first publicly elected post on the school board. Although he didn’t give specifics, he does want to serve a life in public service.
“I’m only 23 so I have to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I have to try to make sure I don’t get thrown out of office for first time,” he said.
“That’s the problem with so many politicians — they worry about the next job instead of actually doing a good job in the office where they are now. I’m just concentrating on doing a good job in the office I’m in now.”
INTERVIEW: Honorary Grand Marshal Sheriff Lupe Valdez
When Lupe Valdez was elected sheriff in Dallas County, Texas, nine years ago, she made international headlines.
As a Democrat in the heavily Republican state of Texas with President George W. Bush, one of the state’s most famous residents in the White House, her victory was noteworthy. Even more noteworthy was the fact she was also a Latina and an out lesbian.
“I didn’t realize it was going to cause such a wave,” she says in a phone interview from her office in Texas.
“All I wanted to do is change the department and bring honor to our shields,” she says.
“I got woken up at 2 a.m. the week after I was elected from someone in Spain and I’m like, ‘What is the big deal?’ And they say, ‘You’re Hispanic, a female, a Democrat, a lesbian. You just don’t understand — and you’re in Bush’s backyard,’” she recalls.
The media attention was shocking and the “media fuss” from both sides — progressives and social conservatives — was a lot to deal with.
“People hated my guts,” she says. “At that time, it was a big thing. Now it’s not anymore. The first couple years, any media reports about me said I was ‘Lupe Valdez, the lesbian sheriff.’ That stopped about five years ago and I hope there will come a day when we don’t have to brag about things like this.”
Valdez is one of three honorary grand marshals at Atlanta Pride this year, an unexpected but thrilling honor, she says.
“I’ve been named grand marshal for ours [in Texas] but they know me there. It’s quite an honor somebody in Atlanta knows who I am,” she says.
Valdez does have Atlanta connections, actually. She is featured in Atlanta filmmaker Cindy Abel’s documentary, “Breaking Through,” a film which profiles several openly LGBT elected officials from around the nation.
It was tough at first, being the new sheriff who was so different than the “good ol’ boy network” that she said was running the department.
“It was rough. I got death threats, emails notes. I wish I had kept some of them but I threw them away. I didn’t even want to see them,” she says.
“But after you prove yourself the naysayers and their voices are not heard as loud. They’re still there, but nobody listens to them anymore,” she says.
When Valdez took over in 2004, the department was in poor shape — the jail was failing state and federal inspections, there was poor morale and accusations of corruption that ran deep.
“There was so much work to do. We turned this department totally around,” she says. “It used to be a good ol’ boys, stab-you-in-the-back place and there was abuse of inmates.”
Valdez installed cameras in the deputies’ cars and in the jail and the problems dissipated, she said.
“You only have to make an example of a few,” she says. “And once you prove yourself, and you show you are saving the taxpayers money — then they say it’s OK, she’s doing a good job.”
Valdez oversees a department with 2,500 employees and a jail that houses 6,500 inmates. It’s a job she could “literally do 24/7,” she says.
“We’re a little city, and this is including sewer, death, birth, education — we have to deal with all of that in jail. People joke and say I’m the mayor of a little city and that’s basically what it is,” she says.