Meet the Atlanta Pride grand marshals

Last year to mark the 40th anniversary of the Atlanta Pride festival, the Atlanta Pride Committee selected 120 grand marshals to represent three categories of the LGBT rights movement: education, legislative and community. For 2011, Pride has taken a more scaled-back approach, naming six people as grand marshals for the Oct. 9 parade.

Each of the six grand marshals was nominated by the public in an open-nomination process, according to the Atlanta Pride Committee.

The group includes a straight ally, a transgender activist, a leather advocate, a voice from the frontlines of Georgia’s immigration battle, a gay actor and playwright, and an Atlanta Sister of Perpetual Indulgence.

Lynn Barfield, Atlanta Pride parade grand marshalLynn Barfield

Lynn Barfield is commonly known as “Mama Lynn” to the boys at Blake’s on the Park where she works. As the only straight ally among the grand marshals, Barfield has worked with several local LGBT-specific nonprofits over the years, including YouthPride, CHRIS Kids, AIDS Walk Atlanta and Project Open Hand. Barfield also served as the executive director of Enlight Atlanta, a group that worked to help students organize gay-straight alliances.

“I am extremely proud to be selected as a grand marshal for Pride,” Barfield said. “To know that people think of me as someone that represents Atlanta’s vibrant and incredible gay community is an honor.” Barfield was reflective when asked what Pride meant to her.

“Pride to me means love, inclusion and a celebration of the accomplishments of the LGBTQ community for our city, and there have been many over the past year,” she said.

Barfield added that she has recently been spending time raising funds for the upcoming AIDS Walk, but she’s ready to get back to activism by tackling the youth bullying epidemic.

“There’s no reason for any child on this earth, in this country, in this prevalent time, to feel that death is the answer to ignorance,” she said.

Dee Dee Chamblee, Atlanta Pride parade grand marshalDee Dee Chamblee

Dee Dee Chamblee is a longtime Atlanta-based transgender activist. She is the founder and executive director of LaGender Inc., a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of transgender issues, and serves on the advisory board for Center of Excellence for Transgender Health.

Chamblee also provides gender identity and diversity trainings as senior consultant of TransWorld Consulting Agency. For her work fighting HIV, she was named as a “Champion of Courage” by the Obama administration earlier this year. Chamblee was one of nine people from across the country honored as part of the White House commemoration of the 30th anniversary of AIDS.

Chamblee has worked tirelessly on transgender issues, including contributing to the push for Georgia to enact employment non-discrimination, including protections for transgender employees.

Duchess Claud, Atlanta Pride parade grand marshalDuchess Claud

Duchess Claud, known as “The Duchess,” is a volunteer with Touching Up Our Roots, an Atlanta gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history project. Claud came out in 1959, well before the Stonewall Riots and the formation of the modern LGBT rights movement.

Claud has stayed active in the gay community through the years. Perhaps best known for her work in Atlanta’s leather community, Claud has a long history of LGBT activism and is currently a volunteer organizer for Mondo Homo, Atlanta’s queer arts and music festival.

Claud was involved in many of the LGBT rights movement’s earliest demonstrations. She marched in the first Gay March in Washington, D.C. in 1979. Actively involved in the early fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, she worked at AID Atlanta in its infancy in the early 1980s.

Paulina Hernandez, Atlanta Pride grand marshalPaulina Hernandez

As the co-director of Southerns on New Ground, Paulina Hernandez was at the forefront of this year’s heated state immigration battle, voicing the concerns of LGBT immigrants, those of color and those who live in rural areas.

Despite the passing of the new immigration law, among the toughest in the country, Hernandez and Southerns on New Ground have vowed to continue the fight.

Hernandez, a self-described “queer femme,” was born in Veracruz, Mexico, and came to the United States when she was just 12-years old. Since then, she’s taken to political organizing and fighting for the rights of disenfranchised minorities.

Hernandez has a background in farm worker and immigrant rights organizing. She’s worked with Third Wave Foundation in New York City and was a founding member of First Nations / Two Spirit Collective. Hernandez was also featured on the cover of the June 24 issue of GA Voice for her work in the immigration debate.

Topher Payne, Atlanta Pride parade grand marshalTopher Payne

Topher Payne is an award-winning playwright and actor and is also a columnist for the GA Voice. Despite the accolades, Payne said that he was surprised by his selection as a grand marshal for this year’s Atlanta Pride parade.

“I’m still not sure what I did to deserve it, but thank God I must have done it so well,” Payne said. “I’m told it’s for my writing, which is so hard to wrap my brain around because it’s this thing I do alone, at home, hanging out with my dog.”

Calling the 2007 Pride Parade his most memorable Pride moment, Payne recounts beating cancer and spending time with the man who would later become his husband.

“I’d just beaten cancer, I’d fallen in love with the guy I’d eventually marry,” he said. “It was a very good day. At 10th and Piedmont, I gave my boyfriend a big smooch, and someone got a photo from the roof of Outwrite. So the picture is us on this float in the kiss, surrounded by friends and Diamond Lil, with thousands of people and rainbows behind us. You just can’t do better than that.”

Payne is currently working on a rendition of “Frost/Nixon” for the Springer Opera House. He will play David Frost and calls the part “a dream role.”

Rick Westbrook, Atlanta Pride parade grand marshalRick Westbrook

Rick Westbrook is a busy man. When he’s not in the community as his alter-ego Rapture Divine Cox (from the Atlanta chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence), Westbrook works as a community outreach coordinator with HIV/AIDS organization Positive Impact.

He is also co-founder of the Chuck Jenkins Foundation, the nonprofit organization that produces the wildly popular East Point Possums show each year.

Westbrook was named by readers of GA Voice as the 2011 “Best OTP Activist” for his work with the Possums benefit.

“I am so honored to be chosen as a grand marshal for simply doing the work that I love,” Westbrook said.

Westbrook is working on the next East Point Possums show, organizing events with the Atlanta Sisters; and looking for ways to combat homelessness amongst LGBT youth.