From a protest to a party, the celebration of Pride has changed drastically over the years and this year’s celebration could entail more change. This will be the 52nd Anniversary of Pride in Atlanta and the first Pride celebration in two years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the official 50-year milestone was missed, it will be celebrated this year. Jamie Fergerson, Executive Director of the Atlanta Pride Committee (APC), told Georgia Voice that planning this year’s event has felt both “familiar and like a brand-new experience” due to the “profound weight of responsibility” they feel for putting on a large scale in-person event while COVID-19 transmission is ramping up again. They hope that pandemic-related issues will simmer down by October, but are prepared to follow COVID-19 protocols for the indoor events just in case. Fergerson said that regardless of this new world they’re entering, APC is still on track for a fantastic event.
So far, the planning has mostly revolved around infrastructure: staging, flooring, port-a-potties, hiring contractors, all the practical parts of event planning. More recently, they started booking the entertainment, although Fergerson couldn’t yet share who has been booked.
The parade and marketplace are almost completely full, with only a few spots left to spare, but the applications for food vendors, local performers, and volunteering will be opening soon, so be on the lookout.
APC has also been planning year-round and Stonewall month events. The Stonewall planning involves 20 events that will be occurring over the month of June, including a 5K at Piedmont Park, some mental health programming, a history of Stonewall, an Atlanta Dream Pride Night, a queer fashion show, and more. They also will be doing a lot of voting-related events leading up to the festival and voter registration at the festival in preparation for the gubernatorial race in November.
It’s difficult to say how this year will differ overall compared to 2019, but there are a few distinct changes. Outdoor events will remain relatively the same, but indoor events will have to follow COVID-19 protocols and CDC best practices.
APC has also been trying to establish inclusive programming that reflects the community. APC has “more than quadrupled” its programming dealing with race, gender and trans inclusion, but in order to know if it’s enough for the community, they created a comprehensive Community Needs Assessment. This will be paired with focus groups with marginalized members of the community to better understand how to serve them and represent them. Fergerson said the survey’s goal is to find the answer to four questions: who is Atlanta Pride, who do we need to be to serve our community, who does the community need us to be, and where are we going?
Overall, Atlanta Pride promises to come back with a bang. While the event will be a time of joy, fun, and celebration, Fergerson also emphasized the importance of Pride as a time for people to embrace who they are and live their authentic truth, no matter their age, and reflect on the work that needs to be done for our community.
“[W]henever you come out, whenever you join the community, is a great time to do it,” Fergerson said. “We have a lot of people coming out younger these days, but there’s also a lot of people coming out older, and I think that that should be celebrated on both ends … [W]e live in complex spaces, and Pride is the same. [Pride is] a party, a celebration of all that our community has done, [but] we have a responsibility to share the history of our community and advocate for issues in the community. Let’s have a party, let’s have a good time, but we can’t forget how much important work we still have left to do.”