Atlanta Pride File photo

Letter to the Editor

This op-ed was submitted to Georgia Voice in response to an article published in our last issue entitled “Community Calls for Reforms to Atlanta Pride, APC Responds.” The article’s title has since been edited online to “Members of the Community Call for Reforms to Atlanta Pride, APC Responds.”

It is Sunday evening of Pride weekend and I just finished reading the article about the Atlanta Pride Committee (APC). If my memory serves correctly, I marched in my first Pride parade in Atlanta in 1979, not long after my 30th birthday. Yes, that does make me old in the eyes of some, but I am still here.

I have been a Pride supporter in various forms for many years. I’ve also been involved as a Pride sponsor for a decade or so. In that capacity, I have always had a very good experience with the process and the outcome. My perspective in that may be different from most. I have several decades of experiences with national, regional and local non-profits that depend heavily on volunteers, so I know what that entails.

I was struck by several points in the article, many of which need better contextualization if they are to have any validity.

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on all our lives. If we don’t grasp that concept, we have been living in a cave for 18-plus months. It’s helpful to remember where we are geographically as well. Less than half of our state’s population is fully vaccinated against the virus. (Yes, I realize the numbers are higher in Atlanta and probably more so in the queer community.) However, the comparison between Music Midtown and Pride is not a valid comparison. Music Midtown limits access and limits the number of tickets sold and required proof of vaccination. Pride events are literally wide open to anyone and there are no restrictions as to who can attend nor is there a legitimate way to check for vaccination status.

As an observation, I live a few blocks from X Midtown. Prior to the availability of vaccinations, when we should have been social distancing, wearing masks and taking precautions, I lost count of the number of times I walked past X Midtown and saw few masks, little social distancing or any evidence of true precautions against the spread of COVID. I wonder how much the profit motive figured into their complaints.

A headline that literally screams “ Community Calls for Reforms” is very misleading when the community in question seems to be about two dozen people. It’s hyperbole at best and misleading at worst. We are a “community” of several hundred thousand people, so let’s be more honest with headlines.

The APC is following standard transparency guidelines with open board meetings, readily available records, etc. to meet those guidelines. I haven’t seen anything that indicates a failure to disclose what the law requires. Contrary to popular myth, the “general public” is not entitled to know all the internal details of the workings of a non-profit organization.

A self-perpetuating board would not be unique to APC. I can think of few non-profits, both queer and non-queer, that don’t recruit and select their board members. With the APC so heavily reliant on volunteers to get the work done, I doubt they can afford to have board members who cannot or will not put in the extensive volunteer hours Pride requires to be successful. I never saw this board as a “face value” board. It’s a fully working board unless I have missed something.

A decade or more ago I met with the then “dysfunctional board” of APC. I presented a workshop on the basics of how meetings are run and how decisions are made, one important aspect of which was that it is always the issue that is debated and never the person who presented it. Personalities should never be involved. I wonder if some of those wanting changes might be hung up on that factor. That is not to say that there are no changes needed, but the organization is the entity to determine that.

I’ve rattled on for too long, but I do feel the need to address what I see as a conflict of interest. Two of the organizations complaining have a financial interest in having Pride take place. There is nothing wrong with that. But I’ve seen at least one of them put their profit motive above preventing the spread of the virus. We should all put some thought into that fact.

We will get through this pandemic. We will get back to our normal ways of interacting, both healthy and unhealthy. Attacking one of our institutions for putting our welfare above profit and a good time is not the way to go. I’ve had my third shot now. I still wear a mask in public, because I learned the hard way not to trust folks to do the “right” thing in a state where the Governor puts politics above science and medicine. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, shut up and sit down. Your rights end where and when they compromise my health.

So, can we avoid the hyperbolic headlines that mislead in a time when we need all the accuracy we can get? Please?