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|ATL gay promoters and activists honor legacy of MLK|
|by Ryan Lee|
|January 07, 2011 00:00|
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted that the gulf between different groups of people was widened not only by outright racism, but also by the unspoken acceptance of the status quo. Although the white and black gay populations in King’s hometown have gained tremendous vibrancy and clout since his era, modern Atlanta’s gay social scene can sometimes feel as segregated as 1950s lunch counters and water fountains.
“We’re creatures of habit, and we tend to stick to things and people that we are accustomed to,” says Gregory Allen, CEO of Xtreme Entertainment, which hosts “The Lion’s Den” parties. “We tend to stay in our own neighborhoods, we tend to party in our own circles.
“There are so many subsets of the LGBT community, and without actually taking the initiative or making the effort to really bring the cultures together, everyone just goes to their own corner — African-Americans partying in their own circle, Caucasians partying in their own circle, Hispanics partying in their own circle,” he adds.
The Lion’s Den party on the Sunday of MLK weekend is a perennial highlight of a nightlife line-up that draws thousands of black LGBT visitors to Atlanta every January. Allen is aiming for this year’s party, themed “International Male 2011,” to be more inclusive than ever.
“We want to create an atmosphere where everyone can come together, and what better time to do it than the celebration of Dr. King,” Allen says. “The LGBT community sometimes can be very segmented as different ethnicities and cultures party in their own comfort zone, and so the goal of this event is to really create an international-type party that brings together a variety of cultures, races and ethnicities.”
Mini Pride Weekend
The Lion’s Den party at Club Europe on Jan. 16 will be the first time the cast of the new reality show “The Life: Atlanta” will be unveiled. Backed by a former producer of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” the reality show follows several black gay men in Atlanta, and is being shopped around to networks.
Several divas from “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” will be in attendance to introduce the cast of “The Life: Atlanta,” and to party to the sounds of DJ Sedrick and DJ Ron Pullman.
Another marquee event during MLK weekend is the Saturday night party at Traxx, which typically draws several thousand people each year. Traxx has yet to solidify its entertainment line-up for its party, dubbed “The Movement,” but co-owner Philip Boone says the club is hoping to bring in a Grammy Award-winning songstress more recently known for her primetime dancing.
“We’ve got a lot of out-of-towners coming in that are expecting big things from us, so we’re trying to live up to everybody’s expectations,” Boone says, noting how MLK weekend has become a mini Black Gay Pride in Atlanta, second only to Labor Day weekend.
“Over the years, it just became a bigger thing,” he says. “It used to be that we would get the people from Macon, or a lot of the cities and states that are surrounding Atlanta and Georgia, but now you’re getting people from D.C. and other parts of the country, and it’s become this broad circuit weekend.
“Atlanta’s just one of those destinations where people can come to the city and feel comfortable being gay,” he adds. “It should be a great weekend.”
In addition to their massive Saturday night party, the owners of Traxx are also christening their new club during MLK weekend. Known as the Xcess Ultra Lounge, the club is in the same spot as bygone icons Club 708 and Loretta’s, and Traxx re-establishes its presence in the heart of the city with a “Welcome to Atlanta” party Jan. 14.
WassupNATL is also hosting parties throughout the weekend, titled “Freedom 2011.”
Traxx Girls gets in on the MLK Weekend action as well, hosting the Movement Ball on Sunday, Jan. 17, with competitions for women, butches and transmen in a variety of categories.
Also for the women, Ladies at Play hosts its Winter Pride Bash on Sunday night.
Rustin/Lorde Breakfast remembers black gay leaders
It’s rare that community-oriented events are as lively as nightclubs during holiday weekends, but the Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde community breakfast has blossomed into a standing-room-only affair. The 10th annual breakfast, which last year drew about 200 people, takes place Monday, Jan. 17, at St. Mark United Methodist Church.
Created by Atlanta activists Darlene Hudson and Craig Washington, the breakfast honors Rustin, an influential gay adviser to King, and Lorde, the celebrated lesbian and feminist poet. The organizing committee for Atlanta’s citywide MLK march and rally has always been explicit in welcoming LGBT participation, and Washington says the first breakfast in 2002 was an attempt to build bridges between the two communities.
“The [citywide MLK] march was something that I thought should be more touted among the Atlanta LGBT community,” Washington says. “So here was the opportunity to provide people with a chance to connect before going to the march, have a bite to eat, get some coffee.”
The early years of the Rustin/Lorde breakfast attracted several dozen attendees, many of whom were plugged into progressive activism. However, the event has become increasingly popular for people who might not usually wake up early on a holiday Monday.
“As this sort of social justice-themed event, it’s definitely user-friendly, or even pop-friendly,” Washington says. “I think it models for us how we can go about this work in a way that people don’t feel like they have to have that activist label, or some formal social-action experience to contribute or participate.”
Washington credits the breakfast’s panache to the young people who have joined him and Hudson as organizers of the annual event. Cultivating young leaders will be one of the focuses of this year’s breakfast, along with gender and transgender justice, and drawing attention to the impact of HIV/AIDS on blacks and gay men as the disease approaches its 30th anniversary.
Washington says he is in awe of how the breakfast has evolved over the past decade.
“It confirms possibilities,” he says.
Top photo: Craig Washington is co-founder of Atlanta’s Bayard Rustin – Audre Lorde Breakfast, which commemorates black gay leaders during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. (File photo)
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