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|Annual Rustin/Lorde breakfast spotlights city’s LGBT diversity|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|January 06, 2012 00:00|
Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend in gay Atlanta means parties, parties, parties. Gay promoters know thousands of people are visiting the birthplace of the civil rights icon not only to commemorate but to celebrate.
“People come to Atlanta because of the festivities we all have to offer. But by Atlanta being the home of the civil rights leader, it adds history to the weekend,” says Phillip Boone, owner of Traxx Atlanta, one of the largest black gay promoters in the country. Traxx celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
The tough economy impacts party promoters. Boone says Traxx Atlanta knows the pockets of partiers are not as deep as in the past and is striving to bring affordable entertainment in a city that’s famous for its black gay events.
“Over the past years with the economy being so bad, we want to offer a good party at an affordable price,” he says. “This year will be about fellowship and brotherhood, but we want to make all our events accessible.”
Traxx Atlanta is offering two free parties — one on Jan. 13 and the other on Jan. 14 — at its new home, XS Ultra Lounge on Spring Street, the former home of Club 708. Traxx Atlanta closed its signature club on Columbia Drive last summer.
The Jan. 14 free part is the Inferno Dominican Republic & The House of Chapelle Model Search, where men and women are invited to bring their own swimsuits to wear down the catwalk. Four winners will be selected via Facebook votes and will become swimwear spokesmodels for the House of Chapelle and receive a $1,000 cash prize.
“By creating a party scene and a culture, we all make Atlanta a place to come for MLK Weekend,” Boone adds.
Wassup N ATL, Rockstars Production, and the Lions Den all host parties for the men over MLK Weekend at various clubs in the city, while Traxx Girls and Ladies At Play have smaller, one-night events to commemorate the weekend set aside to remember a civil rights hero.
Jaimee Robinson, also known as The Face Diva, hosts her fourth annual “We Are the Movement” Mini Ball on Jan. 15.
“If you are a beginner to the ball scene this is a good one to attend — this is one where you can come as you are, how you would dress when going to the club,” says Robinson, who earned her name The Face Diva after walking in balls in New York and elsewhere and winning in “The Face” category.
Balls are not known for starting on time. An 11 p.m. showtime by the men may really mean 3 or 4 a.m., Robinson says. But her ball, set to begin at 5 p.m., will start promptly. Not only does she not want contestants to have to wait all night — in the car or in the bathroom so they are not seen — before they walk, she has two other major balls to attend that night.
Categories in the “We Are the Movement” mini ball include Women’s Face, Women’s Runway, Women’s Pump and Bag, Butch Face, Butch Body, Transmen Realness, All American Runway and the grand prize of Female Figure Sex Siren.
Walking in a ball is entertainment to the crowds, but also a major self-esteem booster to those competing, Robinson says.
“I feel this is my way to give back to the community. Being a woman in a predominantly male scene I want to give back to women who want to walk,” she says.
A decade of community
In 2002, the first annual Bayard Rustin Breakfast was held to bring LGBT activists together before the annual MLK March & Rally sponsored by the Africa/African American Renaissance Festival.
It was also a way to honor Rustin, the openly gay activist who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and organized the renowned 1963 March on Washington. The addition of Audre Lorde, the iconic lesbian poet and author, came several years later.
As the years have gone by, the Rustin / Lorde breakfast, this year on Jan. 16, has grown to some 200 people in a standing-room-only crowd at St. Mark United Methodist Church with roundtable discussions on how to advance LGBT equality.
“People are having the opportunity to set a pronounced focus on what they want to see in social changes. This year we are looking at broad areas — HIV stigma, reproductive justice and gender justice, especially for transgender people who get hit the hardest,” says Craig Washington, who co-founded the breakfast with fellow Atlanta activist Darlene Hudson.
The breakfast’s mission has moved far beyond breaking bread before the march, Washington adds, and is now a place to cultivate leadership and stimulate others who are already doing the work.
“It also honors and fortifies the work for the rest of the year,” he says.
This year marks the centennial of Rustin’s birthday and Atlanta play a key role in celebrating the 100th anniversary of a man many LGBT advocates believe has not gotten the proper recognition in history because he was gay.
Bayard was the “ultimate organizer” and is a hero of LGBT equality who can’t be forgotten, Hudson says.
“People still don’t know who Bayard and Audre are within our own community,” Hudson says. “Bayard had the ability to bring all types of people together. I don’t know if King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech would have been heard around the world if it wasn’t for him.”
Both Washington and Hudson say the most impressive aspect of the breakfast is its diversity. Each year, the event brings various people from all backgrounds within the LGBT and straight communities together to discuss issues important to them over a warm meal.
“People come literally to the breakfast table to share and exchange ideas in conversation,” Hudson says. “I keep waiting for Obama to show up.”
MLK Weekend events
Wednesday, Jan. 11
Raquell Lord’s Main Event Talent Show
Thursday, Jan. 12
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Wassup N ATL ‘I Am King Celebration’
MLK Weekend Kickoff ‘Turnt Up Thursday’
Friday, Jan. 13
The Lion’s Den and Rockstars Production
Welcome to the ATL
Wassup N ATL party at Mengo’s
Saturday, Jan. 14
The Inferno Dominican Republic &
Traxx Girls hosts The Secret Party presented
Wassup N ATL party at Justin’s
The Man 2 Man MLK Weekend Bash and Hot Body Contest hosted by the Men of Dark Centaur
Traxx Atlanta presents ‘The Movement’ and
Sunday, Jan. 15
The Face Diva presents
Wassup N ATL Party at Georgia Freight Depot
Ladies at Play’s MLK Winter PRIDE Gala
International Male 2012 Main Event
Wassup N ATL Party at Chaparral
Monday, Jan. 16
Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde Community Breakfast
MLK March and Rally
Top photo: More than 200 people gathered at last year’s Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde Community Breakfast. (by Dyana Bagby)
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