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|Atlanta’s Stonewall Week honors Pride’s beginnings|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|June 11, 2010 00:00|
It all started in someone’s backyard 13 years ago over the Fourth of July weekend and has now grown into one of the largest drag shows in the Southeast, organizers say.
The 13th annual East Point Possums Show kicks off Atlanta Pride’s Stonewall Week on June 19 in East Point with, well, a sashay — perhaps a clumsy sashay at that.
Rick Westbrook, a.k.a. Shenitta Lott, is one of the founding members of the show along with his partner, John Jeffrey (a.k.a. Prissy Cilla), Chuck Jenkins (a.k.a. Rococo Baroque) and Chesley Thurman (a.k.a. Dina Daintymouth). For Westbrook, the show’s popularity is a testament to people’s desire to come together for a good time and for a good cause.
This year, all money made at the Possums show will be donated to the Atlanta Pride Committee and the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative.
“Last year we made $11,000 and this year we’re hoping to make $20,000,” Westbrook says.
And people tip well at the Possums show — but you just don’t know where the money’s been.
“I can’t tell you how many $20 and $50 dollar bills I’ve pulled from the crack of my ass over the years,” he says. “This is unlike any other drag show — this is good work through bad drag.”
The show includes 20 to 30 acts and include favorites like Ginny Tonic, a drag legend who now only performs at the Possums show, and Alexandria Martin and her infamous roller skates, as well as new acts from such shows as Sukeban, now held at My Sister’s Room.
“This show is off the hook,” Westbrook promises.
There will be surprises, he adds, including a “rumor” that the Atlanta Pride Committee itself will perform a number.
The crowd for the show grows each year with East Point residents as well as those from all over metro Atlanta attending. And women like to make their husbands dress in drag just to watch the show numerous families — gay and straight — gathering as well to help LGBT causes.
“This is truly a community event, and at the same time, we are proud to promote that our event has now become the largest drag show in the Southeast,” boasts Thurman.
Stonewall Week continues through June 26 with a host of events to celebrate the 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn, a gay New York City bar, that is credited with starting the modern gay civil rights movement.
A new organization is joining in this year’s activities with a picnic in Piedmont Park on June 26. Named the “Queer Justice League,” the group is made up of anonymous young activists who are asking people to join them in the park that afternoon for food and fellowship.
“They are an anonymous group of young activists — they are not about any one individual and are about coming together for the good of the community,” says Westbrook, who said he was asked to speak for the Queer Justice League. “We need to put together a united front.”
The picnic is the Queer Justice League’s “coming out” event — the first of many it hopes to hold in the future, Westbrook says. But the picnic is simply a way for people to gather on the day of Stonewall and “celebrate our liberation,” Westbrook adds.
The picnic in Piedmont Park on June 26 follows a full day of activities beginning with the first Sylvia Rivera Community Brunch sponsored by Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth (T.I.L.T.T.) and the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, in conjunction with the Atlanta Pride Committee.
The brunch is named for trans activist Rivera, a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising.
The community brunch includes speakers Tracee McDaniel, founder of the Juxtaposed Center, and Cheryl Courtney-Evans, founder of T.I.L.T.T., both noted Atlanta transgender activists.
Courtney-Evans recently was a panelist at the first Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act community conference at Georgia State University on May 18 and spoke about the violence transgender people face for simply being who they are.
McDaniel also recently spoke at the first International Day Against Homophobia in Atlanta, organized by Betty Couvertier and her LGBT radio show, “Alternative Perspectives,” that airs on WRFG 89.3 FM. McDaniel spoke of transphobia that is rampant in society, not just homophobia, and often talks about how many people refuse to see transgender people as humans.
But it cannot be forgotten, or erased, from the history of the LGBT movement that trans people were at the forefront, including at Stonewall, both women often stress.
After the brunch, the public is invited to gather on the steps of the state Capitol for the “Be Visible, Make a Statement” rally and community art project. Pride photographers will be on-hand to take pictures of attendees, which local artists will turn into a work of art that will be displayed at the 2010 Atlanta Pride festival in October. Participants are encouraged to bring their own materials.
Other events taking place during Stonewall Week include the Out & OutLoud StoryCorps, an oral history project, on June 23 at Radial Café from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. StoryCorps, part of National Public Radio, has collected thousands of life stories LGBT people and their families and friends.
On June 24, Georgia Equality hosts its premiere event and fundraiser, “Evening for Equality,” at the Ventanas atop the Hilton Garden Inn. This year’s honorees are Ken Britt, Phillip Rush Community Builder Award; Fulton County Commissioner Nancy Boxill, Guiding Star Award; Maru Gonzalez and Austin Lauferweiler, Champions for Equality Award; and state Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta), recipient of the first Allen Thornell Political Advancement Award, for his work in gaining bipartisan support in the passage of the anti-bullying bill this year, now signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Out on Film will screen “Stonewall Uprising” on June 25 at the Midtown Art Cinema. Told by those in attendance of the 1969 Stonewall Inn raid, including patrons and police, the film looks at the political and social climate that led to the raid.
The movie will also be shown on June 26 and after the 7 p.m. screening that night, a public discussion will take place at the theater with patrons and employees of the Atlanta Eagle, who will discuss how the bar’s police raid on Sept. 10 compares to Stonewall, says Jim Farmer, executive director of Out on Film.
And while Atlanta Pride now takes place in October, the Atlanta Pride Committee knows the importance of commemorating the Stonewall Riots through events that build community, says JP Sheffield, executive director of Atlanta Pride.
“If we look at where the movement has taken us since Stonewall, we can see the growth of a variety of causes championed by the queer community,” he said in a statement.
Top photo: The East Point Possums Show on June 19 kicks off Stonewall Week in Atlanta. (Courtesy photo)
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