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|Slain Black Gay Pride organizer remembered as 'selfless'|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|September 03, 2010 00:00|
As Black Gay Pride swings into full force this weekend, the memory of Durand Robinson will be everywhere. The man who many described as selfless and giving will be honored at parties and events during the weekend, which attracts tens of thousands of people to Atlanta from across the nation and around the world.
Robinson, 50, was shot and killed in the early morning hours of Aug. 25 in southwest Atlanta. The Atlanta Police Department continues to seek suspects and a motive as of press time.
As managing partner of Traxx Atlanta, Robinson was a major organizer of Black Gay Pride and his company — as well as Traxx Girls — is bringing in some big names for its infamous parties, including Nicki Minaj, Ciara and Amber Rose.
For Melissa Scott, co-executive producer of Traxx Girls, not having Robinson here as she puts on the biggest event of her career is painful and lonely.
“He was probably the most amazing person I ever met. Very inspirational,” said Scott, who knew Robinson for 10 years, after an Aug. 28 candlelight vigil held for him at Traxx nightclub in Decatur.
“The day he died I looked at my phone and saw that I had talked to him 16 times the day before and 27 times the day before that. I speak to this man between 16 and 30 times a day and the next day I don’t speak to him at all,” she said.
“Wrong guy this time, just the wrong guy. Unless we just needed him to be somewhere else. He will be missed.”
Traxx and Traxx Girls are dedicating their “Pure Heat” Pride weekend to the memory of Robinson.
In the Life Atlanta, which has been the official organizer of Black Gay Pride for 14 years, also honored Robinson at its Sept. 1 candlelight vigil. ITLA Executive Director Raymond Duke was at the vigil for Robinson on Aug. 28 and said Robinson will be sorely missed, but in his death he has brought people together.
“It’s affected the community in two ways. It’s hurt people. It’s a tragic loss. But it’s also brought people together and showed us life is valuable,” Duke said. “He’ll be missed but his spirit will live on in all these people here.”
Somber and celebratory vigil
More than 100 people attended a touching, somber, but also celebratory candlelight vigil for Robinson. Testimonials from friends and business partners and associates were given, yellow helium balloons were released into the sky, drag queen Necole Luv Dupree entertained the crown with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and the vigil ended with the DJ playing Robinson’s favorite song, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” a 1979 hit by R&B duo McFadden & Whitehead. After the music started, dozens of people broke out into the Electric Slide.
Phillip Boone, who owned Traxx with Robinson, told the crowd he would miss his friend.
“Keep the family in your prayers, keep all of the Traxx family in your prayers. And when you are around anyone, at the grocery store or the library, wherever you at, turn around and always speak to the person next to you because that’s what Durand always did,” Boone said. “He spoke to everyone around him. And if you could do that it will make this world a better place … and you will keep his memory in our hearts.”
Josh Noblitt, minister of social justice at Saint Mark United Methodist Church, also attended the candlelight vigil.
“I was really sad to hear about his death. I didn’t know him personally but I feel it’s important to stand in solidarity with people important to our community,” Noblitt said.
“As a minister when these things happen they resonate with me and I try to show up, be present in prayer and my thoughts.”
Noblitt was attacked and robbed July 2 in Piedmont Park in what has been deemed a hate crime by the APD. What happened to him also played a small role in his attendance at the vigil.
“I understand what this kind of violence can do to a community, to a family. I just wanted to be present,” he said.
Robinson known as a family man
Robinson was known by many as “Uncle Durand” and “Daddy Durand,” and was described as a “selfless” man who raised his sister’s children but also influenced numerous young people in the black gay community in Atlanta.
Jermaine Heslin, 26, of Atlanta, said he remembered hanging out outside Traxx when he was 15 with other teens. Back then, the club was located on Marietta Street.
“He never let us in the club but would let us hang out outside and dance around,” Heslin remembered at the vigil.
Heslin said that when he was old enough to get into the club, Robinson encouraged him to be honest with himself as a gay man.
“He really brought me out of my shell.”
When news broke that Robinson had been killed, people and club promoters from across the nation reached out to Traxx Atlanta and the Atlanta black gay nightlife community.
“More than anything, he wanted us to all be together. This weekend we are going to celebrate him and his life. He was about unity and giving and that is what this weekend is about,” said Avian Watson, spokesperson for Traxx Girls.
Watson said that even though Robinson wasn’t gay, he loved Traxx, a mostly gay party and promotions company, “because he loved people from all walks of life.”
“He was very selfless and would do anything at any moment for anyone,” she said. “[Pride] weekend is about giving back and that is what he was about. He was always giving of himself. His life was about unity and giving.”
Police investigation continues
According to a preliminary police report, Robinson was found in southwest Atlanta lying in the middle of Hadlock Street with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was found shortly after 1 a.m. Aug. 25.
The preliminary report stated: “Residence at Hadlock Street SW called 911 at 0123 hours to report a person injured. Grady EMS and Fire Rescue units were already on the scene. The victim was deceased on scene by an apparent gunshot wound. Residence at Hadlock Street SW heard a commotion in the street followed by a single gunshot and the sound of a vehicle speeding off. The residence advised that when they looked out they saw the victim lying in the street and called 911.”
APD spokesperson Carlos Campos said Aug. 31 that police are following “promising leads,” but he could not disclose anything else by press time.
Senior Patrol Officer Patricia Powell, the LGBT liaison for the APD, is also aware of the incident and is in constant communication with community members, Campos added.
“The Atlanta Police Department’s Homicide Unit is investigating all possibilities concerning the shooting death of Durand Robinson in the early morning hours of Aug. 25. It has reached no conclusions or made any determinations on whether this case will be classified as a ‘bias crime.’ Homicide presently has no suspects or significant information on a motive, but is actively pursuing several leads. We cannot comment or speculate further, due to the ongoing nature of the investigation,” Campos added in a statement.
As news of Robinson’s death spread, many who didn’t know him assumed from his work that he must be gay. His brother, however, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Robinson was planning to marry a girlfriend. And Robinson’s close friends and coworkers at Traxx, the popular black gay nightclub, say Robinson never discussed either a girlfriend or being gay with them.
Speculation about Robinson’s sexual orientation is taking away from the real situation — a man was killed and police need to find the suspect, Boone said.
“This was not a hate crime. The story should be about finding the culprit who did this to a great, loving man,” Boone said.
The APD agreed.
“The APD will not get involved in determining Mr. Robinson’s sexual orientation. Our priority is to bring his killer to justice,” Campos said.
“If our investigation uncovers evidence that Mr. Robinson was targeted for any reason that fits our definition of a ‘bias crime’ — including his race, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation — we will take the appropriate actions to alert authorities who have the option to prosecute under that criteria.”
Top photo: Phillip Boone (center, purple shirt), owner of Traxx, holds a member of Durand Robinson’s family during an Aug. 28 candlelight vigil. (by Dyana Bagby)
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