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|Perfect weather brings tens of thousands to 40th annual Atlanta Pride|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Friday, 15 October 2010 00:00|
Tens of thousands flocked to Piedmont Park last weekend to celebrate the 40th year of Atlanta Pride and were greeted with clear skies and warm weather, perfect for lying on the grass and listening to music, marching and circling the marketplace for free swag.
For organizers, this year was also one that desperately needed to go well.
“It was a really, really good Pride,” said James Parker Sheffield, executive director of Atlanta Pride, reflecting on the Oct. 9-10 festival. “Atlanta had been needing that. I was really glad we could deliver.”
Sheffield said he knows there are people in the city who still wish the annual festival was held in June to coincide with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the 1969 uprising at a New York City gay bar regarded as sparking the modern gay rights movement. But he said he hopes this year’s fest proves that Atlanta Pride can be held in October.
“I think we were finally able to let people know that Atlanta is back — it’s Pride again and this does make sense,” he said.
After 11 years working for Atlanta Pride, Sheffield said this year was the first he remembers that it did not rain at all during the weekend.
And it was hot.
“I remember thinking that I can’t believe we used to do this in June when it was 20 degrees hotter,” he said. “When you have all volunteers working, they are all at serious risk and at times I was worried [this Pride] that it was too hot for some — they just can’t go sit in the shade when they are stationed to work,” he explained. “June seems unfair.”
This year’s parade was also the longest in recent memory, taking some two hours to finish and with more entries than in years past.
The 2010 festival also goes into the history books for the strong showing of city leaders and other elected officials, Sheffield said. Those in attendance included Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta Police Chief George Turner, Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan, numerous candidates running for office in the November election, and longtime Pride supporter U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
“This year was good for the city. We had a strong showing of elected officials and I hope it follows through all year,” Sheffield said.
AJC skips Pride coverage in print
Unfortunately, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the state’s only daily newspaper, failed to mention the fest at all in the Oct. 11 print edition and only ran eight photos on its website of the weekend-long event.
In an e-mail exchange with AJC Public Editor Shawn McIntosh, GA Voice reader Mike Canfield took the newspaper to task for failing to cover one of the city’s largest annual festivals in its print edition.
“200,000 people, yes, two hundred thousand people came to Atlanta and had a good time and spent a lot of money and NOT ONE WORD in today’s paper,” Canfield wrote in an e-mail Oct. 11. “Not One?”
McIntosh responded, saying that the AJC sent photographers and published their photos online but that the coverage was “overlooked” in the print edition of the paper.
“We were there and even shot a lot of photos, which ran online,” McIntosh responded. “Unfortunately, the coverage somehow got overlooked in print. Sorry.”
McIntosh was not pleased with that response.
“Sorry? You have no idea how livid I was when I wrote that letter,” McIntosh wrote back. “‘Sorry’ doesn’t cut it. ‘Sorry’ is so shallow as to be an insult. ‘Somehow got overlooked’ is an inexcusable reply.”
McIntosh, who acknowledged the explanation was “lame” in a further email to Canfield, did not return a call seeking comment.
Sheffield said he was “absolutely shocked” there was no print coverage in the AJC.
“The parade [on Sunday] is the largest on-street event in the city and the state. I’m absolutely shocked,” he said. Sheffield added press releases went out to each local media outlet, including the AJC, with pitches for its 40th anniversary informing them of the event, when it was taking place and how to contact them for story ideas.
NBC affiliate 11 Alive News included a live streaming video of the parade on its web page.
Dyke, trans marchers speak out
Nick Smith, 24, of Atlanta, was attending his first Atlanta Pride with his lesbian friends Shannon Roberts, 26, and Brittany Hikelbeck, 22, of Warner Robbins.
He said he was marching in this year’s Dyke March “because I’m gay and I love gay people.”
Roberts said she and her friend, who hugged as they marched through Midtown as part of the annual Dyke March, came to their first Atlanta Pride despite a flat tire and their car overheating.
“And we still made it here,” she said.
Her reason for marching in the Dyke March?
“Because I’m a dyke,” she said. “I love it. It’s not too popular [to be out] where we’re from.”
Charone Pagett, an Agnes Scott 2007 graduate, said she’s marched nearly every year in the Dyke March. This year she marched as part of a Queer Femme contingent carrying a large banner that read, “Femmes Are Powerful.”
“This one I marched for femme empowerment. This year is all about the femmes!” she said after the march that attracted hundreds.
“This year I’m really coming into my power as a femme, really owning it. It’s two coming out processes — to come out queer and a femme,” she added.
Also attending his first Atlanta Pride was Jace Tyler, 22, of Mobile, Ala.. As a transman who transitioned three years ago, he said he was thrilled to march in his first Trans March that included dozens of people marching and chanting through the market place to many onlookers and some applause. This year Atlanta Pride partnered with TransQueer Nation to sponsor the second annual Trans March.
“Transgender people get left out so it’s nice to show everyone we’re here,” he said.
Sicily Skye and Tristan Skye are founders of TransQueer Nation. For Sicily Skye, the Trans March is about family.
“It’s about us coming together and supporting each other,” she said. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Carmen Laurent, 17, a transgender woman from Lawrenceville, decided to march in the Trans March because it was a great opportunity to meet other men and women going through same thing she is — “and so people know we are here.”
Laurent said she began her transition in the sixth grade.
“In 10th grade I realized it was more than that. My soul, my essence, is a woman,” she said.
Showing the world
Dozens of couples exchanged vows at the Commitment Ceremony on Saturday evening at the Piedmont Park Pavilion. Whether dressed in shorts or formal wear, many were tearful as they exchanged vows in a non-denominational service.
“I have for four and a half years wanted her to be my life, and she is my life,” said Delorean Casher, who joined in the ceremony with her partner, CJ Gurney, both clad in purple evening gowns. “And we decided that this was our first opportunity to commit ourselves to each other and to start that life together. We are going to do of course something smaller with friends and family at another time, but I wanted to show the world that this is my wife.”
La Shonda Herring wore a white gown to say “I do” with Rachel Lee, who dressed in white shirt and pants. The ceremony demonstrated not only their commitment to each other, but also to the world, Herring said.
“For me it is public statement to say that we love each other, we care about each other, and we are not ashamed of who we are,” she said.
— Laura Douglas-Brown and Ryan Watkins contributed
Top photo: Atlanta Pride volunteers carry the giant rainbow flag during the 2010 parade on Sunday, Oct. 10 (by Bo Shell)
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