Atlantans, local businesses celebrate Pride

Saint Germain Bakery at Ponce City Market is offering Pride macarons. Contributed by Saint Germain Bakery
Saint Germain Bakery at Ponce City Market is offering Pride macarons. Contributed by Saint Germain Bakery

Because of the pandemic, Pride celebrations are smaller but the LGBT movement is as big as ever.

This time last year Atlanta Eagle, one of the city’s oldest gay nightclubs, would have hosted more than 3,000 people a night celebrating Pride; this year, it’s much more subdued.

“We are not doing anything official for Pride. We are open, and people can come together to celebrate. But we won’t try to bring out the big numbers like in years past,” says Richard Ramey, who has owned the Midtown club for 23 years.

The Pride parade and celebrations in Atlanta are primarily are in October. However, June is officially Pride month, meant to commemorate the Stonewall Inn riots, when in 1969 patrons of a gay nightclub in Greenwich Village, many of whom were black and transgender, fought back against a police raid. It is generally credited as the start of the Gay Rights Movement.

Corporations, restaurants and individuals face the challenge of celebrating Pride during a pandemic when employees are at home and many businesses temporarily shuttered. The recent Black Lives Matter events may have furthered halted celebrations or, for many, resulted in the Pride celebrations embracing the cause of racial equality as complementary to gay rights.

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“Our Pride month activities will be more modest this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this painful time of addressing racism and injustice within our society,” says Jaymie Robinson, assistant manager, corporate affairs, for American Honda Motor Co. The company will celebrate virtual Pride Day on June 27 with social media posts created in zoetrope style with digital parade imagery. Honda facilities will display posters that feature photos of Honda associates at past Pride Month events and many, including Atlanta, will also raise the rainbow flag.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines also shifted its activities. CEO Ed Bastian signed a letter supporting anti-hate legislation, and the company’s affinity group, Equal, sent a letter to employees. “It’s a little different this year, and frankly Delta’s financial position has changed,” said Michael Thomas, senior manager of corporate communications at Delta. “But we are focusing on the intersection between those of us in the gay community and our allies and what we can do to support Pride in the new reality. Pride, at its core, is to celebrate who you are. It’s interesting that with BLM, it is another way for other groups to come together. We’re trying to promote a community of equality. It definitely renewed the conversation of social injustices and again see the intersection of people of color who are gay, lesbian, trans with the Black Lives Matter movement.”

The Pride flags fly proudly at Delta Air Lines’ headquarters. Contributed by Delta Air Lines
The Pride flags fly proudly at Delta Air Lines’ headquarters. Contributed by Delta Air Lines

One of those quoted in the Delta letter was from employee Samuel Peraza who wrote, “Celebrating Pride from home is super unique, but I feel in a way we are more connected online than we were in person… Today, we see social injustice being protested and the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, many people forget that Pride began as a result of protests too.” Adding, “Being able to celebrate Pride virtually this year has been a way to educate ourselves about queer BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) and how to better support them and advocate for them, that has been especially moving.”

Like Delta, Atlanta-based Mercedes-Benz of America is still honoring the month. Its Business Resource Group, Unity, is holding discussions with allies and employees about advocacy and gender in the workplace. They also are donating pizza from the Firepit Pizza Tavern, a Grant Park restaurant owned by Leslie Cohen, a winner of the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” who is gay. The pizzas will be delivered by Mercedes-Benz employees who are members of the LGBT community.

There are, however, other Pride activities. “Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America” is a four-film festival that tells stories of LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers who settled in the U.S. The festival started June 11 and the next films are: “Changing the Game,” Michael Barnett’s look at the challenges of transgendered high school athletes; “The Gospel According to Andrew,” Kate Novack’s examination of fashion editor Andre Leon Talley, and the final one is Gabrielle Zilkha’s “Queering the Script,” where celebrities and others ponder the history of queer women’s representation on television.

The series is free but donations to the host nonprofits (Georgia Equality and Out on Film) will be accepted. Each installment can be watched at outonfilm.org and georgiaequality.org.

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Atlanta Pride plans on a commemoration for an Atlanta Pride Black Lives Matters event June 25 that will be a socially distant vigil and other spiritual programming in memory of lives lost due to police violence and brutality. The organization is also offering “Virtual Insanity,” several shows that include comedy, concerts, and other topics.

Heather Mae and Crys Matthews, a Washington DC-based duo, are presenting “Singing OUT: the First-ever Virtual Pride Tour.” They were set to perform in various clubs across the country, including Decatur’s Eddie Attic, when the pandemic hit. They decided to “take our activism and make it virtual,” says Mae. Tickets are $15, and it’s a Zoom-like experience where the performers and audience see each other. “You feel empowered, and it may be even stronger than gathering in person,” she says. “We are getting people from all over the country uniting and expanding the meaning of Pride.”

Heather Mae (left) and Crys Matthews were supposed to play at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur this month. Instead, they are presenting “Singing OUT: The First-ever Virtual Pride Tour.” Contributed by Heather Mae
Heather Mae (left) and Crys Matthews were supposed to play at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur this month. Instead, they are presenting “Singing OUT: The First-ever Virtual Pride Tour.” Contributed by Heather Mae

Front Runners’ annual Pride Run is canceled, but they are hosting virtual Atlanta Pride Run & Walk 5K where participants can choose any virtual 5K course to run. Front Runners is partnering with Joining Hearts to raise money for Atlanta area HIV healthcare agencies.

And, even restaurants and stores are doing their bit to celebrate. Saint Germain Bakery at Ponce City Market is offering a few Pride specials with rainbow macarons, a rainbow cake and rainbow Eiffel Tower key chains. Cremalosa, a Decatur gelato shop, is offering a rainbow sorbet cup that comes with three fruity flavors. Hampton + Hudson is offering a Pride cocktail this month called "Empress Pride" made with Empress gin, lemon, simple syrup, blackberry soda and a rainbow straw for the final touch. When 18.21 Bitters at Ponce City Market reopens this month, they will donate a percent of proceeds to Lost 'n Found, which helps homeless LGBT youth.

Even if the acknowledgments are more subdued this year, Ramey says there is still a “need to show our true colors and remind people of the struggles, how we got here and have so much more to go. We’ve got to fight and let our voices be heard. It’s also important for our community to support Black Lives Matter and have all of us stand together and united as one. We have to have equal justice for everyone.”

How does Ramey suggest people support Pride? “If you’re not comfortable getting out or going to bars, donate to one of the charities that further our cause. Reach out to those organizations that are continuing the fight.”

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