SING THEM OUT
First, we want to shout out 2019 as the 50th anniversary of the creating of the Georgia Gay Liberation Front.
Five weeks after Stonewall, the catalyst for the GGLF was the August 5, 1969 police raid on the Ansley Mall Mini Cinema screening of Andy Warhol's "Lonesome Cowboys", featuring - gasp - fully naked cowboys poking around each other.
Community outrage over the raid lead to the GGLF, and the major founders have all gone on to Gay Heaven: Bill Smith, Steve Abbott, Vicki Gabriner, Severin (also known as Paul Dolan) who was the first transgender leader here, and most recently on October 6th, Berl Boykin.
Through the 70s, John Howell was a great community builder and has a Virginia Avenue park named for him, and Charlie St. John was the first openly gay anything, as the first gay appointee to Atlanta's Community Relations Commission in 1972.
For our theme of the fight against AIDS, we want to celebrate folks who lead the combat, some of whom succumbed in the process.
Luminaries in the LGBTQ African American community were Melvin Ross, Gene Holloway, and Greg Worthy, and just last year, Lendon Sadler who grew up on Auburn Avenue and co-founded the GGLF. Marcia Davenport was also a leader among women.
In the desert of any government campaign against AIDS, we as a people saved ourselves. Chief among our salvation was AID Atlanta, spearheaded by late interior designer Graham Bruton, and bringing ADAC into the mix from the very beginning. The late David Harris became AID Atlanta's first staff person, abetted by Peter Albierti, Dr. John Kopchak, Dr. Bernie Short, and Caitlin Ryan, all still with us.
Now living in D.C., Ken South brought AID Atlanta to national stature when he lead the agency.
Refusing to be victims, people with AIDS birthed their own groups, and John Kappers founded a major one, People Living With AIDS. Southeastern Arts and Media Education (SAME) made a documentary about him, produced by our posthumous honoree last year Rebecca Ranson, who also wrote one of the first plays about AIDS, "Warren" in 1984.
Journalists Ralph Ginn, T Hoff, James Moore, publisher of ETC Magazine Pat Coleman, and ETC editor Ray Kluka, all editorialized about fighting AIDS and not people with AIDS.
Of course there was Greg Troia, bartender at the Armory, who envisioned the Armorettes, who entertain us tonight. The late Armorettes are enshrined in the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, headquartered in Atlanta and lead by our past honoree Julie Rhoad.
Political action was imperative, and activists from the Democratic National Convention here in 1988 inaugurated an Atlanta ACT UP chapter, lead by Melinda Daniels, Linda Meredith, journalist and playwright Steve Murray, Will Simson, and the late attorney Chip Rowan.
Finally changing people's hearts and minds through religion was a major focus. Late psychologist Gary Piccola was a major co-founder of Atlanta's first LGBTQ synagogue Bet Haverim, and the late activist David Chewning spoke to Bible Belt conservatives through Evangelical Outreach Ministries.
We sing them all out. So many folks so little time.
STORY ON RICHARD RHODES
Atlanta legendary activist Richard Rhodes passed away on July 21, 2019, just a few weeks short of his 82nd birthday.
A native of Tampa, Florida, Richard was caught up in the Johns Committee frenzy in Florida from about 1955 - 1965, as the state declared war on gay men, harassing them outside gay bars and arresting them inside the bars on trumped up solicitation charges. Always a wit, Richard would laugh that "they always sent the hottest undercover cops inside to entrap gay men!" He also reported that patrons could be arrested for loitering in the bars if they did not have a drink in their hand; " I always had a drink in my hand!" Richard retorts.
Similar to the Joseph McCarthy witch hunt tactics, those arrested were asked to name names, and Richard discovered that he was on the list. Within a matter of days, he fled Florida for upstate New York, and although he was an only child, did not tell his parents where he was for several years. "My folks were law abiding citizens and if they knew where I was, they would give me up to the authorities, so I didn't let them know where I went. Don't ask, don't tell."
After returning to Florida in the late 60s, Richard moved to Atlanta in 1971.
The second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987 made him an activist, and in 1988 he and Melinda Daniels became the first openly gay man and lesbian woman - from Georgia - to be delegates to the Democratic National Convention held in Atlanta in 1988. Subsequently Richard became a delegate to the 1992 DNC, and also the first openly gay man to head the DeKalb Democratic party in 1993.
For good measure, he and Gil Robison ran for the Georgia House of Representatives in 1988 as the first openly gay candidates. Neither won, but there is now an LGBT caucus of five in the Georgia House.
Until his sudden passing from a stroke, Richard would tout "if you want to know anything about being old and lgbt in Atlanta, come to me!" He lived up to his hype serving as president of the gay men's group Prime Timers, and also as president of the Atlanta chapter of SAGE (formerly known as Senior Action in a Gay Environment). In SAGE he had a motto "Elmo: Enough, Let's Move On" for those who tended to dominate discussions.
We mourn his passing and celebrate his considerable accomplishments fomenting freedom for all.