More On Atlanta Mayor Hopeful, Mary Norwood

Norwood having fun while showing her support for the LGBT community at the '09 Atl Pride Festival.

In case you didn’t see it, I wrote a post titled “State Senator Orrock Calls Out Mary Norwood.” (Check out the link if you missed Senator Orrock’s comments, which were taken from one of her Facebook notes.

On 11/25/09, around 1pm, I sent an email with Senator Orrock’s comments and two questions to the Norwood campaign:

  1. What is your response to Senator Orrock’s statement?
  2. More importantly, why did you abstain from voting on such an important issue for Atlanta’s LGBT community?

I received an email from Roman Levit, Norwood’s campaign manager, around 6pm on 11/25/09.  Even with the runoff around the corner o and each candidate is utilizing every second of the day until then, I wasn’t expecting a response from the Norwood campaign on the same day that I sent the email.

Today, I was not able to get back in touch with Mr. Levit.  We went from email to phone conversation.  He gave a thorough reply to the comments made by Senator Orrock.

I am not going into detail about Mr. Levit’s reply; tomorrow, I will have a few minutes for a face to face interview with Mary Norwood to discuss Senator Orrock’s comments.

More to come tomorrow evening!


More with the Atl Pride Committee Open Letter

A week or so ago, I posted an open letter from the Atlanta Pride Committee. Two people left comments that I felt deserved responses. I asked Deirdre Heffernan, the Atlanta Pride Board Chair, to respond to the comments. Within a few days of receiving the comments, Deirdre sent her responses. Now, that is all kinds of fabulous! Without anymore of rambling, here are the comments with Deirdre’s responses.

from Jess:
I wonder how 2 major events (AIDS Walk and Pride) both asking for money only weeks apart is going to work in the best interest of both, especially in our financial climate. They’re quite important events, and deserve our money, but I can’t help but think that people are going to pick one or the other to donate to.

Deirdre’s Response:
Good question. Couple of thoughts on that…. First, typically businesses earmark the amount of sponsorship dollars in their annual budget. So it does not significantly matter when the event happens. For example, if a business decides they are interested in sponsoring Aids Walk and Pride during the upcoming fiscal year, the dollars are added to the budget, and events will get supported without much relevance on the timing of the two events. In other words, they do not make decisions on how much and who to give it to on a month to month bases. Secondly, I would say there is certainly overlap in our demographics, but the two events do have different audiences. There are many folks that support the Aids Walk that are not patrons of the Pride Festival, and vice versa. I am not saying that there won’t be any single instance where an individual or a small business may not chose to support both events, where in the previous years they did, but I do not think this is something we can’t overcome. And again, I would like to reiterate that our option came down to the Civic Center in June or Piedmont November 1st. We chose the best one for our future. And we will fight like hell to get back to Piedmont in June (if that is what our patrons want) for 2010.

from David:
I find it interesting that the Peachtree Road Race and the Dogwood Festival are able to operate at Piedmont Park on their normal dates, however Pride is forced to change. Hmmmm…2 events that cater predominately to straight people are allowed to proceed, but an event geared toward gay people is treated quite different. It would be interesting to know which event contributes more to the local economy – think, disposable income, out-of-town visitors. I’m wondering how many other people are seeing the inconsistency? There seems to be other factors going on that are not being brought to light – at least not yet. The “grass” excuse has worn thin. I live near the park and go there often, there is nothing wrong with the grass. I would love to ask the Powers-that-be “What’s REALLY going on with this?” and actually get an honest answer. Too many things aren’t making sense with this situation. What’s the real reason they don’t want Pride in the park during the normal time? Like I’ve stated previously, the “grass needing to grow” excuse has worn thin.

Deirdre’s Response:
Great comment, because I think a lot of folks may feel the same way. Over the last six months, I have been in multiple meetings with various city representatives, and I can honestly tell you I do NOT believe there is any sort of conspiracy against the LGBTQ community by the city. I can’t comment on other folks events since I do not have any inside information. (I would suggest you contact either their event manager directly or the Parks Department for details on the other festivals.) However I do feel comfortable stating there was certainly no malice intent that led us to our Oct 30 – Nov 1 weekend. The city WORKED with us to come up with a way to get us back to Piedmont after we came back and told them Central would not work.

To your point about what our event brings in… the city has estimated in the past that our event generates $30 million for the city. That is why Lisa Borders (President, City Council) stepped in to help. She clearly recognized our worth, knew the value to the city, and was instrumental in getting us back to Piedmont. I do not think we would have been back there without her support and I sincerely appreciate it.

From The Atlanta Pride Committee

Below you’ll find an open letter from the Atlanta Pride Committee, and while APC has press releases throughout the year, I do believe this is the first open letter that has been released from the committee. If it isn’t the first, I know it is the first since I have been on the committee.

Please take a few minutes to read the letter below as I think it serves as a spotlight to some important items.

I want to give a hearfelt thank you to my fellow committee members who take the time to complete this letter campaign!

An open letter to Atlanta Pride patrons:

The Atlanta Pride Committee continues to receive valuable and unprecedented feedback from all corners of our diverse community, and we must first say thank you. It is clear that you care as much as we do about making Atlanta Pride a continuing tradition in our region, as well as an ongoing celebration of the varied facets of our culture.

For that, you have our most sincere gratitude.

With the announcement of our move back home to Piedmont Park — with a date change to Halloween Weekend — we are receiving a refreshing majority of positive response from people excited about the possibilities, and we are also hearing requests for more detail on how we came to that decision.

We are happy to share the efforts we made. And we are just as excited to remind everyone that we are more confident and determined than ever to make sure the 2009 October event will stay true to the real meaning of Pride: celebration of our achievements, reverence for our past and a welcoming environment for those not yet fully “out” who will lead our future struggles toward full equality.

The Atlanta Pride Committee takes our duty very seriously. We share the following details of our work these past months in hopes that concerned parties know how much we’ve accomplished, and to assure everyone that we anticipate a successful Atlanta Pride this year and well into the future.

Does a Pride festival in October respect gay history?
A fall Pride was not our first choice, but we are actually very excited that the new date falls during National LGBT History Month, which also includes National Coming Out Day. Both events go directly to remembering where we’ve been and recognizing the personal and political value of being true to ourselves by living openly.

And we haven’t forgotten Stonewall and its anniversary in June. Our plans include a dynamic lineup of June events with partners representing a wide spectrum of our communitydesigned to commemorate Stonewall. These events, from politics to parties to the commemoration, and will energize everyone and build towardthe community for our October celebration. Ideas for multiple events in June should suit the varied tastes of our patrons. As those plans are solidified, we will be eager to share those with you.

We also want you to know that we realize that the festival’s traditional June date, as well as our home park, is important. We understand that the date change is not ideal for everyone, but we also know that it will not break our spirit. The Pride Committee quickly realized that putting Pride back in Piedmont Park, or another usable, affordable greenspace was the only option to make the organization financially whole. We also look forward to 2010, when drought circumstances improve and more options are available.

What happened since the 2008 festival that got us here?
Amidst continuing drought restrictios that allow only one major festival in Piedmont Park per April-to-October Festival Season (Dogwood has the park in April), the Pride Committee agreed to, then announced, that the 2009 Pride festival would be held in Central Park adjacent to the Atlanta Civic Center. Then the reality of that agreement set in.

A Central Park festival, while in June, required an estimated $150,000 porta-floor to protect the greenscapes and hardscapes of the park. As Pride struggles to overcome the challenges of 2008, the porta-floors alone were cost-prohibitive. Other caveats on using Central Park included no stages or set up on the sod-based athletic fields, placing all festival patrons directly on the fields and putting costs for any foot-traffic damage squarely on the Pride Committee.

We needed a creative solution and looked at several other venues, including detailed logistical and cost analysis on Grant Park and Centennial Park, among other venues. Several options considered over months led us to plead our case to the City of Atlanta to satisfy the number one comment from our constituents: How can we get back into Piedmont Park?

The Parks Department and the City Council were responsive, and by holding the festival at the end of October, we not only comply with their Festival Season rules, but are also able to take advantage of the cooler weather, the energy around Halloween and most importantly, the spirit of LGBT History Month.

The weekend of Oct. 31-Nov. 1 was not our first choice. But we are committed to making the most of it.

Is Atlanta Pride in financial trouble?
In short, yes. No one should underestimate the importance of making Pride 2009 a financial success. But don’t be alarmed. Making sure that the event is sustainable for the future is a top priority, and the threats to the solvency we’ve enjoyed for many years are challenges that we must view as opportunities to recover. We know that our renewed energy as Pride Committee Members, a revitalized commitment from our sponsors, and support from each and every lesbian, gay man, bisexual and transgendered person in Atlanta, can turn it around.

The unfortunate circumstances of the last year left us strapped for operating expenses, and like many organizations, that necessitated tough decisions and creative thinking. But we remain committed to the values of Pride. We have a wonderfully supportive community and amazing resilience. The perseverance of our community has proven itself throughout history, and we know that by pulling together, we can clear this hurdle.

What can you do?
That’s a good question. Our theme this year, PRIDE BEGINS WITH YOU, reflects the start of a good answer. Whether you can offer your time or skills, a sponsorship, booth or monetary investment, or simply your word-of-mouth support, we welcome your collaboration. Quite frankly, we exist for you, and you are part of the process.

Let us know how you’d like to participate. Ideas and solutions are always welcome as we move forward. In the meantime, come aboard for what we know will be an amazing year of chances to honor Pride leading up to a climactic October to inspire the best in all of us. After all, it’s ultimately not about a venue or date, but about each of us individually and collectively. It’s a matter of Pride.

With Pride,
Your Atlanta Pride Committee

Atlanta Pride Changes Date and Venue

Yes, the date and venue have changed again for the Atlanta Pride Festival; however, I assure you there is more than enough reason. Every year I hear so many gay peeps complain about different aspects of Pride, whenever I hear it directly, I challenge those people to become part of the organize. Being part of something is the best way to start change. However, the complainers never seem to volunteer– at the least ones I encounter.

Hopefully, I’ll have an Atlanta Pride interview in the blog within the near future.

Below is the press release addressing the date/venue change:

Reinvigorated Atlanta Pride ’09 in Piedmont Park for Halloween Weekend

City officials help Pride Committee embrace change as part of new attitude

ATLANTA, JAN. 27, 2009 — 2008 brought many challenges to finding a suitable venue for the Atlanta Pride 2009. There has been uncooperative weather, unforeseen hurdles and unprecedented community feedback. But finally, in cooperation with the Atlanta City Council, the Atlanta Pride Committee is thrilled to announce that the Annual Pride Atlanta Pride festival will return Piedmont Park for 2009 — with a an exciting twist: the event kicks off on October31, alongside Halloween’s spirit of revelry and celebration that gay Atlanta already embraces as its own.

Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders and Parks Commissioner Diane Harnell-Cohen understood that moving Atlanta Pride back to Piedmont Park was important to pleasing the festival’s patrons and crucial to keeping the organization solvent. Both worked hard with Atlanta Pride to find a solution to permit the festival back into Piedmont while also respecting the City’s parameters of limiting Class-A events in the park to one per Festival Season (April-October). By starting Pride on October 31, the City of Atlanta will be able to again grant the festival access to its traditional home – Piedmont Park.

“The number one thing we heard from the community in 2008 was a desire to move back to Piedmont Park.” Heffernan says.

Harnell-Cohen says she understands that drought-induced limitations on park usage put an unfortunate burden on festivals, but also acknowledges the importance of festivals to the City. “We value the festivals as a rich part of Atlanta’s culture and are pleased to work with Pride to get them back in a venue that will allow them to produce a sustainable event,” she says.

Borders agrees that supporting Atlanta Pride was a duty the City could not ignore. “When I was approached by the Pride committee, it was clear there was more we could do to help,” Borders says. “It was with great pleasure that we found a creative solution to support this festival for the LGBT members of the Atlanta community.”

Heffernan is happy with the city’s response, and she acknowledges the rough road that led to a renewed vigor among committee members. “At first, the date-change felt controversial. We have always held Pride during the summer months. But we quickly realized that an October Pride will dovetail with other community milestones.”

The Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2009 Atlanta Pride festival leads directly into Atlanta City elections and wraps up National LGBT History Month. Holding Pride in October, which also includes National Coming Out Day, the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, as well as the Atlanta AIDS Walk, allows the committee to realize another of its rediscovered goals: to energize its relationships with even more individuals and organizations in the community. “We hope that everyone will be able to claim a part of Pride 2009 and our theme reflects this goal: PRIDE BEGINS WITH YOU”

“Pride belongs to everyone, and the Pride Committee can’t possibly produce an event of this magnitude by ourselves. So as the country talks about inclusion, we ask each and every lesbian, gay man, bisexual and transgendered person to claim a piece of your festival.”

Heffernan assures all that June will still be a time to celebrate. “We will be acknowledging the 40th anniversary of Stonewall in June,” Heffernan says. “We have several surprises in June that will provide exciting opportunities to come together and celebrate while also including more partners than ever to build up the excitement and momentum to October event.”

Voting Starts on 12/8/08

The Atlanta Pride Committee wants feedback, so take a moment to vote on the theme for 2009 Atlanta Pride Festival. As seen above, your options:

Stonewall to Atlanta: Our Story Continues
Become The Impact
Pride Begins With You

I am casting my vote for Become The Impact because it is versatile (no jokes from the peanut gallery).

Become The Impact can be political– write your elected officials, so they know how you feel about the issue. Or, simply make an impact by voting. It can be non-political— Become the Impact by volunteering or making a donation to a nonprofit. Become the Impact by simply coming out to someone who has been in the dark about your sexual orientation. Become The Impact by recycling and/or buying green friendly products.

There so many ways we can Become The Impact.

Tomorrow, visit to vote!

****UPDATE– Change in voting– it will begin on 12/10/08.****

Submit a Theme for the 2009 Atlanta Pride Festival



DECEMBER 6, 2008


JANUARY 3, 2009



2009 Atlanta PRIDE Theme Guidelines
• The theme should be short and to the point, no more than roughly 4-8 words.
• The theme may embody a “call to action”
• The Theme should lend it self to being illustrated via simple graphic design.
• The theme should be able to be translated into floats and costumes for the parade.
• The theme may use a secondary clarifier or “tag line” if necessary and appropriate.
• The theme must harmonize with the tag line of “2009 Atlanta PRIDE Celebration” or “2009 Atlanta PRIDE Festival’.
• Please include your name, address and phone number for verification purposes

Atlanta Pride Selects Date for 2009 Festival

Atlanta Pride Selects Date for 2009 Festival

The 2009 Atlanta Pride Festival will be held at Central Park on the weekend of June 26, 27, and 28, 2009.

ATLANTA, October 6, 2008 – After reaching consensus with the City of Atlanta and the other Class A festivals in town that Pride 2009 would be held in Central Park, the Atlanta Pride Committee has selected June 26th, 27th, and 28th as the weekend for next year’s festival.

“We know that the community has been waiting anxiously for the dates for Pride 2009.” says Deirdre Heffernan, Pride’s Board Chair, “However, we first needed to ensure a venue that included a workable park. Once we secured Central Park, we were able to take the necessary steps to move our event back to the more traditional and historically significant month of June.”

This return to June is supported by a month-long poll run by Atlanta Pride on its website which asked the community in which month it would like to see Pride held. June was the most favored response at 41% of the votes cast.

The final selection of the actual dates in June was dictated by the availability of the venue. “We are fortunate that Central Park is available for the last full weekend in June. Having Pride 2009 return to a green space in the month of June will really bring the event back to its roots,” said Heffernan.

As the Pride Committee now moves into program planning for the 2009 festival, it encourages community members to forward ideas on how to improve future Pride events by emailing ideas to “Obviously we have time constraints, financial limitations, and city ordinances that impact the services and entertainment we are able to offer, but Pride is constantly working to find ways for our organization and festival to better meet the needs of our community. And we would love to hear from the community how their Pride experiences might be enhanced,” says Heffernan.


The Atlanta Pride Festival, an event organized by the non-profit Atlanta Pride Committee, promotes unity, visibility and self-esteem among lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender persons. The celebration traditionally includes entertainment, a marketplace, charity poker tournament, slam poetry event, commitment ceremony, dyke march and parade. The festival is supported through donations and sponsorships.