Atlanta mayor promotes LGBTQ liaison, refreshes advisory board

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Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms promoted the city’s LGBTQ liaison and added nearly two-dozen new members to her LGBTQ Advisory Board on Friday, moves that she said strengthens her efforts to make Atlanta City Hall more open and inclusive. 

The 23 appointments to the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board bring the panel’s membership to 42. The board is a diverse collection of civic and non-profit officials, religious leaders and business people that Bottoms created shortly after taking office in 2018.

Bottoms’ actions on Friday included elevating Malik Brown – the city’s LGBTQ affairs coordinator – to Atlanta’s first-ever LGBTQ affairs director. Brown’s duties include serving as a liaison to the advisory board. 

“Since taking office, our Administration has prioritized the well-being and advancement of Atlanta’s large and diverse LGBTQ community and municipal LGBTQ affairs,” Bottoms said in a press release. 

“By creating a Director-level LGBTQ Affairs position in the Mayor’s Office and continuing the work of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board, we are creating institutional support for LGBTQ Atlantans,” the mayor added.

Brown said his promotion will help further the administration’s work on LGBTQ issues.

“Mayor Bottoms has been such a passionate leader on issues affecting our most vulnerable constituents, including the LGBTQ community,” Brown said in a press release. 

“I’m honored to continue working alongside her and our dynamic LGBTQ Advisory Board as Atlanta’s first-ever Director of LGBTQ Affairs. We will continue expanding LGBTQ-supportive policies and deepening the City’s support of and relationship with LGBTQ ATLiens,” he added.

Bottoms directed Brown and the advisory board to focus on five areas – youth; arts, entertainment and culture; trans affairs; health; and economic and community development.

Brown works in the Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, a first-of-its-kind office for Atlanta that Bottoms created in 2018. In October, Bottoms appointed Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim as the city’s latest Chief Equity Officer and executive director of the diversity and inclusion office.

Before joining the city, Abdur-Rahim worked at the Future Foundation for 17 years and served as its CEO.

“Qaadirah has extensive experience as a champion for marginalized communities in Atlanta and we are excited to have her join our team,” Bottoms said in appointing Abdur-Rahim. “Our Administration’s focus on equity and opportunity is key to ensuring that all Atlantans benefit from the growing prosperity of our city.”

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood)

LGBTQ Advisory Board adds new members

The actions by Bottoms come as the city enjoys a years-long string of perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. The index ranks hundreds of cities in five areas  — non-discrimination laws, how the city treats its LGBTQ employees, municipal services, law enforcement and relationship with the LGBTQ community.

But the HRC scorecard doesn’t reflect a years-long struggle Bottoms has faced in cleaning up the city’s dysfunctional housing program for low-income people with HIV. The Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program has been plagued by major delays in payments to housing agencies, mistakes in the application process and inconsistencies in funding decisions. 

The city’s dispute with one HOPWA agency led to an eviction crisis, an explosive lawsuit that was later settled and the non-profit filing bankruptcy. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development launched a formal investigation into the city’s program last year. 

In June, the city lost its highest-ranking LGBTQ official when police Chief Erika Shields resigned in the wake of a police-involved shooting death. And Bottoms has faced criticism from City Council member Antonio Brown, the only LGBTQ member of the council, and some LGBTQ activists for her pace in reforming the Atlanta Police Department. 

With the LGBTQ Advisory Board, a pair of co-chairs will lead the panel – Pamela Stewart, a president for the Coca-Cola Company, and new board member Matt Keith, a senior vice president for Bank of America.

The mayor made 22 other new appointments to the board:

  • Lynn Barfield, Operations Manager, Atlanta Pride
  • Melissa Carter, media personality 
  • Travis Currie, Public Relations Manager, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Morgan Darby, Director of Equity & Inclusion, The Children’s School
  • Jon Dean, Owner & Editor-In-Chief, Wussy Mag
  • Bill Dickinson, Founding Partner, C3 Leadership
  • Dr. T.C. Elliot, Founder & Physician, Elysium Health and Wellness  
  • Jason Feldman, Board of Directors, Atlanta Jewish Music Festival
  • Marshall Freeman, Chief Operating Officer, Atlanta Police Foundation
  • Dr. Jodie L. Guest, Professor & Vice Chair, Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University
  • Pierce Hand, Staff Attorney, Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation
  • Isoul Harris, Editor-at-Large, Rolling Out Magazine 
  • Dionne Kettl, Co-Founder & Deputy Director, TRANScending Barriers
  • Logan Kirsch, public health advocate 
  • Jaye Meggs, CEO & Founder, Trans Gentlemen of Excellence
  • Selima Morrow, Director of Outreach & Community Housing, Chris180
  • Dr. Alieizoria Redd, Executive Director, Covenant House Georgia
  • Aaron Rice, Director of Business Engagement, United Way of Greater Atlanta 
  • Reverend Kimble Sorrels, United Church of Christ
  • Hillary Thomas, Associate State Director Advocacy and Outreach, AARP Georgia 
  • Matthew Wilson, State Representative, Georgia House District 80
  • Erica Wright, Founder, Project U First

They will join 18 existing members of the board:

  • Kia Barnes, event producer
  • Gabrielle Claiborne, Co-Founder, Transformation Journeys Worldwide
  • Paul Conroy, Founder, Out Front Theatre Company
  • Lisa Cunningham, CEO, Atlanta Film Partners
  • Matt Garrett, Human Capital Senior Managing Consultant
  • Jeff Graham, Executive Director, Georgia Equality
  • Roshelle Darlene Hudson, Co-Founder, Rustin/Lorde Breakfast
  • Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Founder, Southern Jewish Resource Network 
  • Ivette Lopez, LatinoLinQ
  • Chris Lugo, Executive Director, Out Georgia Business Alliance
  • Tracee McDaniel, Board of Directors, Trans Housing Atlanta Program
  • Sandy Mollett, Founder & CEO, Equal Footing LLC
  • Rev. Dr. Joshua M. Noblitt, Minister, Saint Mark United Methodist Church 
  • Philip Rafshoon, former owner, Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse
  • Brigid Scarbrough, Board of Directors, Human Rights Campaign 
  • Melissa Scott, owner, Soul Bar at Pals Lounge
  • Feroza Syed, Trans Activist 
  • Alex Wan, former Atlanta City Council Member, District 6

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