Atlanta Pride organizers said they continue to plan the annual celebration – events in both June and the festival in October – with hopes that the coronavirus pandemic won’t sideline them like it has so many other large public gatherings.
Pride’s in-person events have been canceled through April, but Stonewall Month in June is still on, as is planning for the 50th Atlanta Pride celebration in October, according to Pride Executive Director Jamie Fergerson.
“We have all heard questions about whether or not our 50th Atlanta Pride Celebration will continue as planned,” Fergerson said in an email to Pride supporters on Thursday. “As of right now, our sponsors and partners are optimistic, and we are continuing our planning.”
Pride officials can wait until July to make a decision whether to postpone the main event, which is currently set for Oct. 9-11.
“Our decision window is roughly three months before the event, and a lot can (and will) change by then," Fergerson said. "We are financially sound and prepared to continue our programs and keep our commitments to our staff and community for the foreseeable future."
Pride will decide the fate of Stonewall Month events in June by the first week of May, she added.
“Our decisions will be based on what is in the best interest of our community, with the highest regard to our public health and safety,” Fergerson said.
Pride staff has been working from home instead of the office in the Rush Center and shifted planning sessions to virtual meetings.
Fergerson also announced the hiring of a program staff member, who starts on Monday. The former program manager left in early February; the organization’s outreach and events specialist resigned in December. The departures came as the organization faced criticism from longtime volunteers and resignations from board members and Atlanta Pride Committee volunteers.
Fergerson said the new program manager will work with the Events Committee and Pride staff members to “build a virtual community” to offer help during the pandemic.
“Be on the lookout for a robust set of programs in the next few days,” Fergerson said.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted scores of LGBTQ businesses, non-profits, healthcare providers and organizations. Read our full coverage here.
Here's the full statement from Fergerson:
Hello Atlanta Pride Family,
I wanted to reach out on behalf of our staff, members, and the Board of Directors in the hopes that you and your loved ones are safe and well. None of us were prepared for the current threat to our health or the level of disruption to our livelihoods and rituals that inspire and entertain us.
We know there are already members of our Atlanta Pride community who have been deeply impacted by the novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, in various ways. Some in the community are sick, and some are healthcare providers. Some are struggling with the mental health ramifications of isolation and a global pandemic. Others are caring for loved ones who have become ill or have increased childcare or eldercare work. Most of us are self-isolating and many are experiencing significant interruptions in work and income. All this being said, we want to be clear that you and your well-being are constantly on our minds and we are right there with you.
When you turn on the news and see the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and the disruptions of our daily lives, it is hard to not feel overwhelmed. But Atlanta Pride and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole have always been incredibly resilient in the face of adversity. The fact that we are experiencing this during our 50th year resounds the notion even more that if anyone knows how to get through this, it is us. We will get through this — together.
Our first priority during this crisis is to take care of the APC members we serve. We have made available funds to support APC members who need food assistance during this time. We began hosting all of our meetings virtually and all staff have been working from home for the last ten days. In a time of social distancing, we at APC understand that now more than ever it is most important for us to see and hear each other as we adapt to the new normal. We’re grateful for the technology and resources that make this possible. We also know there is a rekindling and a reunion on the other side of this, and for that we can’t wait.
Additionally, our Events Committee and staff – including a new dedicated program staff member will join us Monday – have pivoted their work to look at ways in which we can build a virtual community in a time of physical distance. Be on the lookout for a robust set of programs in the next few days. We are also working to support our small business partners and grantees, understanding their emergent needs and using our networks to connect them with relevant resources. Our media team is hard at work sharing valuable information about wellness resources, assistance for those in need, and volunteer opportunities, so please watch our social media for that information.
We are in touch with local officials and our global Pride organizing colleagues to monitor the changing events and community landscape in order to help us monitor best practices. We are also working on connecting with our sponsors and partners, assuring them that we are here with them to work through this.
We have all heard questions about whether or not our 50th Atlanta Pride Celebration will continue as planned. As of right now, our sponsors and partners are optimistic and we are continuing our planning. Our decision window is roughly three months before the event, and a lot can (and will) change by then. We are financially sound and prepared to continue our programs and keep our commitments to our staff and community for the foreseeable future.
If you would like a fun challenge while we are largely restricted to our homes and our computers, please share any ideas with us for who you’d like to see as a Grand Marshall this year. The application window is now open, and we want to find folks worthy of leading our golden anniversary celebration.
Our in-person events have been cancelled through the end of April. Stonewall Month planning for events in June continues as normal, for now. We will make decisions about June events no later than the first week of May. Our decisions will be based on what is in the best interest of our community, with the highest regard to our public health and safety.
In times like these, human beings can show their best sides. Please keep our Pride alive by sharing as much love and compassion as you can. Join us in our immense appreciation of those in the medical field on the front lines of this pandemic. Ask for help or a sympathetic ear when you need it. We build community to share our commonalities and draw strength. Imagine the collective spirit you felt during our Pride celebrations — remember that spirit is still right here, and you will realize that you are not alone!
Take good care,
Atlanta Pride Committee