After a nomination process open to the public, nine individuals and three groups will share the honor of leading Atlanta Pride’s big gay parade through Midtown on Oct. 11.
This year’s individual honors go to an ashram spiritual leader, a Muslim community organizer, an LGBT-allied mom and teacher, an HIV and domestic violence activist, a small-town Pride director, a clinical psychologist and lifetime LGBT rights activist, and a recently deceased gay Atlanta activist and out World War II veteran. They were selected by a vote of Atlanta Pride Committee members from names submitted in an open nomination process.
Pride has a recent history of picking multiple grand marshals, including last year’s three couples, nine individuals and two groups. Or six nods in 2011. Or seven in 2013. Or eight in 2012. Of course, it's still nowhere near the 120 grand marshals in 2010.
“Our grand marshals are individuals and organizations who are working tirelessly — and often thanklessly — to advance social, legal, and economic justice for LGBTQ individuals and allies,” Jamie Ferguson, Pride’s incoming director, says in a prepared statement. “Their dedication to service is an inspiration and a call to action for all members of our community to find a way to make a positive change in the world.”
Of the names you might know among this year’s pack is formerly homeless gay teen Daniel Pierce (top photo). After a violent coming out to his family that made national headlines and garnered overflowing community support and even an award, Pierce finally found a home and "family" in gay Atlanta.
Tracee McDaniel (second photo), a transgender activist and organizer of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, also made Pride’s cut. Among her many accomplishments and actions, McDaniel was on the scene when trans workers got state protection and when Atlanta’s mayor needed prodding to include trans people in homeless initiatives.
Three organizations also made the list of honorees. SOJOURN, the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity, worked against Georgia’s anti-gay RFRA bills during this year’s legislative session, and also successfully thwarted anti-gay pastor Charles Stanley from receiving a humanitarian award by putting his sordid anti-gay past on blast.
The Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (bottom photo), which usually does the honoring itself, as well as the group Trans & Friends, are also organizational grand marshals.
Other names to watch for during October’s parade are Ulester Douglas, Charles Stevens, Jaya Devi Bhagavati, Stefani Blackmon, La Trina P. Jackson, Raynae’ Jones, and Gus Kaufman. Get to know a little about each of them below, and read their full bios when you visit Atlanta Pride.
Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
The AGLCC (Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce) exists to promote the economic growth and advancement of our LGBTQ and allied business members, our non-profit organizational members as well as our corporate partners and their employees, through advocacy, leadership, education and support.
Swami Jaya Devi Bhagavati
Swami Jaya Devi Bhagavati is the spiritual director and founder of Kashi Atlanta, a nonprofit Urban Yoga Ashram that has served the spiritual needs of the LGBTQ community for 18 years. Swami teaches weekly classes and weekend immersions to predominately LGBTQ students on how to consume the world and live from the deepest realms of the heart.
I am a wife, a mother and an educator living and teaching in the Cobb County area my entire life. Approaching my 20th year of marriage with my high school sweetheart in 2016, my 20th year of teaching in the fall of 2015, and my son’s 16th birthday in August, this is a time of reflection. All people should be allowed to feel the power and wonder of a family united not just by love, but also by law. After years of LGBTQ advocacy within my classroom, I am happy to co-sponsor the Hillgrove High LGBTQ+ club with my colleague, Kelly Colvin, after she was asked by students for sponsorship. We are the “plus”. We are their allies.
Ulester is executive director of Men Stopping Violence (MSV), a nationally acclaimed organization dedicated to ending male violence against women. He is also a psychotherapist and community organizer with extensive training and experience working with individuals, families and communities marginalized based on social status including gender, race, sex, class and sexual orientation. ... He has authored and co-authored curriculum, book chapters and peer reviewed articles on family violence. ... Ulester serves on the board of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and was recently appointed by the governor to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.
LaTrina P. Jackson
Trina, a Georgia native, serves as a board member and community leader/imam for her local mosque, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) Atlanta chapter. She also serves on the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation an integrated, interfaith, intergenerational, and international peace and justice organization. Trina is a teacher/human dignity advocate as a public high school science teacher in Atlanta, GA. Her other community activating/agitating work includes growing justice in the US criminal justice system through challenging the policies of mass incarceration and the death penalty. Her work also raises awareness about why #Black Lives Matter and its connections to Palestine/ Israel and other US sanctioned violence and imperialism. Her spiritual/philosophical roots are sown deep into both mysticism and naturalism that foments her passion for inter-religious peacebuilding, and local food security.
Jones, 44, was a late bloomer and came out at the age of 32. At that time she was a mother of three. Since then she has been lobbying for LGBTQ rights. Raynae' is the Executive Director of South Georgia Pride in Valdosta, GA and has been volunteering with the organization since 2010. She has been involved in the coordination of their Pride Festival that is held every 3rd Saturday in September. Equality is her passion and she looks forward to the day when she can legally marry her partner of twelve years, Holly Jones. Raynae’ lives in the small town of Stockton, just outside of Valdosta, where her partner is a beekeeper. Their “Lesbian Honey” is a popular treat at festivals. However, Raynae' has many jobs, but out of all she does, being a Mama is her favorite. The couple shares a beautiful two-year-old daughter, Ayla, as well as Raynae's other wonderful children, Loretta, Dianna & Grady. She also loves being a Nana to her three grandchildren.
Gus B. Kaufman, Jr., Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and longtime social activist. He cut his teeth as an activist writing and editing for the Great Speckled Bird underground paper, and went on to co-found five nonprofit organizations, including Men Stopping Violence and The Rainbow Project, devoted to ending abuse in LGBT relationships. He has worked to bring these together with his passions for justice and authenticity—all tied to his work on gender and sexual orientation. Gus is a former national vice-chair of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a 100-year-old peace and justice group. ... Gus loves nature and people and is an out, proud, single gay man.
Transgender Advocate Tracee McDaniel is motivated by a strong desire to ensure that all transgender and gender non-conforming people also receive Equality, Justice and Human Rights protections. Tracee was the first transgender person invited to deliver a key-note speech at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in 2007 has lobbed the United States Congress to support a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and to increase HIV/AIDS funding. Tracee founded Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, and organization that provides fundamental services to the transgender community including transitional and emergency housing. JCT is also is the official organizer of the Atlanta Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) celebration, the annual vigil that memorializes transgender and gender non-conforming people who have been lost to murder or suicide. Additionally, Tracee has served on the Atlanta Police Department’s L.G.B.T. Advisory Board, Mayor Reed’s Working Group on Prostitution (WGOP), and is a member of the Board of Directors for Transgender Health and Educational Alliance. Tracee is also a Vetted Trainer for the United States Department of Justice and faciliates transgender cultural compentency trainings for law enforcement agencies. Most recently, Tracee briefed the White House on how economic inequality affects transwomen of color.
Daniel Ashley Pierce is a Lost N Found Youth success story. He is a student at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw Georgia. He is a resident of Acworth Georgia just a few miles from his hometown of Kennesaw. He has a wonderful partner and a Chihuahua. Daniel was a subject of a viral YouTube video last August that shocked the LGBTQ community worldwide. He was featured in The Advocate, Huffington Post, CNN Doctor Drew, Georgia Voice and Project Q. He was blessed with the love and support of millions that sent comments, letters, emails, donations and more love he could ever ask for. He found his family in the friends that came around him and helped him through. He joined the board of directors for Lost N Found Youth. He is honored to be one of Atlanta Prides Grand Marshals for Pride 2015.
Originally founded as The Rainbow Center in 2001, the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity (SOJOURN) became an independent agency in 2013. SOJOURN promotes increased understanding and acceptance of individuals across the entire spectrum of gender and sexual orientation in the Southeast through education, outreach and advocacy, inspired by Jewish and universal ethics and ideals. SOJOURN works throughout the South, training mental health professionals and school staff members in LGBTQ-specific suicide prevention programs, assisting Jewish communities across the South to ensure their communities - including every single Jewish institution - synagogues, camps, schools, and more - are truly welcoming to all people, and in the political advocacy arena, training clergy in grassroots activism and engagement, including this past year’s fight against the so-called “religious liberty” legislation.
Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Charles Henry Stevens of Philadelphia served aboard the US Navy’s brand new Haven-class hospital ship USS Repose (AH-16) during the final bloody days of the Pacific campaign in World War II, and continued his service during the Korean Conflict, amassing an admirable number of 13 medals, including the rare China Service Medal when the Repose was stationed on the Whangpoo River in Shanghai. Many years later, during the battle to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that barred gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the US military, Charles Stevens rebuffed the claim by then Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos that “his” Marines would be better off without the “distraction” of gay men who would “undermine unit cohesion in combat.” “When I was putting Marines back together again, and they were screaming for their mamas,” said Stevens, “they didn’t seem to care a whole lot that I was gay.” Charles’s argument became one of the most effective justifications in defeating DADT: wounded US service members are better off having their lives saved by a gay medical technician than by dying on the battlefield because the medic had been kicked out for under DADT.
Trans & Friends
Trans* and Friends is a youth focused group for trans* people, people questioning their own gender, and aspiring allies. We provide a facilitated space to discuss gender, relevant resources, and activism around social issues. Whether silently or aloud, we ask folks to consider their own gender in a transient world. This is a project of the Feminist Outlawz. We meet on the first and third Mondays at Charis Books & More.