LGBTQ activist, bridge builder Zandra Conway dies at 63

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Friends and allies across the country are remembering Zandra Conway as a passionate LGBTQ activist who brought together multiple diverse communities throughout Atlanta. She died earlier this month at the age of 63.

Conway was intentional about connecting people of different races, gender identities and sexual orientations, according to fellow LGBTQ activist Darlene Hudson.

“Zandra had the unique capacity to work in different facets of the overall LGBTQ community,” she told Project Q Atlanta. “Zandra understood the intersection of all of it and from there she tried to build.”

Zandra Conway was born on April 21, 1957 in San Antonio, Tex., according to Hudson. She received bachelor’s degrees from San Jose State University and the University of San Francisco, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Conway later moved to Atlanta, where she became a member of the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition. The group endorsed LGBTQ-friendly Democrat Jim Martin in a 2008 U.S. Senate race in Georgia. Martin assembled an impressive list of LGBTQ support as he embraced several equality issues in a way that hadn’t been seen from a statewide candidate.

She also served on the board of the National Black Justice Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based Black LGBTQ civil rights organization. Conway was a vital part of pushing the NBJC’s mission in Atlanta, according to founding CEO Alexander Satorie-Robinson.

“She brought a passion for civil rights and for advocacy, especially for Black gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks and their experience with racism and bias within the broader LGBT community, but also the experience of homophobia and prejudice that we sometimes experience within the Black community,” he said.

Conway also served on the board of In the Life Atlanta, which organizes Atlanta Black Gay Pride. She made her mark in political circles serving as the LGBTQ liaison for former Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and stumping for former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in 2009.

Conway provided “amazing leadership” as a board member for Georgia Equality, according to Executive Director Jeff Graham.

“She brought humor and compassion to this work and was a leading member of the Georgia Equality board at a time when there were few Black LGBT leaders working in the sphere of policy and politics,” he said.

Conway died on March 5. She was living in Emeryville, Calif., at the time. A service is in the works for April 16, according to Conway’s friend Ebonee Woodruff-Tobias. A candlelight vigil will be held the following day in West End Park, according to Hudson. Details will be shared by the Southern Unity Movement.

UPDATE | Mitchell responded to Project Q after this story was published. He said he enjoyed partnering with Conway to support LGBTQ issues when he was Atlanta City Council president.

“In addition, she was also a staunch advocate of addressing the fundamental needs of the entire community,” he said. “She always brought reason and calm to the debate. The world has truly lost an anchor for goodness, peace and love. She will be missed.”

This story is made possible by a grant from Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.

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