If Phillip Rush was watching, chances are he had a big smile across his face. The LGBT and community activist who died in April was honored Saturday during an event packed with gay leaders and political candidates.
The crowd came together on the patio of the new Phillip Rush Center, the formal name given to the DeKalb Avenue officers of Georgia Equality, Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative and MEGA Family Project. The renovated facility, a portion of which has housed ALHI since 1998, will eventually be home to other LGBT organizations and provide meeting space for groups. It is named for Rush (photo right), a longtime LGBT and community activist who died April 28 at the age of 55.
The Nashville native and longtime Atlantan lived in Decatur and served as a program officer for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta for 15 years until he left a few weeks before his death. Rush worked with both gay and non-gay initiatives at the Community Foundation and assisted non-profit groups in applying for funding.
Rush worked with several LGBT groups in metro Atlanta, who have honored him since his death. He was remembered during a moment of silence at the 22nd Annual Atlanta HRC Gala Dinner & Silent Auction in May, the 19th Annual AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run in October was dedicated to him and Allen Thornell, another longtime activist who died this year, and the Atlanta Pride Committee named Rush as one of eight honorary grand marshals for its Nov. 1 parade.
Georgia Equality also created the Phillip Rush Community Builder Award and presented the first one in June to Simone Bell, a community activist who faces a Dec. 1 runoff for the District 58 seat in the state House.
On Saturday, guests included Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation, a Who’s Who of gay Atlanta and several elected officials and political candidates. Friends of Rush, including Doug Carl, say he would have enjoyed the appearances by the political candidates, who are seeking votes as they head into a Dec. 1 runoff. Carl knew Rush for 12 years and organized a community gathering to toast Rush after his death.
Political candidates on hand included Kasim Reed (photo), who faces Mary Norwood in the Dec. 1 runoff for mayor. Reed later tweeted about the event: “Just left dedication of Phillip Rush Center honoring my good friend Phillip & all his efforts in the LGBT community. He’s greatly missed.”
Also on hand were Bell; Alex Wan and Liz Coyle, who are competing for the the District 6 seat on the Atlanta City Council; Ceasar Mitchell, who faces Clair Muller in the campaign for City Council president; and Amir Farokhi, who is competing against Aaron Watson for the City Council Post 2 At-Large seat.
Other guests included state Rep. Nan Orrock and Brian Bates, a gay Republican who was re-elected to the Doraville City Council earlier this month. Gay former political candidates Adam Brackman and Charlie Stadtlander were also in the crowd.
When Carl spoke of Rush and challenged the crowd to identify 60 people to pledge $75 a month to the center, a representative of the Lloyd E. Russell Foundation said the charity will match every dollar raised. The foundation supports LGBT efforts that enhance mental and physical health, provide social support and foster awareness of gay and leather issues.
View the Project Q Atlanta photo album from the dedication.