With just three weeks to the Atlanta Pride Festival, organizers on Monday announced a full list of parade honorary grand marshals that includes community activists and entertainers.
The list adds to the two grand marshals, and two of the honorary grand marshals, announced late last month and comes after a bit of controversy erupted over one of the selections.
The list of additional honorary grand marshals announced Monday includes Allen Thornell and Philip Rush, two LGBT activists who died earlier this year. AIDS Walk Atlanta also dedicates its annual event on Sunday to the two men.
Grand marshal controversy
Pride previously announced Rev. Chris Glaser and Officer Dani Lee Harris as its grand marshals for the parade. The selection of Harris, the LGBT liaison for the Atlanta Police Department, came just days after the police raided the Atlanta Eagle, a popular gay bar on Ponce, though the pair was selected in late August before the raid.
The Sept. 10 incident resulted in eight arrests, two protests, calls from elected officials and political candidates for an investigation into police tactics, a public forum with police and LGBT activists and a public flap over grand marshals for the upcoming Pride parade.
The flap over naming Harris as a grand marshal prompted Pride organizers to add Eagle co-owners Robert Kelley and Richard Ramey as honorary grand marshals. Kelley was one of eight people arrested during the raid at the popular gay bar on Ponce.
“It is important that we don’t lash out against the entire City of Atlanta police force that protects us. Maybe that’s what the Pride Committee is trying to do, or so I hope. I do hope we were selected for the right reasons. It’s not Richard and Robbie that is selected. We are representing the Atlanta Eagle and what happened at the Atlanta Eagle.”
Pride, in an open letter issued Sept. 23, defended the selection of Harris and says “backing away from honoring Officer Harris would be the wrong thing to do.”
The organization says Harris was picked for her courage in coming out as interex while working in law enforcement and for serving as a voice for LGBT causes within the police department.
“Since the raid, Officer Harris has done nothing to indicate that she should be removed from the grand marshal post. APC has spoken with Officer Harris, and it is clear to us that she is as frustrated with the actions of the APD as are any of the rest of us,” Pride says in the letter.
A parent, comedian and actor
Additional details about the honorary grand marshals announced Monday:
Claar and her partner fought for and won custody of Claar’s 10-year-old daughter in a time when gay parents were assumed unfit. While running her own construction company, she became involved with the Atlanta chapter of the National Organization for Women and became president on the platform of lesbians in the organization being out.
In 1992, she ran unsuccessfully as an openly gay candidate for the Georgia House. In 2000, Claar was named Ms. Leather Pride and rode her Harley D in the Dykes on Bikes parade. Claar moved from Little Five Points and now lives on Tybee Island.
Balan is a brash, New York stand-up comedian who has appeared on TV and radio and has been headlining comedy clubs across the country. Balan is currently one of the fashion police writers in Life & Style magazine. Balan appears Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 at Laughing Skull Lounge.
Graham is a singer and actress who can be found on the CW hit series “The Vampire Diaries.” She is also a featured singer on the Billboard single “I Got it From My Momma” and can be seen in the film “17 Again.”
De Shields is an award-winning actor, director and choreographer and educator. He has garnered critical acclaim for his performances in the original Broadway productions of four legendary musicals: “The Full Monty,” “The Wiz,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Play On!” He is the recipient of the 2007 Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. He will be performing in the Alliance Theatre’s “A Life In The Theater” Oct. 28 to Nov. 15.
Photos (from top to bottom): Allen Thornell, Philip Rush, Robert Kelley, Richard Ramey, Dani Lee Harris, Chris Glaser, Samantha Claar