Atlanta Pride hosted the combined North East Regional Pride (NERP) and Prides of the South East in their first combined regional meeting during the weekend of March 7 to 9. The W Hotel Midtown Atlanta was the gracious host hotel and a mere three blocks from Piedmont Park where spring was bursting to come out. Dogwood trees sported a petal here and a petal there and even the forsythia had a few early blooms in the delightful shirt-sleeve weather we enjoyed the entire weekend.
If you’ve never been to Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, leave plenty of time. Transportation to the Midtown Area from the airport was a bargain at $3.50 and it was a short—uphill!—walk to the W from the Arts Center station. Once we were there, Atlanta Pride provided a most memorable conference.
A number of colleagues and I are regular attendees at this conference, where I represent Jersey Pride as the voice of one of the smaller Prides in the region. It's been wonderful to interact with our friends from the South, as well as our regional Northeast friends. The level of energy was more like the October InterPride international meeting in hearing of the victories and sharing the challenges that affect us all connects Prides large and small, North and South, as one family.
Saturday morning’s group session began with a brief welcome speech by Simone Bell, the first openly LGBTQ official elected to State representation in the country. Her speech encouraged us to be part of the conversation about governance and our civil rights. While acknowledging that there are people in the legislature who do NOT want us to be even at the table, if we are not permitted to join the conversation then it is our duty to disrupt that conversation. Bell went on to say that she is fully dedicated to equality for all or she would not put her partner of 25 years or their family through the challenges a public life means. A number of us were inspired by her and all who went to greet her afterward were rewarded with a hug. That transfer of energy is important.
The March 9 State of Equality event reminded us that there is a great deal of work to be done at the local, state, and national levels. Transgender inclusion and rights for all families can change within one mile or less. LGBT families enjoy job and health protections in Iowa, for example, but if the parents work in Nebraska and have a car accident, their family rights are in jeopardy. We are fortunate to live and make change in the Northeast, but the South needs support to make change for LGBT people. Working-class LGBT people and their families are more likely to experience challenges than corporate LGBT employees. Our work is necessary and needs to continue. Pride is at the heart of the movement for marriage equality, job equality, and life equality for all people. It’s time that we the people hold the feet of our legislators to the fire to get our work done.
Support Pride in your local community. If you want to see what’s being done locally and around the world, check out InterPride.org. Toronto is hosting World Pride this year from June 20 to 29 and it’s going to be amazing. Check out www.WorldPrideToronto.com for more details. This year is Stonewall 45 and we all count.