Rainbow flags hung from flagpoles, windows, storefronts and homes this weekend to celebrate the 49th annual Atlanta Pride, one of the largest and longest-running LGBT pride celebrations in the country. Over 320,000 people were expected to attend 2019 Atlanta Pride.
As an integral and active part of the Atlanta community, many Tech students dressed in their brightest colors and made their way into Midtown to partake in the festivities. LGBT students and their allies alike marched in the parades and attended the myriad events.
“I participate in pride because it’s really cool to reflect on where I’ve come as a person as well as seeing how the community as a whole has evolved,” said Christian Sewell, fourth-year BA. “This is my fourth Atlanta Pride and my seventh pride [overall], and it’s so empowering to be able to be myself with so many others in the community in an environment where there shouldn’t be any retaliation.”
Festivities began at the kickoff party at the Georgia Aquarium on Friday, Oct. 11. Saturday featured three parades for specific groups within the LGBT community: the Annual Trans Pride March to promote visibility of the transgender community, the Annual Dyke March to honor and empower women and the first occurrence of the Annual Bi and Pan March to promote visibility of bisexual and pansexual communities.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, Piedmont Park transformed into the headquarters for proud celebrations. A free festival through Saturday and Sunday featured Kesha and other popular artists, art exhibits, vendor booths, several performances and community discussions.
The main event, however, is the Pride Parade on Sunday. Tech students march every year, escorted by a Tech Trolley decked out in flags, streamers and other decorations. The parade “float” is jointly coordinated by Pride Alliance and the LGBTQIA Resource Center.
“There are a few reasons we have the trolley,” said William Harrer, fifth year EE and VP of Pride Alliance. “One is that it’s big, it’s obviously Georgia Tech and it’s easy to identify. But two, it’s accessible. If someone can’ walk in the parade, they can sit on it.”
“This year my partner and I had the privilege of watching the Tech Trolley roll by from atop the Fox Theatre,” said Aaron Fowler, Director of Transportation. “Our Trolley has always been such a joyful and beloved expression of the Georgia Tech identity, and I was so grateful we were able to serve as a representative for our Institute’s inclusivity in the Pride Parade.”
The trolley is surrounded by dozens of students dancing, cheering and waving flags – everything from the rainbow gay pride flag, the blue and pink transgender awareness flag and the gold Tech flag. Harrer said that anyone and everyone in the Tech community is always welcome to walk alongside them. This year, Pride Alliance was joined by Grad Pride, Tech’s Pride Employee Resource Group and even the roller derby club.
“I know a lot of people love it, especially just because it’s a fun time. You can see friends in the crowd and run up and hug them. Everyone is cheering you on,” said Harrer. “It’s really cute to watch people whose first pride it is. It’s so wholesome, and you can just see [the excitement] in their eyes.”
For Pride Alliance, the parade is the culmination of Coming Out Week.
The week is full of celebratory events such as the Big Gay Brunch, several informative panels and Pridefest.
The spirit of the weekend is largely light and celebratory, but Atlanta Pride has more somber origins. Atlanta Pride was first held in 1970, a year after the Stonewall Riots in which police violently clashed with gay-rights protestors after raiding a known gay nightclub. Pride festivals, including Atlanta’s, take time to remember those that were lost to the LGBT-rights fight. This year’s festival also included a memorial to those the Atlanta community lost to AIDS. Much has changed since 1970, but LGBT rights remain a contentious topic in American politics.