This weekend marked the 44th anniversary of the Atlanta Pride Festival and Lea DeLaria rode in the parade as an honorary Grand Marshal. But that's not all the festival has to offer.
Today, Oct. 12, Atlanta Pride's annual parade kicked off with a bang.
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Orange is the New Black's Lea DeLaria (Carrie 'Big Boo' Black) took charge as honorary Grand Marshal, waving to the crowds.
During the entertainment performances later tonight, comedian DeLaria will wow the crowd on the Coca-Cola Stage. But she wasn’t the only person on the Coca-Cola and Bud Light stages. Other artists included headliner Colbie Caillat, Kick the Robot, Monica Mason, and a variety of DJs.
Her name is Katelynn she asked if she could high five big boo. I can't. I just can't. #atlantagaypride
At the 44th Annual Atlanta Pride Festival, the idea is to encompass many different sub-communities of the umbrellaing LGBTQ community—offering representation via a welcoming embrace. In 2010, the organization moved to the second weekend of the month to rally support for National Coming Out Day.
And this year, the cultural exhibit centers on the importance of looking beyond binaries. To see the social art work, visit Piedmont Park on the Bridge over Lake Clara Meer.
Titled "Deconstructing Binaries: Art for Social Justice," the exhibit was originally formulated after seeing "anyone can use this restroom, regardless of your gender identity or expression" at the Parsons School of Design in New York. Inclusion is at the center of the festival, and the message to the wider community in general:
Deconstructing Binaries is a community-based public art project that explores and challenges mainstream binary visual representations of gender on public restroom signage. Deconstructing Binaries seeks to explore the social concept of gender and to bring awareness to the multiplicity of gender identities by encouraging businesses and public places to actively support a diversity of gender identities.
The reproduced pieces are available in the form of bathroom sign style. And the bathroom element is important because it's a basic function but if a person doesn't fall into the binary, how does an individual use the restroom in an environment outside of the home?
Georgia State prepping for their float. #atlantapride2014
And that business and corporate sponsorship is vital to the group because such a large endeavor is expensive and eats up resources that would be best served elsewhere, like supporting LGBTQ non-profit organizations. Large companies like Atlanta's own Coca-Cola, Delta, and Georgia Aquarium are joined by Smirnoff, MINI Cooper, and Frito-Lay in providing entertainment and snacks.
And most local media outlets, such as Gannett's NBC affiliate 11 Alive, Cox subsidiaries (WSB-TV, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, KISS 104.1), and Clear Channel radio stations (Power 96.1, Radio 105.7), were all involved in promoting the parade.
Local media also covers the lead up and the weekend festivities, keeping the interest high. Local hotels, like the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, function in the same way by providing a place to stay at the center of the Midtown/Downtown core.
But it's not just big business offering support. Restaurants Bantam + Biddy, Chick-A-Biddy, and Sweet Cheats worked with Atlanta Pride in promoting local LGBTQ-friendly businesses. The Human Rights Campaign offered a brunch before the parade on Sunday. Actually, the promotion of friendly and owned businesses are key element in being a sponsor. In a large city, finding community-run places to support is vital.
As mentioned before, inclusion is a core tenant of Atlanta Pride’s message. The purpose of statement is very clear on why the organization is needed in the regional area:
The main purpose of the APC is to promote unity, visibility and self-esteem among lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender persons and to promote a positive image in the Atlanta area and throughout the Southeastern United States through community activities and services.
The Parade has quite a few Marshals, each offering another layer of community spirit, involvement and care and are chosen by LGTBQ members. Posthumously, Ria Pell received the honor. Pell died of a heart attack, but lived larger than life in the kitchen. Pell won a Chopped episode in 2012, but the most important role involved creating a LGBTQ family of chefs and bar owners.
Atlanta Pride isn't just a single area of interest, either. Interdisciplinary schools of thought work together to provide a more encompassing environment. Civil Right activists such as Rep. John Lewis and Coretta Scott King have spoken at the event, echoing a louder voice for inclusion for all. A community is only as strong as those who promote unity.
And DeLaria’s position as an honorary Grand Marshal is very important within the LGBTQ community. In the annals of history, she was the first openly gay comedian to appear on late night television—Arsenio Hall in 1993.
And she adds depth to the role of Big Boo. The AJC’s Rodney Ho noted “she also brings humanity” into a role that’s beyond the often “pure caricature” parts that she’s offered.
Atlanta Pride Committee Executive Director, Buck Cooke, agrees.
“She is fantastic as Big Boo on Orange Is the New Black and brings her nuanced character to life in a way that embraces the ‘sex’ in ‘homosexual’ but at the same time portrays Big Boo with a great deal of intellect and heart.”
"They wrote the part specifically for me,” DeLaria told Ho. “I knew it would be funny but I appreciate how they allow me to grow as an actor. I did some crying season one."
And she knows the stereotypes. “It takes place inside a women’s prison. Why wouldn’t they call me?”
Lea DeLaria provides an authenticity to Orange is the New Black and Atlanta Pride Parade. As an openly-gay woman, she understands the nuances in Hollywood after decades in the industry; but she also provides a balance of acceptance and pride in being who she is, showing the crowds waiting on the sidewalk that it’s okay to be who you are.
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Sounds like a pretty good message all around.