2014 ATLANTA PRIDE PARADE GRAND MARSHALS
Atlanta Pride is delighted to recognize an outstanding collection of individuals and organizations who will serve as our Grand Marshals for the 2014 festival. The field of honorees was culled from over 50 nominations submitted by community members during an open call earlier in the year.
The 2014 Atlanta Pride Parade Grand Marshals are:
Faisal Alam, Public Speaker and Project Consultant
Faisal Alam is a queer-identified Muslim activist, speaker and writer, of Pakistani descent. At age 19, Faisal founded Al-Fatiha, an organization that was dedicated to supporting and empowering LGBT Muslims.
He led the organization as its volunteer director from 1997 to 2003. As a volunteer-run organization and with unforeseen challenges, Al-Fatiha closed its doors in 2008. In 2013, Faisal helped found a new LGBT Muslim organization, Muslims for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD).
Faisal has traveled across the country and around the world to meet with LGBT Muslims to build a global queer Muslim movement for justice and equality. He has been featured in LGBT and mainstream press including the New York Times, BBC World News, and the Washington Post.
Faisal has received numerous recognitions and awards for his activism on behalf of LGBT Muslims. Advocate Magazine selected him as an “Innovator,” the Utne Reader recognized him as one of 30 “Young Visionaries Under 30,” and the Equality Form honored him as one of “40 Heroes” who have “made a defining difference in LGBT civil rights over the last forty years.”
Faisal is a former advisory board member for the LGBT Program of Human Rights Watch, a steering committee member of Muslims for Sexual and Gender Diversity, a member of Muslims for Progressive Values – Atlanta, and Trikone Atlanta (a South Asian LGBT group).
As a renowned public speaker, Faisal has spoken at more than 175 colleges and universities about the struggles facing LGBT Muslims.
In August 2011, Faisal was invited to attend the White House Iftaar (breaking of the fast dinner) with President Obama, marking the first time an openly queer Muslim has attended this annual dinner.
Michael Bishop, Attorney, AT&T; and Shane Thomas, Realtor, Remax
Michael Bishop, 50, and Shane Thomas, 44, of Atlanta have been in a loving committed relationship for over seven years. Michael is a lawyer at AT&T and Shane is a realtor, but their lives revolve around their two children Thomas, 5, and Mariella, 3. Just like other parents, their lives are filled with ordinary things like getting their little ones off to school, taking them to birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese, or visiting Piedmont Park and the Botanical Gardens. They wish to marry not just to express their devotion to each other, but they also do not want their children to carry a sense of uncertainty or inferiority because they know their parents aren’t allowed to be married, like other parents.
RayShawn Chandler, Flight Attendant, Delta Air Lines; and Avery Chandler, Law Enforcement Officer, Atlanta Police Department; Sergeant, United States Army
Rayshawn Chandler, 29, and Avery Chandler, 30, of Jonesboro were married in Connecticut last June. Both Rayshawn and Avery work as police officers for the Atlanta Police Department. Avery is in the Army Reserves. It’s important for the couple to have their marriage recognized by the state of Georgia because they are planning to have children. The State’s refusal to recognize their marriage means that Avery may not be recognized on the birth certificate as the other parent of their children. It also means that they are not recognized as spouses to each other should either of them get killed in the line of duty.
Stephanie Guilloud, Co-Director of Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty & Genocide
Stephanie Guilloud was born and raised in Houston, Texas with family roots in Montgomery, Alabama. Stephanie is an organizer with over 18 years of experience in racial justice work and community organizing. As one of the Co-Directors of Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty & Genocide, Stephanie has the opportunity to practice her political values and manifest a shared vision of liberation for all people. Stephanie cut her teeth on the streets of Seattle, organizing to shut down the World Trade Organization in 1999. Since then she has worked with diverse communities to organize the first and second U.S. Social Forum and has worked with partners to launch the Southern Movement Assembly process. She was part of regenerating a new era of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), a multiracial queer organization, and served on the SONG board from 2005-2014. Stephanie is a published writer and the editor of two anthologies Through the Eyes of the Judged; Autobiographical Sketches from Incarcerated Young Men and Voices from the WTO; First-person Narratives from the People who Shut Down the WTO, and she has been the editor for “As the South Goes …” Project South’s biannual periodical for over 10 years.
Tony Kearney, Events and Fundraising Consultant
Tony is a North Carolinian at heart but has been in Georgia 20+ years. He graduated from University of North Carolina– Chapel Hill with a BA in Economics as well as from University of South Carolina with a M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration.
After graduating from USC, he found his way to the University of Georgia where he worked in student housing. While at UGA, he became involved with the Boybutante AIDS Foundation, Inc. where he became the first president of the non-profit. In 1995, Wild Cherry Sucret was born and still lends a hand to fundraising at the Boybutante Ball where they just celebrated 25 years and $500,000.00 raised!
He’s now been in Atlanta for well over 10 years. He was involved with the Armorettes for ten years helping them cross the $2 million mark. Tony was also with Atlanta Pride on the Board and Entertainment Co-Chair for eight years. He has served as the president for the UNC alumni chapter for the past five years.
Tony loves to travel and has been to every continent except Antarctica. He loves movies, music – especially Whitney Houston and helping out a great cause when he can!
Sheila Merritt, Project Manager and Event Consultant
Sheila Merritt is one of the 2014 Atlanta Pride Grand Marshals.
Until mid-2013, Sheila was the Vice President of Business Development for Q&A Events. She now works with Q&A Events on a part-time basis so that she can have the flexibility to serve as a caregiver to her mother, the infamous “Mamma Merritt,” who now lives with Sheila and her partner, Andria (A.T.) Towne.
Sheila has a personal commitment to a variety of important causes and as such, has lent her skills and experience to a number of charitable events and programs. These include nationally, The National Organ Donor Foundation, the National Women’s History Project and The National Women’s History Museum. She also served on the Procurement Council for the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Locally, Sheila currently serves as the President of her Neighborhood Association, a position she also held in 2003. She was the mayoral appointee to East Point’s Cultural Enrichment Commission; She served as President of the East Point President’s Council; she is a Past President of the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce; she served as a Member Mentor and Bureau Buddy for the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, garnering their 2013 Volunteer of the Year Award. Georgia Voice also recognized Sheila as ‘Best Activist’ in 2013. She was also the 2014 Co-Chair of the Host Committee for The Health Initiative’s Annual Garden Party Fundraiser.
Sheila is a native of Ypsilanti, Michigan. She and A.T. have been together nearly 17 years. They reside in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of East Point.
Arlene Noriega, Ph.D., Co-owner and Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Rock Bridge Psychological Associates, LLC
Arlene Noriega, Ph.D. is a bilingual (Spanish-English), bicultural clinical psychologist who received her doctorate from the University of Miami in 1991. She did her pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral training at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. She was then an attending psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital for 5 years. Dr. Noriega relocated from Boston to Atlanta where she became a professor at Argosy University. She remained at Argosy University for 5 years before opening her private practice. Dr. Noriega has been in private practice in the area for 15 years and currently is co-owner of Rock Bridge Psychological Associates, LLC. Amongst other mental health issues that Dr. Noriega addresses in her practice, she works with Latino teens and pre-teens who are exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity and works with their families to assist these individuals in making healthy choices in the process of their coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered within their cultural and religious context.
Dr. Arlene Noriega is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA). She was the President of APA’s Society for the Psychological Study of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues from 2012-2013. Under her presidency, the Society developed clinical protocols to guide mental health practitioners working with children and adolescents who are gender non-conforming. In addition, the Society, under her leadership, examined the successive inclusion in our diverse LGBT community and has spearheaded a project to document the history of LGBT psychology.
With a background in Community Psychology, Dr. Noriega has made a strong commitment to volunteerism within the Atlanta community with nonprofit agencies such as Positive Impact and The Health Initiative. She has been the Lead Coordinator of Fourth Tuesday for the past 3 years and has also been a board member of the Health Initiative for the past 3 years. Fourth Tuesday is a queer women’s social support networking group with a long, rich history in Atlanta. Dr. Noriega’s main objective leading Fourth Tuesday was to make the group different from other “lesbian” groups that had a more separatist policy and provide social opportunity that was open, safe and accessible to all queer women. Fourth Tuesday is currently one of the several programs of the Health Initiative with the goal of decreasing isolation and subsequent depression in the queer women community. Arlene Noriega is currently the co-chair of The Health Initiative with her co-chair, Rick Kern. The Health Initiative is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of Georgia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through education, support, access to care and advocacy. She also was one of the founding board members for Family Pride of the South, a nonprofit dedicated to the social networking of gay parents and their children, from 1999-2001.
Ria Pell, Chef and Owner, Ria’s Bluebird
Ria Pell was born in New Jersey, but was bred with the best of the South. She was a sweet charmer, a dirty fighter and a generous chef who would not let anybody leave her house hungry. She taught pirates to be bad, skater punks to be good, and all of her friends to be better. Known to many for carving out space as an out chef and business owner, Ria’s Bluebird in Grant Park recently celebrated 13 successful years. Ria’s brisket & banana pancakes won accolades, and in a whirlwind of pork rinds and Danish shortbread, she won the “Chopped” competition in 2012.
She created many spaces in Atlanta where people were accepted and celebrated for being exactly who they are, queer or otherwise. She was a surrogate parent to many outsiders and people in need. She loudly stood up for what she supported, including local businesses, diversity, civil rights, integrity, opposition to big-box and chain stores (and anything else that destroys the uniqueness of Atlanta), and the strength and beauty of the South.
Ria’s dramatic exit in November 2013 reminded us all to live like Ria, out loud, unapologetic, and with big queer love.
Ruby Redd, Manager and Saturday Show Director, Jungle Atlanta; Fundraiser, Lost-N-Found Youth
Ruby Redd started as a brunch drag hostess at Red Chair 15 years ago when General Manager, Damien McGee, thought it would be fun to see Ray in drag. Ruby began popping up at local venues including The Armory, Backstreet, and Metro eventually becoming GM and resident drag queen of Blake’s on the Park.
Having a natural passion for giving back, Ruby quickly became a leader of combining drag talent and charity work. Tips buckets for charity are a regular staple at her shows, raising funds for non-profits and local community members in need.
She has worked with the Armorettes for five years helping to raise over $2 million for people living with HIV and AIDS. For the past four years, Ruby has hosted Birdcage Bingo raising over $30,000 for local Atlanta charities including: Atlanta Pride, MISTER, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Lost-n-Found Youth, Armorettes PWA Fund, Stand Up For Kids, and AID Atlanta.
Her unique humor, distinct camp drag, and signature red wigs continue to entertain for valuable causes. Those who know her best consider her a timeless staple in the Atlanta drag scene and a true example of local activism and friendship.
Michael D. Shutt, Assistant Dean for Campus Life and Director of the Office of LGBT Life, Emory University
Michael is the Assistant Dean for Campus Life and Director of the Office of LGBT Life at Emory University. He works to create and enhance educational, social, and support programs for students related to their sexual and gender identities. Over the last six years, Michael increased student involvement on campus; developed a $300,000 endowment; established several student-alumni professional development programs; and successfully advocated for policy changes, including transgender-inclusive health insurance plans and gender inclusive housing. Michael currently serves as the Immediate Past Co-Chair of the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. He also serves as a consultant to many institutions of higher education in their development of LGBT support services.
Michael was the founding Director of the University of Georgia’s LGBT Center, the first LGBT Center at a public university in Georgia. He served as a member of the University System of Georgia Domestic Partner Benefits State Coalition; member of Northeast Georgians Against Discrimination, an organization formed to defeat Georgia’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment in 2004; faculty member of the Campus Pride LGBT Leadership Camp; Host Committee Member of the 2011 World Professional Association of Transgender Health Symposium; and Co-Chair of the 2013 National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change.
Jennifer Sisson, 34, of Decatur, recently lost the love of her life when her spouse, Pamela Drenner, 49, passed away on March 1, 2014 after a long battle with ovarian cancer. The couple were married on Valentine’s Day in 2013 in New York at City Hall, after tests showed that Pam’s cancer treatment appeared to have been successful. While they knew Georgia would not recognize the marriage, they wanted to memorialize the commitment and love they felt for each other. When Jennifer thinks about her marriage to Pam, and how to honor her memory, she wants to shout their love from the rooftops. Instead, just after the final hours of Pam’s life, the State erased their marriage by refusing to recognize Pam as married, or Jennifer as her spouse, on the final document memorializing Pam’s existence – her death certificate.
Mr. Shelton Stroman and Dr. Christopher Inniss, Owners, Snellville Pet Resort
Christopher Inniss, 39, and Shelton Stroman, 42, of Snellville, have been together for 13 years, raising their son Jonathan, 9. Chris is a veterinarian and Shelton manages the Snellville Pet Resort, a business the couple owns together. Jonathan is old enough to understand that his parents aren’t married but he struggles to understand why. Although they tell him that they are still a family even if the State doesn’t allow them to marry, Jonathan wants them to be married like many of his other friends’ parents. Chris and Shelton find it painful that they cannot fulfill Jonathan’s wish. They also need the protections and dignity that only marriage provides.
Elizabeth Wurz, Associate Professor, College of Coastal Georgia; and Krista Wurz, Special Education Teacher; Air Force Veteran
Beth, 41, and Krista, 39, were married in October 2010 in New Hampshire and are raising seven children, including five placed with them through the foster care system, in their Brunswick home. Beth is an Associate English professor at College of Coastal Georgia and Krista, an Air Force veteran, is a special education teacher. Since their marriage is not recognized in Georgia, Krista is denied health coverage through Beth’s job, as are some of their children. Because of the marriage ban, they also have been denied the ability to adopt their children jointly, meaning they live in constant worry about traveling with the children or caring for them in emergencies since they are not both recognized as the children’s legal parents.
Georgia Safe Schools Coalition
The Georgia Safe Schools Coalition is a partnership of educators, community organizations, and activists dedicated to raising awareness about issues affecting LGBTQQI youth and families. Their goal is to eliminate LGBTQQI oppression in Georgia schools. They understand that they cannot eradicate transprejudice and heterosexism without simultaneously working to end all forms of injustice (racism, sexism, etc.) They educate and advocate for Georgia’s schools become safe and affirming environments for all students!
They have successfully leveraged for changes to Georgia bullying policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity. They have placed over 1000 resource LGBTQQI manuals in Georgia schools and have helped 63% of the state adopt enumerated bullying policies for sexual orientation and 40% for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. That’s over 1,000,000 students in Georgia going to school with this type of explicit protection. Active campaigns in other districts could bring the state to 70%. They have produced two documentaries on LGBTQQI students in Georgia to support our education and advocacy efforts and started the Georgia Gay-Straight Alliance Summit to support the Georgia GSAs, serving over 400 attendees in 2014.
The Southern Regional Office of Lambda Legal
Founded in 1973, Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those with HIV through impact litigation, education, and public policy work.
As a nonprofit organization, they do not charge our clients for legal representation or advocacy, and they receive no government funding. They depend on contributions from supporters around the country.
Please click here for the full press release regarding the announcement of the 2014 Grand Marshals.
Please click here for a full list of past Grand Marshals and Honorary Grand Marshals.
Atlanta Pride is no longer accepting nominations for 2014 Grand Marshals. Thank you to all of our community members who submitted nominations.
You are welcome to submit multiple nominees, but each separate nomination requires a new form to be completed: only one group or individual is allowed per form.
Nominees do not have to identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. We welcome heterosexual allies as nominees.
Nominees are not required to be political in nature. Nominees of all gender identities and expressions are welcome.
Individual nominees must reside in Georgia. Organizational nominees must be based in Georgia. The Atlanta Pride Committee (APC) encourages the nomination of individuals or groups that have ties to our local and state communities.
While it is not required that you personally know the individual you are nominating, we encourage it. An inability to provide contact information about the nominee may make it difficult for APC to get in touch with the nominee if they are selected to serve.
APC DOES NOT ACCEPT NOMINATIONS OF INDIVIDUALS CURRENTLY CAMPAIGNING FOR POLITICAL OFFICE, AS THIS MAY GIVE THE APPEARANCE OF AN ENDORSEMENT.
If a group is nominated and selected as a Grand Marshal, the organization will receive four VIP/Sponsor Party tickets and four VIP Festival Passes and will have the ability to have two members ride in the APC-provided convertible in the Atlanta Pride Parade on October 12, 2014.