By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
As the COVID-19 pandemic gained momentum, it became clear for the Atlanta Pride Committee that they needed to switch tracks and not do an in-person event. Instead, they have put together a vast virtual program to celebrate Pride that also marks the 50th anniversary of Atlanta Pride. Peach spoke to Jamie Fergerson, Executive Director of the Atlanta Pride Festival, about tough decisions, challenges, and celebrating from home.
Needless to say, Pride will look and feel very different this year. How was it to make the decision to cancel in-person Pride this year?
It was both sad and scary to cancel the in-person events this year, but it was not a difficult decision to make. Keeping our community safe and healthy is always the number one job at the Festival and Parade, and this year, the best way to do that is to celebrate from home. Even so, there was a lot of grieving our plans for the 50th anniversary. It was also a scary decision because we’re a small non-profit, and 80% of our revenue is related to the Festival in one way or another. We’ve had to figure out how to carry out our mission in completely new ways this year.
Nonetheless, the Atlanta Pride Committee has managed to put together an impressive lineup to celebrate Pride 2020 – can you tell us about some of the initiatives?
We really went back to our mission and asked ourselves how we could do that work in a new way. How do we create community while physically distancing? A Festival isn’t the mission of Atlanta Pride; Community-building is. We’ve had excellent response to our online programs, especially when we partner with other people and organizations to amplify each other’s work. We’ve tried to create fun, engaging programs but also bring attention to serious topics like racism, transphobia, COVID, struggling small business partners, and combatting isolation that are top of mind right now.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Atlanta Pride. What is being done specifically to commemorate this?
We’ve been talking about our history all year, and we are highlighting it in our television special with CBS 46 and PeachtreeTV next weekend. We’re also moving our archives to Georgia State University so that all of APC’s history is safeguarded for years to come. We’d planned to do a documentary film, but that was a victim of COVID for now. I hope to pick it up next year.
How will your Pride look this year?
I have ordered four (!) different catering boxes from Proof of the Pudding. It will be my first Pride in 19 years when I’m not working and can sit down to eat hot meals. I plan to set up the AppleTV to cast all of our programs to the big tv and watch it there with my girlfriend and my dog. I can’t wait to see the Cabarets from start to finish for once. We’re also going to walk the virtual 5k next weekend because I want to get one of the limited-edition shirts from ABetterBuzz. I’m sure I’ll also be doing plenty of emailing, answering the phone, and the inevitable troubleshooting.
What makes you proud about living in Atlanta?
I am proud of Atlanta’s rich history – and current wealth of riches – in many social justice movements. I love being able to learn from some of the most incredible changemakers in the world here, and I love being able to share that with my child as well.
Looking ahead, what will Atlanta Pride 2021 look like? What’s the vision/dream?
My main hope is that the pandemic is under control and that we can gather safely together. Everything else is secondary. But I would love to get a do-over of our golden anniversary party; I really wanted fireworks this year. Whether we can gather in crowds or not, though, I hope that we’ll continue to do our mission work in innovative ways.
What are you looking forward to when this pandemic is over?
Hugging my friends and family, catching up on travel. Also, sending my child back to in-person school with their friends. We do really well together, but being an only child with a strict mom in a pandemic is a tough life.