Cheryl Courtney-Evans, 64
Less than two weeks into 2016, Atlanta awoke to the horrifying news that three friends who were vibrant and endearing fixtures in the gay Atlanta nightlife scene – Adam Bailey, Cordel Fowler and Esu Manzano – died after the car they were riding in veered off an Interstate 75 ramp and crashed onto the pavement 50 feet below. Their untimely deaths in the early hours of January 9 sent grief throughout social media, and the trio was honored by openly gay CNN Anchor Don Lemon at the close of his January 11 show.
“Gentlemen, there are a lot of people grieving your loss, from Los Angeles to Atlanta to New York,” Lemon said. “They love you guys very dearly, and our hearts go out tonight to you, to your families and your friends. Corky, Esu and Adam – gone too soon.”
Nick Wiltgen, 39
Nick Wiltgen had a love for weather that made him stand out as a meteorologist, but personal storms became too much for the gay Midtown resident to handle on the evening of Jan. 24. The car that Wiltgen was driving crashed into a parking garage at Colony Square; investigators initially suspected that Wiltgen had suffered a heart attack, but later concluded that the incident was likely a suicide.
Although Wiltgen worked mainly as a behind-the-scenes meteorologist at The Weather Channel, he was renowned in the
Just before the break of dawn on July 7, security guards found a young black man hanging from a tree near in Piedmont Park. The grisly discovery, which occurred amid a string of police killings of black men and ensuing protests, resulted in a viral rumor that the death was racially motivated. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed forcefully attempted to quash that suspicion, as Atlanta police ruled the hanging a suicide.
Michael Smith, who also went by the name London Jermaine, used social media to chronicle his adventures as a young gay transplant from New Jersey, as well as his conflicts with his family about his sexual orientation.
“I see y’all in the next life,” Smith wrote in his final Facebook post, about an hour before security guards found his body. “Father forgive me.”
The godmother of Georgia drag took her final bow September 8. Brenda Dale Knox, appearing as her drag persona The Lady Chablis, became an international superstar after appearing in the based-on-real-life franchise “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil.” As the book of that name was being turned into a movie, Chablis reportedly quipped, “If I’m not cast as myself in the movie, there won’t be a movie.”
Pioneering Atlanta transgender activist Cheryl Courtney-Evans, who co-founded and led Transgender Individuals Living In Their Truth (T.I.L.T.T.) and was a passionate voice for social justice issues, died October 2 after a courageous battle with cancer.
If there was a trans issue in Atlanta, Courtney-Evans was usually at the center of it, whether it be a now former Georgia ACLU leader’s stance on bathrooms and gender identity, trans voter disenfranchisement, trans inclusion at Atlanta Pride and Atlanta Black Gay Pride, attacks on trans and gender nonconforming people on MARTA and in Little Five Points, violence against trans women of color, passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the CDC’s handling of rising HIV rates among gay men and trans women. Her death came just days before she was to be honored as a grand marshal of the Atlanta Pride Parade.
“Cheryl was a giant in the transgender community,” the Rev. Paul Turner of Gentle Spirit Community Church told Project Q. “She was direct, without filter and a fighter when it came to standing up and protecting her people. She was courageous beyond all measure and her love for our community knew no bounds. It was an honor to have worked with her and humbling to call her a friend. We have lost a
December 23, 2016