Di­a­mond Lil, 80

GA Voice - - Newsbriefs -

Bar­ney Simms de­voted much of his life to mak­ing At­lanta the city it is to­day, work­ing as a com­mu­nity ac­tivist to im­prove neigh­bor­hoods, and serv­ing on sev­eral city boards and com­mis­sions to help guide the strate­gic themes of At­lanta’s growth. On April 9, Simms was robbed and gunned down in his south­west At­lanta home in a mur­der that rocked the city.

More than 2,000 peo­ple at­tended Simms’s funeral at An­ti­och Bap­tist Church North, where Simms was a mem­ber for 45 years, and was eu­lo­gized by U.S. Rep. John Lewis and for­mer At­lanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.

“I don’t think he ever re­al­ized how sig­nif­i­cant he had be­come,” An­ti­och pas­tor Cameron Alexan­der said at the ser­vice. “He wasn’t an elected of­fi­cial so he didn’t try to be­come im­por­tant. He just be­came that be­cause he cared about peo­ple.

“Some peo­ple come into a room and you for­get they were ever there, “Alexan­der added. “Other peo­ple come into a room and they never leave. Bar­ney never left.”

Michael Smith, 22

Born in 1939, the drag per­former known as Di­a­mond Lil had wit­nessed her na­tive Ge­or­gia ad­vance by light years when it came to ac­cept­ing LGBT cul­ture, and she played no small part in that growth. Di­a­mond Lil per­formed her first drag act at the age of 18, gained fame re­gal­ing the sailors docked at the Sa­van­nah port in the late ’50s, and was part of the gritty queer At­lanta scene that birthed RuPaul and Lady Bunny, and set Mid­town on course as the hippest neigh­bor­hood in the South.

“No longer will I lie upon a tear-stained bed, star­ing through bur­glar bars in a base­ment hovel, while a world gone mad passes me by,” read the Face­book post that an­nounced that Di­a­mond Lil had suc­cumbed to lung can­cer. “You can have your drab­ness, lone­li­ness, bleak­ness, des­per­a­tion; but hang it all up; for I, DI­A­MOND LIL, will not be caged in the twi­light zone any longer.”

Lady Ch­ablis, 59

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