GA Voice - - Georgianews -

Pride Month is not only a time to cel­e­brate the strides made by the LGBT com­mu­nity, but a time to honor the pi­o­neers and places of its his­tory.

This month, Touch­ing Up Our Roots or­ga­nized two trol­ley tours to en­sure those things never get for­got­ten. The first tour on June 4 cov­ered im­por­tant spots in Down­town and Mid­town At­lanta, as well as Lit­tle 5 Points. On June 17, tour par­tic­i­pants will be treated to a ven­ture down the Cheshire Bridge cor­ri­dor.

The tours cen­ter on the two “epi­cen­ters” of At­lanta’s LGBT com­mu­nity, said Dave Hay­ward, founder of Touch­ing Up Our Roots.

“I don’t know ex­actly why, but 10th and Pied­mont, that in­ter­sec­tion is one of the first places where we could have openly LGBT busi­nesses. It was kind of like the speakeasy, Pro­hi­bi­tion era be­fore that — peo­ple tell me what it was like be­fore the ’60s, it was like you wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily know that was a bar,” Hay­ward said. “The whole Cheshire Bridge cor­ri­dor is one of the most im­por­tant places in our his­tory where we could have openly LGBT es­tab­lish­ments. When we go on Cheshire Bridge, a lot of those places are still there. Some of them have mor­phed — there was a big gay bar, show palace called the Magic Gar­den; now that’s the Onyx, a straight male strip club.”

In be­tween tour stops, par­tic­i­pants were treated to nuggets of knowl­edge and LGBT his­tory from the pi­o­neers who lived it. Hay­ward was joined on June 4 by les­bian ac­tivist Maria He­lena Dolan and fel­low his­to­rian and ad­vo­cate Gil Ro­bi­son, who chimed in to share their ex­pe­ri­ences and fa­vorite sto­ries. Dur­ing the first tour, at­ten­dees saw the new lo­ca­tion of the AIDS Quilt, heard sto­ries about the fem­i­nist les­bians’ role in or­ga­niz­ing anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion ral­lies, vis­ited LGBT-friendly churches and lis­tened to tales of bars and peo­ple long gone, but al­ways in our hearts.

“One of the things that is kind of sad and funny is that you drive around town and it’s like, ‘Well, that’s where that was. And it’s not there now, but take our word for it,’” Hay­ward said.

One of those was The Tower.

June 9, 2017

—Dave Hay­ward, founder of Touch­ing Up Our Roots

“The Tower is what peo­ple called the ‘Dyke Dun­geon.’ It wasn’t whole­some-look­ing, but that’s one of the things that we liked,” Dolan said. “You could sit in a booth and talk and carry on, and I had sex in the bath­room once — it was some­one I knew! — and you could dance in the back. It was very sad that it’s no longer there. It’s been bull­dozed, be­cause in At­lanta we can’t keep any­thing. We have to put big build­ings up.”

A ‘cul­tur­ally en­rich­ing’ ex­pe­ri­ence

The tour brought to­gether par­tic­i­pants of all back­grounds, ages and gen­ders. Most were from At­lanta, but Mar­garet Ta­tum, who is in town for the sum­mer from Mary­land, found out about the tours through a so­cial me­dia search, look­ing to get ac­quainted with the LGBT com­mu­nity in her tem­po­rary home­town.

Joshua Lorenz, pres­i­dent of the Metro At­lanta As­so­ci­a­tion of Pro­fes­sion­als, was also on the trol­ley.

“It’s go­ing to be a very cul­tur­ally en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said. “It’s good to know our his­tory. It’s good to know where we came from. It’s good to know the chal­lenges we’ve come through as a com­mu­nity.” The idea for the tour arose last year. “We’ve been do­ing his­tory stuff over the years and I no­ticed last year, when we were do­ing ‘Our Found­ing Valen­tines,’ we were talk­ing orig­i­nally about giv­ing credit to peo­ple who were do­ing things,” Hay­ward said.

A fel­low ac­tivist sug­gested they do some­thing sim­i­lar to Creative Loaf­ing’s his­tory tour and scav­enger hunt, so Touch­ing Up Our Roots part­nered with both At­lanta Pride and the LGBT In­sti­tute to make it hap­pen. In 2016, the group only held one tour, and

Touch­ing Up Our Pride Roots trol­ley tour

Satur­day, June 17 at 1 p.m. De­parts from the Cen­ter for Civil and Hu­man Rights 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., At­lanta, GA Park­ing: $10 at the World of Coke park­ing deck Tick­ets: $15 www.lgbtin­sti­­tory-tour

By DAL­LAS ANNE DUNCAN “It’s our story brought to life. You’ve heard of it and here it is, in liv­ing color, three-di­men­sional. A lot of times you wouldn’t know that be­cause so many of those places are there no longer, or have be­come some­thing else en­tirely.”

ex­panded the route to two for 2017.

“It’s our story brought to life. You’ve heard of it and here it is, in liv­ing color, three-di­men­sional,” Hay­ward said. “A lot of times you wouldn’t know that be­cause so many of those places are there no longer, or have be­come some­thing else en­tirely. For ex­am­ple, the strip bars on Cheshire Bridge that were once a LGBT strip place.”

Dolan, who rode the tour ap­pro­pri­ately dressed in a Won­der Wo­man T-shirt, likened the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate to DC Comics’ Bizarro World.

“Peo­ple have been put into place to de­stroy what we’ve built up, and we can’t al­low it,” she said.

A crowd of peo­ple, in­clud­ing or­ga­nizer Dave Hay­ward and ac­tivists Gil Ro­bi­son and Maria He­lena Dolan (cen­ter three), braved tor­ren­tial down­pours for a trol­ley tour of LGBT his­toric spots in Down­town, Mid­town and Lit­tle 5 Points on June 4. (Photo by Dal­las Anne Duncan)

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