Re­gard­ing Henri McTerry

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“It was all about be­ing free to ex­press your­self and have a good time.”

- Henri McTerry

Years be­fore I joined the re­verse mi­gra­tion South, At­lanta had been dubbed the new Black gay mecca. Within a year of my ar­rival in 1992, I was in­tro­duced to ac­tivists and artists who wel­comed me into their fold. They also taught me about oth­ers who laid foun­da­tions for them. Long be­fore sto­ried clubs such as Traxx opened their doors, black gay so­ci­ety was ac­tive yet con­stricted. There were hid­den fig­ures whose so­cial func­tions and net­works ex­panded com­mu­nity struc­ture. They opened win­dows and closed doors through which “the chil­dren” could come out, gather and play. Known as the Fa­ther of At­lanta Black Pride, Henri McTerry was at the van­guard of this move­ment. On Feb. 18, this tow­er­ing bon vi­vant passed away, leav­ing a legacy as unique as the dash­ing char­ac­ter he dis­played in life.

Henri was one of the city’s most suc­cess­ful event or­ga­niz­ers from the late ’70s through­out the ’80s. The At­lanta na­tive was an early ar­chi­tect for Black LGBTQ nightlife in At­lanta. He was widely rec­og­nized for the gala La­bor Day pic­nics he or­ga­nized from 1976 – 1988. By the mid-’80s, the events would draw on av­er­age more than 500 at­ten­dees, mostly gay men from across the US to his spacious back­yard in De­catur.

His par­ties mag­ne­tized At­lanta and the grow­ing con­ver­gence was even­tu­ally trans- formed into the na­tion’s largest Black Pride. From 1984 – 87, Henri or­ga­nized a pop­u­lar Fri­day night so­cial known as Skirts, hosted at Alexan­der’s, a restau­rant in the “South­ern Bell” build­ing. As a young novice DJ, Keith Stephens watched Henri pre­pare events and was in­spired.

“He knew how to get the per­mits, the spon­sor­ships. He re­ally knew how to put things to­gether,” Stephens said.

As a young man, Henri stud­ied at the Fash­ion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in New York City. The man had style. His events were pol­ished af­fairs assert­ing the sen­si­bil­ity that his peo­ple de­served qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ences.

Henri was highly sup­port­ive of fel­low or­ga­niz­ers, es­pe­cially younger men like David Hamp­ton and DJ Keith Stephens. Hamp­ton was a found­ing mem­ber of the Ritz Boys, and his ef­forts el­e­vated Traxx’s promi­nence.

Be­yond his pub­lic works, Henri was a care­taker by na­ture. He re­lo­cated to Wash­ing­ton, D.C. to help AIDS or­ga­ni­za­tions im­prove ser­vices for HIV-pos­i­tive clients. He do­nated his own time and money help­ing friends to hang on, or die with dig­nity. He did so with­out seek­ing at­ten­tion or re­ward.

Henri was 69 years old. I wish that I had made more time to spend with him. I re­gret not do­ing more to hand him his well-earned roses while he was still here. This writ­ing is an over­due homage to a gifted brother who gave far more than he was cred­ited for. Thank you for my com­mu­nity, Henri.

“Henri was 69 years old. I wish that I had made more time to spend with him. I re­gret not do­ing more to hand him his well-earned roses while he was still here.”

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