Recent shootings impact Atlanta Pride participation


Glitter and rainbow clothing signified the 47th annual Atlanta Pride Festival. Every year, thousands gather at the Civic Center in Midtown to celebrate LGBTQ+ pride in mid October.

Attendance this year reached an all time high of 250,000 people according to the Pride organizers, but some of them, like junior Andi Kezh, were hesitant to partake in the festivities.

Kezh has two moms, so she has always advocated for LGBTQ+ rights.  

“I’ve been going [to Pride] since I was in the womb,” Kezh said. “It’s always been a part of my life.”

Recent shootings in Las Vegas stirred up some reluctance towards gathering in such a large place. Executive Director of the Pride Committee Jamie Fergerson even admitted that she received many concerns about security. After the Las Vegas shootings, the security plan was re-evaluated, but only minor changes needed to be made.

Susie Kezh, one of Andi’s moms, was nervous about the potential danger, but not attending Pride never occurred to her or her daughter.

“I just go every year. It’s just a part of my life,” Andi said.

Sophomore McKenna Mooney also pushed aside her fear to attend the festival. She knew that the police and security present would keep her safe. She also realized that Pride was more important than safety.

“I realized that I’d rather express myself and stand up for my rights and have a good time than not attend,” Mooney said.

Andi agrees.

“You just have to keep living and doing the things you enjoy, and not live in fear of what could happen,” Andi said.

That’s exactly what Andi did.

Kezh marched with the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) float, right behind a float for a men’s strip club.

“We got to stand in the parade behind half-naked men, which was really nice,” Kezh said. “I also really love the drag queens. They are so fierce and awesome. “

Andi Kezh and her friend posing with drag queen

The atmosphere of Pride is also very positive. Even though there are protesters against the LGBT community, the parade never gives them attention. Every year, volunteers hold up giant flower bouquets over the protesters’ signs, drawing the attention back on the parade, where it should be, according to Kezh.

Mooney agrees. Even though she was alarmed by the protesters at first, people in the parade told Mooney and her friends to ignore them.

“I felt so much more safe by their comments,” Mooney said.

Sophomore Eliana Norton thought the protesters were amusing. She arrived just past the Civic Center to where the protesters were gathered and noted the ignorance of some of the signs.

“One of the signs said ‘Do You Have AIDS Yet?’ and while it is a serious message, I found it hard to take seriously,” Norton said.

Mooney and her friend clad in rainbow

Overall, Pride is a way for the LGBTQ community to raise awareness for their cause and for people to recognize who they are. The festival brings the community closer together.

“It is a time of great celebration for people with diverse gender identities, expressions and sexual orientations,” Fergerson said. “It is the one time each year where our community is most visible.”

At the same time, Pride was not a time to only be serious for Mooney, Kezh and Norton. Pride was also a way to have fun. The festival allows people to let loose, dance and just enjoy themselves.

“We don’t worry about what we look like. It’s just pure enjoyment,” Kezh said. “You hang out with new people and your friends, and it’s just a way for people to really feel like themselves.”