By Miko Evans of Meak Productions
Photos: Meak Productions, various
As Mr. History of Black Gay Atlanta, Miko Evans is the expert on local and national heroes and sheroes who have shaped Black History. In Peach’s continued celebration of Black History Month, Miko presents us with some of the local Atlanta profiles that have significantly impacted our city and state. In the next issue of Peach, we will step onto the national stage with Miko Evans, so stay tuned for that also.
Check out the not previously published bonus tributes below!
Born June 6, 1991, in Albany, Georgia, and raised on a military base, Park Cannon is an American politician from the state of Georgia. She is the youngest elected member of the Georgia House of Representatives, representing the 58th district, and a member of the Democratic Party. Following her parents’ divorce, Cannon moved with her mother to Brooklyn, New York, where she attended Poly Prep. Cannon was captain of the dance and step teams, ran track and cross-country, and became fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. Cannon was deeply inspired by President Barack Obama’s election, creating an original modern dance piece, “Yes, We Can!” and performing it for the school. Following graduation from high school, Cannon initially enrolled at Chapman University in Orange, California, but faced racism during her short time there. Due to a lack of support and action against racist students at the university, Cannon moved back home to Georgia. Cannon then transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she graduated with a degree in linguistics and minored in women’s and gender studies. She was immediately offered a job with The Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta and began work in Black women’s health promotion and wellness and lobbying as a health advocate. She also volunteered with Planned Parenthood and NARAL. In November 2015, Cannon received a call from then Georgia State Rep. Simone Bell, who informed Cannon she was contemplating resigning to take a position with Lambda Legal. They forged a friendship after meeting, and Bell asked Cannon if she had ever considered running for office. Cannon immediately prepared to start running for office for the January 19th special election with excitement and inspired vision. She was victorious in the election and became the youngest member to ever serve in the statehouse. At the time, she was one of just four openly LGBTQ Black lawmakers in state legislatures nationwide. Cannon serves on the Executive Committee of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus—the nation’s largest state Black caucus—as its chair of the Civil and Human Rights Committee and co-chair of communications. She serves on the Insurance and Small Business Development House committees, the City of Atlanta Delegation, the Fulton County Delegation, Bi-partisan Future Caucus, and the Women’s Caucus secretary. Following the passing of civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis in July 2020, Cannon applied to succeed him as the Democratic nominee for Georgia’s 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives in the November election. Cannon was one of the party’s final five candidates out of 131 applicants. Though the committee did not choose her, she remains to be a force for change in Georgia and a Real example to young queer women nationwide.
Effectively known as “A Bitch For Justice,” Sis. Cheryl Courtney-Evans (1952-October 2016) was the Founder/Executive Director of Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth AKA TILTT, the pioneering transgender support & advocacy organization to serve both trans men and women in Atlanta, which started in 2007. In April 2009, Ms. Courtney-Evans participated with over 200 transgender individuals, sponsored by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), in Lobby Days on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress members for passage of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act with gender identity included as one of the protected groups, as well as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The former was signed into law in 2010. She is the recipient of the 2012 Pioneer Award, issued by the Transfaith In Color Conference & the Freedom Center for Social Justice of Charlotte, NC. Her website, a Bitch for Justice, chronicled her opinions regarding current events, especially those affecting the transgender community. In January of 2016, Courtney-Evans was battling lung cancer and had undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment. On September 22, She posted to Facebook that she was undergoing heart and lung tests in the hospital. Two days later, she had minor surgery. The news of her death at age 64 shocked and saddened friends across the country who knew Courtney-Evans from her tireless advocacy work on transgender issues. Her advocacy work prompted the Atlanta Pride Committee in June 2016 to name her as one of its 12 grand marshals of the pride parade in the Fall of that year. She will be remembered as a Lady that didn’t play when it came to Trans Issues; she was especially hard on those who claimed to be allies to the community but didn’t show it by their deeds. In 2021, Meak Productions’ national black LGBTQ division, History of Black Gay America, deems Cheryl Courtney-Evans as the Queen of Atlanta’s Trans Activism Movement, second only to the GodMother, Dee Dee Chamblee.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 17, 1959, and successfully dubbed the “International Man of Style,” Dwight Eubanks is a trendsetting celebrity stylist, fashion designer, entrepreneur, reality tv star, and successful owner of the “Purple Door Salon” in Atlanta! He’s popularly known as the former hairstylist of some of the cast members of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Eubanks is an industry veteran who’s been immersed in the field of fashion, cosmetology, and entrepreneurship for over 30 years. His creativity and fashion sense is impeccable. He continues to share his talent as an integral part of national and global fashion show productions, national hairstyling events, and award ceremonies. Before the Real Housewives were holding their peaches, Dwight was already a peach. He’s an original native of the city that is now known as the Hollywood of the South. He attended and graduated from both Walter White Elementary and Frederick Douglass High School (Official magnet school for technology) in the historic Collier Heights neighborhood (one of the first communities in the nation built exclusively for and by the upcoming Atlanta African-American middle class). He received his License of Cosmetology from the Arnold International School of Cosmetology, along with added training from Chicago’s Pivot Point International.
In 2008, Eubanks was tapped to join the cast of the wildly popular Real Housewives of Atlanta, Bravo TV’s pioneering and most successful reality tv show, as the official hairstylist. He also starred in another Bravo hit, Married to Medicine, as the creative director of the Lisa Nicole Fashion Line. Eubanks continues to produce and participate in various fashion shows worldwide and has recently hosted the Bronner Brothers Hair Show, which has been in production for 65 years. One of the fashion shows he’s most known for is the annual fundraiser for the 100 Black Women MECCA Chapter, whose events were recently held at the prestigious Porche Experience Center in Hapeville, Georgia. He often works as the “guest stylist” in cities like New York, Los Angles, Paris, and Dubai. Known as a fashion industry trailblazer, Eubanks has also distinguished himself in the vogue worlds of Milan and Paris. In an interview with the Atlanta Fashion Examiner, Eubanks says he is still able to find time for his salon. He maintains a list of clients, walk-ins and also conducts lifestyle consultations. By closely communicating with clients, he develops a full understanding of the approach and specific requirements for each. This ensures the ability to create flattering hair designs that allow the client to develop an individual style. Simplicity and understated elegance are the essence of the Purple Door.
Eubanks has also maintained a reputation as a supporter of the community. As a vehicle to “give back,” Eubanks established the Institute of Beauty. This institution organizes seminars and workshops to help up & coming hairstylists. He produced the World AIDS Day Fashion Show, as well as being a workshop presenter/host at the BET Rip The Runway Commentary and the CDC Hairstylers and Barbers Against AIDS, to name a few. He also holds his annual holiday toy drive and fundraiser, along with other initiatives and causes. In 2017, he became the first fashion designer and stylist to launch his own Gin Cocktail line, which he made part of “The Eubanks Collection,” which comes in four different flavors. His Gin collection was first advertised and featured, along with his fashion collection, in the first Anniversary of Meak Productions’ limited edition campaign, Suit & Tie/Black & White (Meak Productions is the World’s first LGBT+ Exclusive Talent Agency). To date, Eubanks is the most sought after international designer and stylist in the Atlanta area and abroad.
Joan P. Garner (1951 – April 18, 2017) became the first out lesbian woman of color to be elected to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. She was first elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 and 2016. Garner represented the residents of Fulton County District 4, which includes Midtown Atlanta and the neighborhoods west of downtown Atlanta. Her tenure on the board marked a period of increasing cooperation and bipartisanship that some attribute to Garner’s calm temperament and skill as a bridge-builder. A Washington, DC native, Commissioner Garner made Atlanta her home in 1978. She graduated from the University of the District of Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in English and earned her Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Howard University. As she first became involved in politics in the early 1990s, Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson appointed Garner as one of his liaisons to the Gay and Lesbian Community (the first Atlanta mayor to have such designated positions). Garner advocated for the cause of gay and lesbian equality when such openness was rare, perhaps especially in the African American community. Garner’s advocacy in this area of civil rights included service on Lambda Legal and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force boards. She was a co-convener of the African American Lesbian Gay Alliance and helped organize the first Human Rights Campaign fundraising dinner in Atlanta. Garner lived in Atlanta’s Historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, within the Martin Luther King Historic District, with her spouse, Fulton County State Court Judge Jane Morrison. During her service on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, she was known as “The Health Commissioner” and became the Board’s Executive Sponsor of its “All People Are Healthy” priority area. This fits well with Garner’s long commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS, a social justice concern of hers for decades as she fought as an advocate for gay and lesbian civil rights. She co-founded the Fulton County Task Force on HIV/AIDS, among numerous health initiatives. After her own diagnosis with cancer, her personal experience informed her advocacy for and commitment to health care equality. Her involvement in the neighborhood spanned more than twenty years from 1995 until her untimely passing in 2017.
REV. KIM JACKSON
Born August 25 in Elkins, West Virginia, and raised near Cowpens, South Carolina, Kimberly S. Jackson is an American politician and Episcopal priest. At 22, She made Georgia her home at the beginning of the millennium. She was raised in a hardworking family, where the love of God, family, and country was prioritized. From her mom, Kim learned the importance of expanding access to quality early childhood education and health care. She studied at Furman University, graduating in 2006, and later graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory University with a Master of Divinity. After graduating from Furman University, Kim volunteered as an EMT and led her colleagues at Emory’s Candler School of Theology in advocating for Criminal Justice Reform in Georgia. Upon receiving her Master of Divinity, Kim commenced her vocation as an Episcopal priest. She made history as the first lesbian of color to be ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. During ten years of ministry, she served as a college chaplain, a nationally renowned consultant and preacher, and a social justice advocate. Rev. Jackson also serves as a vicar at the Church of the Common Ground, giving services for the homeless. Jackson’s advocacy and community work is wide-ranging; she’s provided support to refugee children, survivors of sexual violence, and Georgians on death row, among others. In 2018, the Georgia House of Representatives commended her for her “tireless efforts on behalf of the disenfranchised, disenchanted, and dispossessed.” Jackson has didn’t envision running for political office at age 35; But when a Georgia Senate seat came open in her district, she changed her plan. Jackson was one of four candidates who ran in the Democratic primary to represent Georgia State Senate District 41. During her campaign, she was endorsed by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Georgia Equality, and Run for Something, and endorsed by people such as Stacey Abrams, DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston, and Chief Justice Norman Fletcher. Jackson is being heralded as Georgia’s first openly gay State Senator of color. However, she is quick to point out that she shares a district with state Rep. Karla Drenner, the first openly gay member of the Georgia General Assembly.
Born March 13, 1990, and originally from Greensboro, NC, Devin Barrington-Ward is a talented young political strategist, government affairs expert, communications professional, and passionate HIV/AIDS advocate. His vision for the future is grounded in his lived experiences and personal identity as a Black Queer man of Caribbean descent growing beyond the traumas of youth homelessness and navigating Black love, friendships, and community in the midst of immense racial and social challenges and the potential for a better future. The oldest of four children, his family relocated to Georgia, where he attended Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia, graduating in 2008. He found his passion for politics and advancing social justice causes at the age of 16 while in high school, where he served as an active member of the speech and debate teams, securing several local, state, and national awards for his skill in extemporaneous speaking, original oratory, policy debate, and in the student congress. In addition, Barrington-Ward served in leadership positions with Men of Distinction, Student Government Association, and the Young Political Leaders of America (YPLA), an organization he co-founded in his sophomore year. He garnered several feature stories in local newspapers, as well as summer jobs and internships with numerous elected officials, including Georgia State Representative Michelle Henson and Georgia State Representative and State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. After high school, while serving as a full-time political operative, Barrington-Ward participated in several leadership trainings, including the Congressional Black Caucus Political Boot Camp, the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative, and the Victory Fund LGBT Candidate and Campaign Management Training Institute. After struggling with his sexual identity, It wasn’t until 2009 that while working with then Atlanta mayoral candidate Mary Norwood, Barrington-Ward began coming out and accepting his bisexuality, crediting the inclusive environment created by Norwood and support from friends, including his former girlfriend. Since then, he has been an HIV and sexual health advocate, serving as a Health Equity Fellow for the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) in Washington DC. He was a partner with the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition and Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, and its Domestic Advocacy Program. Ward also teamed up with the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) to host a series of symposiums, summits, and legislative hearings to bring legislators and HIV prevention professionals together to discuss Georgia’s HIV epidemic. In 2011, he served as a founding member of the short-lived organization, Change Atlanta, which made its debut at the 15th Anniversary of Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride celebration. As a result of this work, Ward was appointed by the Presidents of Impulse Group United and AIDS Healthcare Foundation to serve as the first local chapter President of Impulse Group DC from 2015 to 2018. Under his leadership, the board of Impulse DC built a sex-positive, entertainment-based HIV advocacy organization rooted in racial equity. It centered on the experiences of Black and Brown LGBTQ communities and homeless youth disproportionately impacted by the epidemic, homophobia, transphobia, and racism. After his work in DC, he returned to Atlanta and launched a primary challenge against longtime state Sen. Horacena Tate in 2020 before COVID-19 began. Ward wanted to tackle gentrification, lack of affordable housing, and the lack of due process in the legal system in District 38. The district runs from Southwest Atlanta up into South Cobb. He criticized their lack of employment protections and affordable housing for LGBTQ people and low-income citizens living with HIV. Though he didn’t win the election, that did not stop this future Senator from advocating for Black & Brown people. He currently serves as the Founder & Managing Director of the Black Futurists Group, a social justice innovation firm using public policy, community organizing, media engagement, and political education as tools to build reimagined, equitable, and liberated Black futures in our lifetime.
Effectively known as “The ARTivist,” Antron Reshaud Olukayode (April 26, 1984 – November 12, 2017) was an accomplished poet, author, HIV/AIDS activist, blogger, self-taught multidisciplinary artist, vocalist, music producer, creative director of BOS+AROS, and Buddhist practitioner. Born in Gainesville, Florida, as Antron Reshaud Brown, He attended Buccholz High School, and following graduation in 2002, enrolled at the University of Florida and studied part-time at Santa Fe Community College in Arizona. Antron endured the pains and joys of a single-parent household. By second grade, Antron began his theatrical journey as well as his short story writing, and he won a local writing contest based on a story about going to the grocery store with his mother. At age 15, he worked with children at his local Boys and Girls Club as an art director and continued his time there throughout his high school years. Effeminate, free-spirited, and gifted, Antron was constantly teased, picked on, socially rejected, beaten, and abused. By age 17, he had been brutally raped by two young men in a field near his neighborhood. Left to die, he recalled, “a butterfly arrived and landed on my face providing comfort and hope.” He considered suicide but heard a voice clearly saying “WRITE,” so he picked up a pen and notebook sitting on the nightstand and began his poetic journey. When he was 19, Antron attended college and met Jordan, a basketball player who won his heart. However, Jordan was not comfortable with his sexuality, and he brutally raped and physically assaulted Antron, infecting him with HIV. After receiving his diagnosis, filled with shame and anger, he dropped out of college and re-entered the workforce by taking dead-end jobs. Still living at home with his mother, writing not only became his escape; it became his voice and gave him the strength to leave Gainesville for a better life.
On February 16, 2006, with four boxes, $200, and a Greyhound ticket in hand, Antron left for Atlanta, Georgia. Activism and sharing his poetry were the last things on his mind; however, a good friend, Kelvin Barlow, got a glimpse of Antron’s work and introduced him to legendary writer and mentor, AID Atlanta’s program manager, Craig Washington. Craig requested Antron to recite his poetry at SPEAKFIRE, a signature event of the Annual Atlanta Black Gay Pride celebration. From that moment, his spoken word & activism journey began. Antron gained his first HIV/AIDS prevention job at National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities (NAESM) in 2007. That same year, he released his first collection of poetry, “Bohemian Rebel: Naked and Exposed Vol. 1.” Over the next three years, Antron produced “The Rising Vol. 2,” a collection of poems and proses about his years being homeless, and his first written stage play, “TRANS-ition,” the story of a teenager transitioning from male to female. He also created his first one-person show, “Evicted,” about enduring homelessness while HIV positive.
Additionally, he released the poetry collections “Fearless Revolution, Vol. 3,” and “Ayo: Lost and Found,” in 2011. The following year, Antron contributed “Afraid of My Own Reflection” to the 2012 anthology, “For Colored Boys” He also produced a blog and vblog, With Love ATL, for thebody.com. His passion for music had always been part of growing up in the Baptist church. He didn’t seriously pursue music until 2013 when a depression-driven breakup moved him to produce his first EP, “Oluka Oluka.” During his final years, Antron was a representative for the Centers for Disease Control’s initiative, “Let’s Stop HIV Together,” for which he made an appearance on the “Just Keke” show on BET. In 2016, he joined the World’s 1st LGBTQ EXCLUSIVE Talent Agency, Meak Productions, Inc., where he was deemed Mr. Fall Quarter 2016-17 and became a special guest highlight in the Agency’s pioneering campaigns, Suit & Tie/Black & White and NIGHTLIFE. Using art to connect with people and spread awareness, he premiered his multimedia exhibition, ANTRONICA, later that year. While returning to school to major in Music Production at the SAE Institute in 2017, he developed Kaposi sarcoma, dangerous cancer that spread from his skin to his other organs. After a successful feature in Meak Pro’s annual SUMMERHEAT Campaign that same year, he was admitted to the hospital in October. He was expecting only to stay a week, until his condition worsened. Due to not attending his graduation from SAE, the hospital staff dressed him in his Cap & Gown and live-streamed him during the graduation ceremony. After a month-long stay at the hospital, and with only three days to live, his family took him back to his hometown in Florida, where he made his transition in hospice on November 12, 2017. To listen to Antron’s Music, click here: https://soundcloud.com/antron-reshaud-olukayode
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 15, 1980, Charles Stephens is a highly respected writer, critical thinker, activist, and founder of The Counter Narrative Project, an initiative that engages in advocacy around issues that impact Black gay men. Raised in the Adamsville community of Southwest Atlanta, he grew up with a vague notion of what it meant to be gay and none of what it meant to be both black and gay. Years later, this would become both the fuel and the fire for his writing and activism, especially upon learning that so much history of black gay men had been erased or fragmented. Charles received his B.A. from Georgia State University in 2005, where he co-founded Black Out, the campus’s first Black LGBTQ student organization. He was also the recipient of the ZAMI Scholarship and the Tony Daniels Community Ally Award. Through the works of James Baldwin, Essex Hemphill, Joseph Beam, and Craig Harris, he found a new blueprint to navigate new terrain. Though lacking a social safety net, he was able to find a more cultural one by aligning with Atlanta’s political and intellectual community, which is where he mostly felt supported by. Stephens attended Second Sunday and My Brothers Keeper meetings (Atlanta’s 1st Black Gay Male support groups). He then started joining various advisory boards and committees. From 2006 to 2011, Charles Stephens ran The Deeper Love Project, an HIV prevention program for Black gay and bisexual men in Atlanta, and in 2011, he coordinated a social marketing campaign targeting young, Black, gay men called From Where I Stand for AID Atlanta. The campaign produced a popular t-shirt series inspired by Audre Lorde, Essex Hemphill, and Joseph Beam and focused on the inherent resilience among young, Black, gay men as a tool to empower them in the fight against HIV. The campaign also produced a book, documentary, and series of impactful billboards around Atlanta. Charles is especially proud of the community building and groundbreaking sexual health work he’s been involved in throughout the past decade. He served as the Conference Organizer for the historic 2014 conference “Whose Beloved Community Black Civil and LGBT Rights” at Emory University. The anthology he co-edited called Black Gay Genius was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Charles received the Georgia State University College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award and received the Gentleman of the Year Award from the Gentlemen’s Foundation. He has also been a CDC Institute for HIV Prevention Leadership Fellow, an Arcus Foundation Executive Director Fellow, and a Rockwood Leader in the HIV movement fellow. His writings have appeared in the AJC, Atlanta Magazine, and Creative Loafing. He previously wrote a column for Advocate magazine, and Georgia Voice focused on Black LGBTQ+ politics and culture. He became a go-to on the panel circuit. And yet, in all of his endeavors, He still felt like something was missing. In grappling with this, he found himself dreaming about what would later become the Counter Narrative Project, which is now in its 8th year of operation and service to the community.