The race for City Commissioner and City Council officially began at the ITLA, In the Life Atlanta, Black Pride event on August 27, 2017 at the Phillip Rush Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
The forum begins with (7) seven candidates of whom all qualified to continue the race for one of the positions available in the city elections. Each candidate had the opportunity to introduce themselves to the attendees and give us a brief synopsis of what they stand for and why they are running for an elected seat.
Most of the candidates were inclusive with their LGBT focus; which we have our first openly African American LGBT Male candidate; Joshua McNair running for City Commissioner of District 4.
More than 30 residents came out to the event in anticipation to hear what the candidates were offering differently from the current council members. Many residents were concerned that their communities were still being overlooked by the glam and glitter of the upcoming developments that the city has been focused on and not of the surrounding hot zones that have been in poverty and economic downfall.
While others stressed to hear about what changes were going to be made to help the black LGBT community with the struggle for survival.
“What can the commission do to empower the Health Department to reach more residents in affected communities?” This was asked by moderator Charles Stevens. Immediately Josh opens the conversation by diving right into the Fulton county Prep clinics that were designed to target the areas with a high HIV and AIDS populous.
He gives us a firsthand account of how he worked in resistance testing, in which he met with a lot of push back from the Fulton County Health Department boards and committees when asking questions regarding their treatment methods as well as why they were not accessible for the afflicted areas.
“The Public Health Department refuses to open access for the residents to receive medical attention and prep itself.” He speaks out.
HIV and AIDS crisis in the City of Atlanta and Fulton County was widely spoken about after this question was posed by all. Each candidate delivered the same message, we need to focus on our housing, helping the homeless, and HIV needs.
Natalie Hall felt compelled to give her support in the fight to fix the crisis. She explained how the partnerships of all organizations needs to be created with the City and County. More residents need to stand up and speak out on what their needs are and the organizations need to be ready to address these concerns and fix them. With the participation of everyone in the city, they will be able to figure out a plan of attack.
Lauren Welsh really stood out among the crowd delivering the very truth that most overlook. “We are spending $30 million dollars to build a bridge to connect the cities highway to the new stadium, when we should be dividing that money up and dispersing into our low-income areas where the economy is failing and the health issues are high.”
Another major question of the evening was asked by the moderator, “How would you use your platform to create a space for the Black LGBT youth?”
Jonathan Whitfield, candidate for City Council District 4, spoke about Bayard Rustin; One of the African American LGBT and EBANMANs leading pioneers in the fight, progression and institutionalizing the LGBT focus for the African American people. He wants to create a space that is in recognition to the Bayard legacy and develop a voice that has been overshadowed. Unifying black people not by sexual orientation, but by community togetherness.
Welsh acknowledges that there shouldn’t be just a space, but only a voice. She recalls how she has watched many voices speak up and out but no one has done anything to listen and impact. The city has many boards and groups that claim they focus on these struggles but they are not authentic. We need authenticity and do away with the old influences by restructuring and reviving the NBU platform.
“History!!! A new approach to civic Engagement.” She says.
While all candidates share similar voices, we have a lot to work on to build the foundation of the LGBT African American Community. From civil duty, housing reconstruction, homelessness, job creation, our health; we must as a city, as a community, as a body bring our efforts together and make plan that can be executed.