Atlanta Pride grand marshals announced

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The Rev. Antonio F. Jones and Kerry Pacer are the 2006 Grand Marshals. Judy Shepard and Barron Segar are Honorary Marshals for the year.

Rev. Jones has long been active in the gay community, in both religious and secular settings, including HIV/AIDS organizations. His work has taken place in and around New York City and in Atlanta, where he founded a non-profit organization and where he is now based. Rev. Jones continues to serve as the pastor of Unity Fellowship of Christ Church in Southwest Atlanta.

I am honored to be chosen, Rev. Jones says. I am grateful for this recognition, and I look forward to celebrating pride with my community and being the holy-homo that I am!

Kerry Pacer is a 17-year-old senior at White County High School in Cleveland, GA, where, in January 2005 she decided to start a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance), PRIDE Peers Rising in Diversity Education. Pacer and her friends encountered hurdles within the school system and from hate groups including the notorious (Fred) Phelps group from Kansas, who picketed her school. She persevered, including becoming part of a lawsuit helmed by the ACLU; that fight continues as the PRIDE group meets off campus. Pacer has received the Unsung Hero Award from the Anti-Defamation League and was honored as The Advocate magazine s Person of the Year for 2005.

"You are honoring one person, Pacer says, yet it was me and other students at White County High School who stood up for our rights. Gays and lesbians do not need to remain silent anymore. And we won’t. This is a great honor, and I thank you so much."

Judy Shepard, who many know as the mother of Matthew Shepard, is executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which she and her husband founded after their son was murdered in an anti-gay attack. The Foundation is dedicated to working toward the causes championed by Matthew during his life: social justice, diversity awareness, diversity education, and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In undertaking the Foundation s work, Shepard has spoken to over one million young people.

I am looking forward to being a part the South’s largest Pride celebration, Shepard says. It was an honor to be asked to participate.

Barron Segar is executive director of the Southeast Chapter of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In addition to a distinguished career in non-profit and business development, he has long taken a leadership role in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Segar serves on the board of directors of AIDS Survival Project and on the advisory board for Project Open Hand. Notably, he also is secretary of the board of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, an organization he helped found in 1992. Through his work with the Foundation, he has helped raise and distribute more than $60 million to HIV/AIDS organizations. Segar was in the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2000.

Being nominated (as a Marshal) by the HIV/AIDS community is one of the greatest honors I’ve ever received, Segar says. I’ll be walking (in the Pride parade) for the 15,000 Georgians who have already died of AIDS and for the countless people all over the world living every day with the virus.

The Atlanta Pride Committee previously announced the theme for this year s event: pride 365 live. love. be. More than 320,000 people are expected to attend the 2006 Atlanta Pride celebration, resulting in a $25 million impact on Metro Atlanta. For further information about Atlanta Pride, please visit: www.AtlantaPride.org.

The Atlanta Pride Committee issues media credentials to reporters and photographers who wish to cover the festival and parade. To expedite onsite media check-in, journalists are asked to pre-register. To pre-register and for information about media check-in during the Pride festival, please see Media & Press under the 06 Festival Information heading at www.AtlantaPride.org. Media representatives who pre-register will receive all 2006 Pride news releases directly.

2006 Atlanta Pride Celebration Sponsors include: Delta Air Lines, Bud Light, Coca-Cola, BellSouth, Smirnoff Twist, Starbucks, Korbel, 1701 Media, Hewlett Packard, Orbitz, Esurance, Washington Mutual, HRC, Southern Voice, Curve Magazine, Instinct Magazine, David Atlanta Magazine, Genre Magazine, Q100, 99x, Einstein s restaurant, and Classic Cadillac-Subaru of Atlanta.

Festival hours are 6-11 p.m. Friday, June 23, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 24, and Sunday, June 25. Admission to the Pride festival is free, but donations are encouraged through wandering volunteer donation collectors at the festival. The parade which is always a highlight of the celebratory weekend will kickoff at 1 p.m. Sunday from the MARTA Civic Center Station.

For further information, including interviews, an e-version of the Pride logo or photos of the Grand Marshals and Honorary Marshals, contact: B. Andrew (Drew) Plant 404-634-7102 AtlantaWriter@mindspring.com