The history of Black gay organizing in Atlanta is rich and deserves to be persevered and used as a tool to inform and affirm the next generation of Black gay men. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution dives into the history of Second Sunday, one of the most important discussion groups created in the early 90s for Black gay men in Atlanta and the push to confer a historical marker in Old Fourth Ward Park where it all started.
According to The AJC, the group,Historic Atlanta and its LGBTQ advisory committee, is working with the Georgia Historical Society and the City of Atlanta to get two markers placed this year.
Atlanta and other parts of the south were still relatively unsafe and hostile to LGBTQ people in the 80s and 90s. "Being out could mean the loss of a job, harassment, or deathly violence. Yet, regardless of race, for a lot of gay people, Atlanta was a place large enough to offer anonymity and community. However precarious, life outside the closet — whether lived tentatively or boldly — was possible in the city supposedly too busy to hate."
The building where the men held their first meetings is long gone. Today the landscape is filled with sprawling, anonymous, modern apartment complexes. Yet, the importance of Second Sunday has not been lost on those who were there in the early days, or on those who came of age when gay marriage was legal and HIV was treatable.
No such building remains to mark Second Sunday, but early attendees such as Craig Washington remember its impact. Washington, now a social worker, was in his early 30s in 1993 when he started attending the meetings, which were started by Franklin and others. This wasn’t a political action group, rather it was a group whose very existence was in and of itself political, said Washington.
“We talked about everything: What it means to be out as a gay man, interracial relationships, intergenerational relationships, intimate partner violence, safe-sex education and risk reduction, racism within the LGBT community,” Washington said. “Even having a discussion group has more significance than some people with more privilege might ascribe to it. These were men who in other aspects of their lives didn’t have those outlets and therefore couldn’t benefit from the affirmation and wisdom that comes from a group like that.”
Meetings were advertised by flyer or snail mail. Topics were chosen from a hat for discussion at subsequent meetings. Participants had to prepare their arguments as if readying for a debate, Washington said, and that “meant a certain attention to quality.”
One memorable meeting on interracial relationships was presented as a mock trial, with participants arguing for or against them.
There was flirting at some meetings, but there was also fellowship and community, Washington said.
“It was an understanding that this means more than you,” he said.
The group initially met at members’ homes but quickly outgrew that model. They later met in community spaces, and the group ran for about 15 years. Even so, by its existence and persistence, Second Sunday had become another chapter in the city’s history.