QueerStory Bios

The Duchess

Duchess Claud, known as “The Duchess,” came out in Atlanta in 1959, well before the Stonewall Riots and the formation of the modern LGBT rights movement. Perhaps best known for her work in Atlanta’s leather community, Claud has a long history of LGBT activism and volunteers with Touching Up Our Roots, an Atlanta gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history project.  Claud was involved in many of the LGBT rights movement’s earliest demonstrations and has stayed active in the gay community through the years. She marched in the first Gay March in Washington, D.C. in 1979. Actively involved in the early fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, she worked at AID Atlanta in its infancy in the early 1980s. The Duchess has been a dedicated mentor at numerous MondoHomo QueerStory Dinners, and we are delighted to welcome her back.

Mikel Running Water (Wilson)

Mikel was born on the summer solstice, June 20, 1952, in Miami, Florida. I spent early childhood years playing on the waterfront and enjoying tropical gardens.  Early in adolescence, I began moving around regularly, so in effect I grew up in cities and towns across the southeast US. Places I have lived include:  Athens, GA, Charleston, SC, Greensboro, NC, Asheville, NC, Little Switzerland, NC, Roan Mountain, NC, and, of course, Atlanta . . . twice.

One defining moment in my life occurred on summer solstice 1978. This was the year that the southeast Radical Faerie circle first convened. I owned Running Water Farm on the side of Roan Mountain near Loafer’s Glory, NC. Thirty gay men arrived to begin the ongoing process of defining who they were and how they related to each other and the world. It was a high spiritual happening. A tribe was created. The community communed immediately, there was never any doubt.  The gatherings would continue, becoming what we all now lovingly refer to as Short Mountain Sanctuary May Day gatherings and the Gay Spirit Visions conferences.

It is remarkable that the 30-year Saturn Return of the Southeast Radical Faerie tribe is intersecting with my own life cycles in such a profound way.

A teaser question presented is “Why Atlanta?” There are power points all around the Earth. Stone Mountain must certainly be one of those points. My theory is that spiritual, whole earth, communal birthing occurs in and around Atlanta because of this focused Earth energy. Atlanta is perhaps a choice of the Goddess and a place that we humans seek out.

Current: Constantly inspired and amazed by my relationship with the Atlanta Radical Faerie tribe/circle. Singing with the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus for over 25 years provides an outlet for mentoring to society as a whole. Work a full time corporate job (with international travel) and am counting the days until evolution into a new life path with heart.

Peace, Love, Co-exist


Shelley Emerson

Shelley Emerson is the first transgender woman to lead Fourth Tuesday, the Atlanta lesbian social and community service organization. Shelley also is the first transgender person to be the Grand Marshal of Atlanta Pride, in 2005. Shelley was also the subject of a feature length article in Atlanta Magazine and has been a longtime activist for LGBT human and civil rights.

Berl Boykin

Berl is the original gay activist in Atlanta, having stood up for our rights and our freedoms for fifty years, since he was a freshman at Emory University in 1961.

Berl also worked with the late Shelby Cullum, who was the Atlanta representative for the Mattachine Society, before Stonewall.

In 1969, Berl helped co-found the Georgia Gay Liberation Front after the August 1969 raid on Andy Warhol’s “Lonesome Cowboys” at the Ansley Mall Mini Cinema. In 1971, he was a marshal for the first Atlanta Pride March, when the City refused to grant a permit to march and the marchers had to walk on the sidewalk. Also on July 14, 1971, Berl and the late Klaus Smith and the late Bill Smith met with then Governor Jimmy Carter in his offices to ask for repeal of anti-LGBT laws and for support of pro-LGBT legislation: Carter’s responses were a resounding chorus of “Nos!”

Berl is a playwright and poet and a radio announcer and commentator as well.

Willis Bivins

Willis was a patron of the Stonewall Inn before the raid in July of 1969 and has vivid first person accounts of what the Stonewall was like and who went there. Willis also marched in the first Pride March in New York City in 1970.  Here in Atlanta, Willis is a co-founder of Black and White Men Together and a co-founder of Atlanta Men of All Cultures.

Abby Drue

Abby Drue is one of the first “out” people at Atlanta City Hall having working in the administrations of former Mayors Sam Massell, Maynard Jackson, and Andrew Young.  She was also one of the people ensnared in the raid of “Lonesome Cowboys” on the Ansley Mall Mini Cinema in August of 1969.

Abby is the Founder and Executive Director of The Ben Marion Institute for Social Justice, named in honor and memory of her parents, an educational nonprofit which works to promote behaviors that encourage an inclusive society where individuals and groups embrace differences and value kindness, authenticity, empathy, compassion, and fairness by providing information, training, and resources for individuals and communities to encourage social justice.

Raymond Duke

Since moving to Atlanta from Cleveland, OH in 1998, Raymond R. Duke has worked tirelessly in prevention, education, and services for people at risk for as well as with HIV and STI’s. His first job here was managing the Edgewood Center, which housed HIV+ individuals with dual diagnosis (both HIV and a diagnosis of substance abuse or mental illness).  Since then, he has worked at Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness and then for the State of Georgia Department of Human Resources as a Communicable Disease Specialist. In 2005, Raymond was hired as a Senior Prevention Specialist for Our Common Welfare and is now the Program Manager of Prevention Services at STAND Inc., a community-based organization in Decatur.

Raymond has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and is a graduate of the CDC/Arnold School of Public Health IHPL (Institute of HIV Prevention & Leadership) and a Class of 2009 IHPL Fellow. In addition, he has a Masters in Divinity and has been an Associate Minister at Tabernacle Baptist Church for nine years.

Incredibly enough, Raymond also makes time to organize community building events. He has worked closely with the Human Rights Campaign’s Steering committee around diversity, faith, and religion. He is the founder of ONYX IMAGES of Atlanta, whose anniversary events bring together African-American men for celebration and fellowship as well as co-founder of Inclusivity Inc., an organization which hosts bi-yearly weekend retreats for Same-Gender-Loving men of color and organizes “edutainment seminars” that address critical social issues. To top it all off, he is also President of In The Life Atlanta, the official organizer of Atlanta Black Gay Pride.

According to Raymond, he is “interested in saving lives, and in improving people’s quality of life.”

It is no surprise, then, that in 2010, he was named “one of the 50 most prominent and influential members of Atlanta LGBT community” by Fenuxe Magazine and was also honored by the Atlanta Pride Committee as one of the forty community building Grand Marshals.

Franklin Abbot

Franklin Abbot grew up in Birmingham, Buffalo and Nashville and came to Georgia to attend Mercer in Macon. He worked as the director of a school for mentally challenged children and adults in rural south Georgia and then attended social work school at UGA. Franklin came to Atlanta in 1977 to do his practicum. He was co-director of the 3rd Southeastern Gay and Lesbian Conference and attended the first Radical Faerie gathering at Running Water Farm and the first at Short Mountain Sanctuary. He was one of the first openly gay psychotherapists in Atlanta. He has had a long affiliation with RFD, the radical faerie journal and has edited three anthologies about men and gender. He has two published collections of poetry, co-founded the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival, and serves as its Chairperson. He was asked to attend the first Eurofaerie gathering as the facilitator of circles and rituals. He continues to write, organize, and practice psychotherapy, with no plans to retire. Elizabeth Taylor has been his role model vis-à-vis relationships, and he still hopes to exceed her in how many husbands he will ultimately have, although he does not plan to marry any of them twice.

Diamond Lil

Diamond Lil is one of the foremost female impersonators in the Southeast.

Using her own voice to sing rather than lip synch, she is one of the first female impersonators to write and record her own songs, and to release them first on LPs and then on CDs.  For many years, Diamond was the Queen of the local and regional jukeboxes, famous for her glamour and grease revues, and her paeans to the Silver Grill and the Majestic.

Since 1965, she has been a mainstay in both LGBT bars and in alternative clubs like Eddie’s Attic, Eyedrum, and Manuel’s in the Atlanta area.  Diamond Lil is a leader in the alternative rock movement and a major influence on performers like Ru Paul, Fred Schneider of the B-52s, and Jayne County.

Politically Diamond has endured many arrests simply for being who she is, and came to Atlanta in 1965 when a judge literally ran her out of Savannah under threat of long-term incarceration.  She has performed at many benefits since the beginning of the LGBT human and civil rights movement here in the 1960s and 1970s.  These include a legendary performance at the University of Georgia in 1972, when UGA was endeavoring to run the newly-formed student Committee on Gay Education off the campus.  Diamond helped insure that COGE stay and other student groups endure, as well as helping the Georgia Gay Liberation Front and Atlanta Pride, among many others.

Dave Hayward

With Berl Boykin, Dave Hayward is the co-founder of Touching Up Our Roots, Inc., Georgia’s LGBT History Project.

Hayward is the last remaining activist from the core committee of the 1972 Gay Pride, the first Pride March in the streets.  This was at a time when the City of Atlanta denied a permit for the first Gay Pride in 1971 and forced the marchers to “march” on the sidewalk.  1972 also was a time when gay bars physically ejected activists from their premises:   for leafleting about Gay Pride, and about some bars’ quadruple carding policies for women and minorities.  And at a time when the Atlanta Journal Constitution refused to use the word “gay” and could barely muster saying “homosexual.”

We have come a long way baby.

Hayward is one of the first openly gay journalists in Atlanta and in Georgia, and has written for LGBT publications like The Advocate, OUT Magazine, and Frontiers, as well as for mainstream publications like People and Backstage Magazine, among local, regional, and national publications.

Currently Hayward and Roots’ administrator Fred Brazzell are interviewing LGBT pioneers and innovators both on video, and for the StoryCorps initiative of WABE and National Public Radio.

Hayward serves on the National Center for Civil and Human Rights Global Advisory Board and has identified LGBT stories and human and civil rights issues for the center, as well as for Special Collections at the Atlanta Fulton County Public Library, and for the Woodruff Library of Emory University.

Theresa Davis

Born into a family of writers and entertainers, Theresa Davis was drawn to the arts. She has expressed her artistic abilities in several mediums. She designed and created Ebony Angels (a line of hand-crafted dolls), Mental Notes (hand-crafted books) and started a clothing line for children. A teacher for 18 years, she currently teaches middle school using the arts across the curriculum. In 2002, Theresa joined forces with her mother and brother to form the spoken word performance group MoDaSo (Mother/ Daughter/ Son) and released two music CD’s “This is for Family” and “The Uncivil War”. She has self-published two collections of poetry “Torn” and “Head Games”. Theresa Davis is one of Atlanta’s best known performance poets, giving voice to the things that you’ve been thinking but never could articulate. Theresa has gone on to forge an impressive career as a solo performer, winning poetry slams and featuring at spoken word venues around Atlanta and the nation, as well as leading writing and performance workshops and headlining conferences across the southeast. She is a member of The Word Diversity Collective/Art Amok and represented Atlanta as a member of the 2006 – 2010 Art Amok Slam Team. In 2009 Theresa was ranked 8th female poet in the world as a finalist in the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Theresa Davis has shared the stage with Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Pearl Cleage and Doria Roberts in The Vagina Monologues, with Berniece Johnson Reagan (Sweet Honey in the Rock) and recently with Def Poet Jon Goode in their joint production of “Wish You Were Here” at 7 Stages Theater in Atlanta, Georgia.

In March of 2011, Theresa set out to compete in the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Columbus Ohio. She learned after making travel arrangements that she was not registered. She tried to win the video slam for entry. She lost. She tried to win the Last Chance Slam upon arrival, but she would not make it past the cut. She stalked the registration table the next morning wondering if any poets dropped out. They didn’t. She attended the poet orientation because she didn’t quite know what to do with her body. After registration she signed up to be a sacrificial poet understanding that she would not be able to compete. An hour later she got the call that she could get in if she wanted. She wanted. After two days of competition she found herself third in the finals list of women who would compete on the finals stage. She won.

Her children Imani (22), Tia (21) and Zion (10) are her constant sources of energy and inspiration.

Craig Washington

Craig Washington was born and lovingly raised by Anna and Leon Washington in Queens, New York and has lived in Atlanta since 1992. He recently returned to AID Atlanta, a multi-service AIDS organization, as a Prevention Programs Manager. He oversees several intervention programs including the Deeper Love Project; the Evolution Project, and the GO Atlanta program.

As a program coordinator at AID Atlanta from 1993- 1999, he developed education programs for Black communities, including the Deeper Love Project, an HIV prevention and community building program for black gay/bisexual men. As the First Vice Chair for the Metro Atlanta HIV Health Planning Council (Ryan White Council), he helped launch the African American Outreach Initiative, a two-day seminar for black people living with HIV. From 1996 – 1999, he served as co-chair for Second Sunday, a support organization for black gay men.

In 1999, Craig left AID Atlanta to join Southerners On New Ground (SONG) as a Co-Director. In addition to administrative duties, he presented workshops about multi-issue organizing and the intersections of oppression systems to activists throughout the Southeast. From 2001 through 2003, he served as the Executive Director of the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Center which provided free space and networking events for lgbt organizations. From 2003 through 2008, he was the Training Coordinator at Positive Impact, where he coordinated training services for clinicians. He also led the organizing of the Cultural Diversity Institute, a two-day workshop that enhances the cultural competence of social services providers.

He has written various articles and editorials for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Arise, Atlanta Voice, the Black AIDS Institute, Southern Voice, Venus Magazine, and the Washington Blade.  He is one of the individuals featured in the 2007 documentary film, “The AIDS Chronicles”. His essay “A Revolutionary Act” is included in the 2006 anthology “Not In My Family: AIDS in the African American Community” (Agate).  In October 2007, he received the Phill Wilson Advocacy Award from the Balm in Gilead, Inc. He graduated with a Master of Social Work degree from GSU in May 2008. He has been living with HIV for 26 years. He can be reached at www.craigwerks.com.

Pat Hussain

Pat Hussain is an Atlanta native who already carries with her an incredible legend. Hussain was a National Outreach Coordinator for the 1993 March on Washington for LGBT Equal Rights, and is the co-founder of Olympics Out of Cobb Coalition. When the 1996 Atlanta Olympic officials announced that a sporting event would be held in Cobb County – which had recently become the first American municipality to formally condemn homosexuality – Hussain and her colleagues go to work educating Olympic officials about the integral role of LGBTQ Olympic athletes and LGBTQ persons in society at large. They highlighted the importance of moving the event from Cobb County, and through their activism and awareness raising, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games was convinced to move the event to Athens – a hugely successful achievement for Hussain and her colleagues.  In 1993, Hussain founded Southerners on New Ground (SONG), a home for LGBTQ liberation and transformational community development that continues to work across all lines of race, class, abilities, age culture, gender, and sexuality in the South. Hussain was the first ever Atlanta Pride Dyke March Grand Dyke Amazon, and is the proud grandmother of 2 beautiful grandchildren, Premiere and Ka’Juan. She is happily partnered with Ms. Cherry.

Fred Brazzell

Fred Brazzell was the Center Administrator of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte from 2009 through 2011, a Center that promotes diversity, acceptance, and visibility of the LGBT community through original and collaborative programming and events, and which provides an inclusive, welcoming, and affordable environment for all. He first became involved with the Center in 2004 through Wachovia’s GALEA (LGBT Employee Resource Network), and volunteered with them in many capacities over the years. In 2007 Fred was instrumental in assisting with the Center’s move to a new location at the North Carolina Music Factory. In July 2009 Fred was offered the position as Center Administrator, a position that allowed him to oversee an impressive and diverse team of volunteers, and that also allowed him to utilize his interior decorating skills to keep the Center fresh, modern, and stylish! In 2009, Fred also served as Treasurer for Pride Charlotte and began planning for the 2009 Pride Charlotte Festival with the rest of the task force. He has been a guest judge for numerous drag contests for the Miss Pride Charlotte pageant system. In April 2011, Fred left his position at the Center and prepared for a move to Atlanta, where he has been living since summer of 2011. Here in Atlanta, Fred has been assisting with the mission of Touching Up Our Roots, and volunteers for other LGBTQ events such as the M.I.S.T.E.R. booth at Pride and the Bayard Rustin / Audre Lorde Breakfast.