2015 has the distinction of being a year of divisiveness, boat-rocking rallies, and widespread American disillusionment. Driving this wave of civic engagement in the Atlanta area is a diverse group of loudmouths who have staked a claim as leaders and agenda setters. From humble and obstinate residents (Mattie Jackson), to long-time activists with immense networks (Alejandro Lopez), all the way to dildo manufacturers (Comingle), Atlanta activists have proven that this city’s political efficacy ain’t nothing to fuck with. WUSSY has selected a group of eleven activists that represent this spirit of community engagement. We acknowledge that this list could probably be longer—hell, most can when you consider end-of-year superlatives—but in an effort to draw finer attention to causes we believe deserve your engagement (if you’re game, that is), we’ve decided to keep things tight.
Catherine Rush & Joey Molina (Big House, ThnkU) – Feminism, Community Engagement
Catherine Rush and Joey Molina have utilized 368 PONCE (formally called Big House on Ponce) as a space for discourse by way of thought-provoking panels and provocative night-time events. Drawing support from the queer core of Atlanta’s art community, their efforts have transformed 368 PONCE into modern-day Southern salon.
Patty Lacrete (Performance artist) – Black Lives Matter Movement
Lacrete is a West End resident, housed over in Adair Park with the other fine rabblerousers of the city such as Angel Poventud. She has used her body as an instrument in her efforts to bring attention to the violation of Black lives and destinies by institutional bodies. Her work can be haunting, but above all powerful.
Raquel Willis (Freelance writer) – Transgender rights
A self-described “media maven,” Willis (pictured above) has become a de facto voice and face of trans-rights in Atlanta, having led the trans-march at Pride, the #translivesmatter protest in the city center, and various #blacklivesmatter adjacent events. She also spoke with GPB radio this year, bringing visibility the efforts of QTPOC (queer and transgender people of color) activists. She continues to speak, write, and provide commentary both in the Atlanta area and in the wide-reaching arena of social media as a web-based essayist.
Comingle (Sex toy manufacturer) – Feminism, Female Autonomy
One hardly thinks of sex toys and activism as having any sort of meaningful relationship. However, most of us have also never heard of open-source dildos. In a time of high feminist awareness and a national fight for bodily autonomy, Comingle has emerged as a technological proponent for a woman’s right to both bust a nut and know exactly how it happened. The company’s efforts have been heavily documented by Vice’s Motherboard and other publications (including our own), who have all noted the perfect timing of its emergence in a time when women are fighting harder than ever for the rights to their own bodies.
Alejandro Lopez (Georgia Equality Health Iniative) – HIV/AIDS
Diagnosed with HIV in 1993, following a period of military service service that was terminated due to draconian laws regarding the sexuality of servicemen, Lopez has served as an indelible activist voice in the fight against HIV/AIDS. As a longtime survivor of the virus, he has taken the pains of his struggle and transformed them into strengths. Alejandro was recently awarded distinguished recognition by POZ magazine, the go-to periodical source for all news that is HIV/AIDS related.
Ben Howard and Ron Shakir (Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Unit-R) – Community Engagement
Howard and Shakir deserve to be recognized for their exercise of an essential freedom: the right to be heard. While Atlanta experiences an era of tone-deafness strengthened by fierce economic progression, it becomes apparent that, more than ever, this city needs a hero or two. Shakir and Howard were banned from a Neighborhood Planning Unit meeting for their outspoken contributions to community discussion; the action was eventually determined to be unjust by the city of Atlanta.
Atlanta Black Students United – Black Lives Matter Movement
In a year riddled with state-sponsored violence and impassioned action by communities of color, it seemed that an apathy-fueled Atlanta stayed above the fray of political dissent. That is, until Atlanta Black Students united—a coalition of black students from Emory, Morehouse, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Spelman, KSU, and Clark—began to demand that their respective institutions enter the fray and take a stand in the battle to legitimize Black pain. Their mission has been criticized by some; those critics should note that academic institutions have a history of influencing public opinion regarding civil issues.
Laura Patricia Calle (Living Walls, Center for Civic Innovation) – Community Engagement, the Arts
Laura Patricia Calle’s career was short, but it resulted in a legacy that will be honored for years to come by the city of Atlanta. Calle acted as a leader in the battle to stall the effects of irresponsible development and the resulting erosion of culture through her work. She was the programming director for Living Walls and organized the public discussion “Condos over Culture” during her time at the Center for Civic Innovation. The city recently honored her with her own day following her tragic death at the age of twenty-six. August 21st is officially declared Laura Patricia Calle day.
Mattie Jackson (Peoplestown resident) – Gentrification
Mattie Jackson, 93, has become an unlikely representation of everything that can go wrong when a city travels the road of good intentions without any peripheral vision. 2015 served as a time of discourse between the city and this Peoplestown resident, proving that if you’re loud enough, even Kasim Reed will listen. Jackson’s home was due to be destroyed (following a sale to the city) to make way for the development of Beltline-adjacent greenspace and flood controlling stormwater storage vaults. After a long discussion between community leaders and the city government, Mayor Reed let Jackson stay with the intention of restructuring the city’s plans to combat flooding.
Killer Mike (Rapper) – Political Efficacy
Rap and politics goes hand-in-hand, so it’s hardly surprising that Atlanta native Killer Mike used his resources to bring the mission of democratic-socialist firebrand and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders to the City in the Trees. Sanders’ campaign has acted as a Freudian megaphone for American discontent, as he eschews the stylized and “balanced” delivery of the media and his respective opponents. Killer Mike’s astute acknowledgement of the wealth of his influence doesn’t just end with endorsing presidential candidates: last week he filed an amicus curiae along with other rappers to the Supreme Court on behalf of Mississipi teen Taylor Bell.
Zaida J. is currently a Features Editor here at WUSSY and a self-described transgender loud mouth.