The Paideia School

Paideia’s First Pride

By Tally Johnson

This year marked the first time Paideia had an official presence in Atlanta’s Pride Parade. When this idea was first hatched, we all remarked in excitement and wonder, “What was Paideia’s history with this iconic Atlanta staple of Pride?” We kept hearing, “We’ve never done it, at least not officially,” and, “Paideia has yet to have a banner marching at Pride.” We kept thinking there must be some story of earlier involvement, but the more folks we asked, the more apparent it became that this was the first. If there is a lost history, or any old stories yet to be unearthed, please reach out and share them with us!

Paideia Pride March Kids

I can’t remember who said it first, but I think it was after Rainbow Pi’s Spring Picnic that the idea first came up. “What if we could be at Pride, together?” “What would it look like if Paideia had an official presence at Pride?”, “How awesome would it be for Paideia to represent?”, “I want to see us marching together at Pride, Paideia banner and all. I want this to be a tradition.”

When the Rainbow Pi co-chairs Derek Mize, Chris Cuomo, and I first bounced ideas around with the Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB), Oman Frame and Events Coordinator John Iannini, none of us had any idea what sort of energy and momentum there would be to support the effort. We worried about whether the commitment was there. The Pride Parade was happening during this year’s Fall Break, and many families we mentioned it to said they’d be out of town. The first reactions we heard centered around thinking this was perhaps not the time to undertake a new initiative.

However, the idea began to bubble and brew. We declared it would be a raging success if there were 12 participants. We knew there were only a hundred slots allotted to Paideia, so we didn’t want to open the floodgates. We weren’t sure if we were spreading the word too little or too much.

In the end, 84 people expressed interest and intention. Despite organizing details at the last minute, the event falling over our school’s fall break, and it being our first time marching, 81 students, teachers, and administrators, alumni, parents, alumni parents, family members and friends of students, and staff members representing all school levels showed up on a chilly Sunday morning in October, willing to stand in line for hours and help us secure our spot and walk behind the Paideia banner. We were beyond thrilled - brimming with love for the community as we marched and paraded down the Atlanta streets with (what felt like) the whole city there in solidarity.

While our school has long had a reputation for supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, walking in solidarity with our banner for our students, faculty, alumni, and families was a powerful statement of our values. In a time when legislation threatens some of the most vulnerable members of our community, showing up and standing together is critical to demonstrate that we walk the walk in addition to talking the talk.

I will never forget the image of my students, draped in various flags of support, standing tall with confidence, walking and carrying a banner marking the support of their community. One student later shared, “I felt seen and celebrated.” I was filled with pride in our school and utter joy as I watched our younger students look up to those around them. They seemed filled with a sense of freedom, confidence, and joy. The thought that kept coming to mind for me was: this is what community feels like.

Paideia Pride March Group

We are grateful and thrilled that our community, both Paideia and Atlanta, came together with such heart and spirit. Rainbow Pi Co-Chair Derek Mize reflected, “It was an amazing opportunity to showcase Paideia’s intersectional diversity, so that people in Atlanta’s LGBTQIA+ community always know that our school is a safe and supportive place to bring one’s whole self and family.” Oman Frame, director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging said, “For me, it was the feeling of sharing the joy and community I get to be a part of with the whole city of Atlanta, and that we as a school are looking at ways to live our values.”

I’m incredibly fortunate to be both a Paideia parent and teacher. This experience gave me what will be a seminal memory from this time of my life: walking through the streets of our city, filled with elation, relief, joy, and pride, the crowd of marchers rolling like waves across the concrete, and the supporters bolstering us, lifting us up and cheering us on - all of it was more than I thought possible. We felt an incredible sense of energy, love, and connection… of community. During a time of  so much division, I will embrace moments of solidarity. When the world feels so chaotic, coming together on a street in downtown Atlanta - supported and seen, thousands cheering, volunteers standing between the marchers and protestors - this feels like a moment to cherish. As John Iannini reflected, “We marched with a spirit of love and a spirit of dignity.

Basking in our feelings of validation, we celebrated, grateful for the amazing hospitality of a Paideia parent who included us all in her post-Pride party. We embraced the afterglow, deeply appreciating these moments of victory and positive energy (and ice cream and dancing). It feels really important to take time to focus on joy and to nurture all we have to celebrate. In the days following the event, we heard a heartening show of support. Many came up to us and offered to help in the future. We heard from people who were there  how they want to be a part of this experience again, and from those who were out of town, how they want to be a part of the event next time.

Most of all, it feels like this is how you build momentum. How you forge a new tradition. This is how you build community. 

With gratitude and LOVE,

Tally and Rainbow Pi