A Web Portal For Lesbians Of Color

Kecia Cunningham
City Commissioner, Decatur

Banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status 'is reflective of who we are as a city,' said Kecia Cunningham, an openly gay Decatur City Commissioner

Probably the most important indicator of how far Atlanta has come, and Georgia has grown, is the recent election of seven open gays and lesbians to public office. In 1997, Cathy Woolard made history by becoming Georgia’s first out lesbian elected to office when she won a seat on the Atlanta City Council. In 1999, Kecia Cunningham became the south's first openly lesbian African-American elected to office when she won a seat on the Decatur City Commission. Kecia is only one of two African-American lesbians currently in office in the entire nation.

Kecia Cunningham is a 10-year resident of the City of Decatur. She has served as Vice Chair of the Decatur Development Authority and on the Finance Committee for the City Schools of Decatur.  She is a 1998 graduate of Leadership DeKalb and serves as the program chair on the organization's Board of Directors. She also sits on the Advisory Board for CHRIS Homes. She is employed by Wachovia Bank and was the 1999 Outstanding Young Alumna for Agnes Scott College.

Excerpt From Article in Venus Magazine

When Decatur, Georgia, Mayor Elizabeth Wilson summoned Kecia Cunningham into her office, Cunningham knew something was up, but couldn't figure out what. Then Mayor Wilson lowered the boom.

"I'm going to retire in two years and want you to run for my seat on the City Commission."

That was an incredible moment, Cunningham remembers. But there were caveats about her candidacy perhaps the mayor didnšt understand.

"I don't know my next-door neighbors very well," Cunningham offered feebly.

"That's OK. We'll work on that," the mayor said.

"Well, I don't have a church home," Cunningham cautioned.

"That's OK. We'll work on that," the mayor repeated.

"I'm a lesbian," Cunningham finally blurted out.

"That's OK," Mayor Wilson retorted, "wešll work on that, too."

Cunningham became a candidate and won the commissioner's seat and is an example of a new breed of politician-- black, gay or lesbian and out--holding elective and appointed offices across the nation.

An increasing number of Black lesbians and gays who are out made it into public service during the 1990s despite a prevailing homophobia. We know all about that," says Philip Reed, the only out Black member of the New York City Council. If I let that get me down, I wouldn't get up in the morning. That's not a good enough excuse for me."

Not every gay and lesbian politician is so forthright. There can be dire consequences. Members of an unpopular minority group, lesbians and gays campaign with few legal protections against discrimination or other maltreatment. A primary concern of closeted politicians is that they will be pegged as a single-issue candidate, that is, concerned only about gay issues and, consequently, lose credibility with non-gay voters. It's a conundrum. What value to the LGBT community is the politician if he or she can't advocate for it?