When StoryCorps Atlanta thinks of its few “regulars,” Dave Hayward’s name is right at the top. Through his organization, Touching Up Our Roots: Georgia’s LGBT History Project Initiative, Dave is committed to capturing the stories of Atlanta’s sizable LGBTQ community, and he has recorded a whopping 14 conversations with StoryCorps Atlanta since we opened in October 2009. Dave describes Touching Up Our Roots as an LGBT history project that “preserves, promotes, and publicizes the contributions LGBT people have made, and make to, civil rights, civic and neighborhood organizations, and culture in Atlanta and in Georgia.” Equally important, he advocates the value of preserving these stories and exemplifies the StoryCorps mission, “to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.”Through his organization, Dave has had conversations with an impressive variety of Atlantans who identify as LGBTQ. One of his earliest conversations was with Greg Daugherty. Greg talked about growing up in Black Mountain, NC (just outside Asheville), coming out, and losing his long-time partner. Greg also talked about living in Atlanta since 1978–playing softball for sixteen years with Atlanta’s first gay softball team, the Blue Knights; working at the Academy Theater as a performer and house manager; helping to organize endless numbers of AIDS fundraisers; and, for the past fourteen years, owning a publishing company that publishes the Atlanta Show Guide as well as other theater programs and playbills. Of his StoryCorps experience, Greg recently said, “I wasn’t there (in the booth) just for myself. I realized as I was talking that I needed to leave something for those coming behind me, the younger LGBTQ generation.” In December 2010, Dave brought in the new owner of Radial Cafe, Frank Bragg (above right), to talk about growing up in Ohio, coming out as a gay man, his twenty-four year relationship with his partner Mike, and being the owner of one of the hottest eateries in the Atlanta area. Frank told of his lifelong passion for cooking and the kitchen, and how he was looking forward to continuing the amazing work of former Radial Cafe owner Phil Palmer and serving his customers.
One of Dave’s most recent conversation partners was singer/songwriter Diamond Lil. Diamond talked about growing up in Savannah, performing on a radio amateur hour at a young age, and coming out after high school. His first job after high school was at a bank. He recalled walking through the many parks and squares that dot Savannah’s historic cityscape either on his way to or from work. In those public spaces, Diamond met and befriended some of the handful of gay men in the city. He reminisced about the thrill of “meeting and hanging out with gay people for the very first time.” He said, “I didn’t know there were gay men like them. I thought gay men were the old men who wore trench coats and brown derby hats and who hung around tea rooms (bathrooms) in bus stations.” In a more somber tone, Diamond Lil recalled how the AIDS epidemic impacted Atlanta’s gay community. “Some of my friends began to get sick…got the AIDS virus…it was a very, very scary time. I was terrified, and, because of that, I passed up a few very hot men. I regret that now.” At the end of his life, Diamond Lil remarked, “I want to be remembered as a revolutionary.”
In his way, Dave Hayward is also a revolutionary, as he is determined to make sure that Atlanta’s (and Georgia’s) LGBTQ history is not lost. In Dave, we have a partner who not only wants to fulfill the mandates of his own organization’s interests, but who also understands and wants to further the StoryCorps mission. If you work for an organization or are involved in a project, please consider becoming a StoryCorps partner and help preserve the stories of your community.