After two long years of social distancing, masks, and virtual celebrations, Atlanta celebrated Pride in person for the first time this past weekend.

After the Pride festival and other festivities, Atlanta ended its 2022 Pride weekend with the celebratory Pride Parade, which brings the entire LGBTQ+ community and allies together to enjoy what pride means to them.

Charles Patton, 25, during Pride Weekend, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022. Photo by Isaiah Singleton/The Atlanta Voice

Originally born in Atlanta, Georgia but moved to Charlotte, North Carolina when he was 7 years old, Charles Patton, 25, said this is his third pride weekend in Atlanta and is most excited to “be out celebrating ourselves and enjoying being outside with positivity and love,” he said.

Atlanta celebrates Pride in October for many reasons, with one of those reasons being National Coming Out Day, which is Oct. 11 and the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

Around 100,000 people were in attendance, according to the Atlanta Police Department. The parade began on Peachtree Street and Ralph McGill at noon Sunday and followed to 10th Street and ended at Piedmont Park.

Patton (far left) and friends take a photo, “Pride has been and always will be incredibly important to me and others,” he said. Photo by Isaiah Singleton/The Atlanta Voice

Patton said he feels amazing to be able to celebrate pride and be able to mingle with his community in-person.

“I feel invigorated with the opportunity to celebrate our community together, especially since we haven’t had the chance to be with one another in a while,” he said.

Patton also said it is important to celebrate pride, especially nowadays, because although hate tries to overshadow, love will always come out stronger.

“Pride has been and always will be incredibly important to me and others. With the number of hate crimes that are not only still occurring but, on the rise, this is the perfect time for pride,” Patton said.

To Patton, pride means “everything.”

“When I was younger, I did not have the language or the understanding that I could be myself and I can be all of me with Pride. It is an absolute celebration all around coming into yourself,” he said.

Additionally, Patton partnered with his job with SalesForce, a San Francisco-based cloud-based software company, that provides customer relationship management software, to be a part of the Pride parade.

Salesforce continues to express equality, and celebrates Pride globally every year, Patton said.

The SalesForce Atlanta Team created its cloud-themed logo with a huge rainbow attached as their float to be a part of the pride parade.

As a leader in the LGBTQ+ community and at his job, Patton oversaw obtaining Black/Brown entertainment which included locals such as Princess Jauan Balenciaga, Desmond Stearns, DJ Reese, DJ Kenneth Kyrell, Nautica Ra’Sae, Kalon Justice, and DC-based DJ Boom Boom Balenciaga.

“I really loved going out and booking Black/Brown talent for this event,” Patton said. “SalesForce is deeply committed to equality for all and that means having the representation and investing in the communities that give so much of themselves and are underrepresented.”

As a Black gay man, Patton said, he does not “really look at being a leader or leadership as an unobtainable feat.”

“I believe we are all leaders in our own right and can learn from one another,” he said. “Me being a Black gay man allows me to have a perspective and experience that is unique to some and familiar to others. If there is a passion and willingness to serve others, then it is a given that you put yourself in the line of fire to help those around you.”

After the parade, Patton said he would spend time with family and friends to enjoy the rest of the day. Also, after the parade, SalesForce threw an after party at the Park Tavern where people could wind down after the parade, eat, listen to music, and mingle.

“This is more like a cool down and celebration of everyone after the parade for people to do more mingling and just have a good time with one another,” he said.

To encourage more people to attend Pride next year, Patton said there are so many memories that people make during Pride, and it is a way to celebrate yourself and community.

“I would say if you were looking for an inclusive joyous time where you can be everything you’ve ever wanted and more come out to Pride and LIVEEEEEEE!!,” he exclaimed.