Janackeh Blackwell has been out as a member of the LGBTQ community for nearly two decades – and for almost all of that time, she has been deeply involved as a volunteer in LGBTQ-affirming ministry. She is very involved in the leadership at her church, New Covenant Church of Atlanta, serves as a worship leader, helps to arrange the congregation’s annual Atlanta Pride Outreach planning committee, supports ministry for trans community members, and is active in the creative arts ministry. “We’re one of the longest standing affirming churches in the Atlanta area,” Janackeh shared. “There are tons of affirming churches in Atlanta, but we’ve been around for a long time.”
Janackeh has lived in Atlanta since the early 1980s, and she’s all too aware that in Georgia, there are no explicit statewide protections for LGBTQ people who experience discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“At the last job I was it, there was a period of time when it seemed like everyone who was being let go was LGBTQ,” Janackeh said. She is now studying at the tech training program General Assembly to learn software development. “We didn’t have a way to prove that that was exactly what was going on, but there was some talk around that. And for me, I see it as someone’s livelihood being taken away or being threatened. People are working to survive these days.”
As a person of faith, she wishes that people who remain opposed to LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections would take a long, hard look at their values. “Take whatever religious feelings or thoughts you have out of this situation and think of it as more like basic survival,” she said. “Why would you want to discriminate against someone and take away their basic means to live? I know a lot of LGBTQ people, especially in the south, who are underemployed and unemployed. People need to work, people need jobs. We shouldn’t be discriminating against people because of who they are.