Instead of throwing a brick, Punk & Poet’s Kendra Rubin gave Matt Smith, owner of Rosati’s Pizza and Sports Pub, one painted with colors of the rainbow.
Rubin, who founded House of Laveau and brought the first drag show to Forsyth County, gave him the painted brick during the show at the restaurant on June 28, which was also the 53rd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
The Stonewall Riots, also known as the Stonewall Uprising, was sparked by New York City police raiding a gay club in Greenwich Village in 1969, which ended in days-long protesting and “violent clashes with law enforcement,” according to www.history.com. “The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.”
According to Rubin, the legend of Stonewall alleges that Marsha P. Johnson, an activist and drag queen, threw the first brick that started the riots.
While Johnson’s incitement remains a topic of discussion, Rubin decided a rainbow-painted brick was “the perfect symbol” for her own business to “show we’re LGBTQ+ friendly.”
“[The riots] didn’t really happen that way, but [the bricks are] symbolic,” she said. “[Johnson] obviously used [a brick] pretty negatively, but I think it’s a nice symbol to show people that a business is a safe place.”
Since presenting Smith with a brick and displaying her own on social media, other businesses around Forsyth County have reached out to see how they could get one, including photography studios, a bakery and attorney.
Tracy Ann Moore-Grant, founder of Amicable Divorce Network, and Coliene Belle, owner of Sweet Tooth Photography, were both at the drag show June 28, and watched Smith receive another painted brick.
Both business owners reached out to Rubin to see how they could join the Town of Laveau – what Elliott Rubin, Kendra’s husband, has called “the new legacy for Forsyth County.”
“It’s the town within the town; it’s much more accepting and inclusive,” he said.
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Moore-Grant, an attorney in Forsyth County since 2002, wanted a brick for her business to send the message that it’s a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’m offering a safe place for people who are in … the LGBTQ+ if they need family law services,” she said. “If [someone] doesn’t need those services, that’s fine, but they should not have an issue with us offering the proper services to the individuals that need it.”
Moore-Grant said she viewed her support much like the medical profession.
“You can’t go to your doctor and demand upon them that they not render care to members of the LGBTQ+ community, and I don’t think anybody could ask me to not render legal services to that community as well,” she said. “That would go against my personal beliefs and I think our ethical obligations.”
As a mediator, arbitrator, guardian ad litem and parent coordinator, Moore-Grant said she has seen a vast array of clients, some of whom belong to the LGBTQ+ community, both adults and children.
She said she’s happy to display her brick to let people know “you have a voice here, there is a safe place for them here, and there are businesses who are here to support them as well.”
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Coliene Belle, owner of Sweet Tooth Photography, with husband Aldo Nahed, have been offering “inclusive photography for every family, every couple and every wedding” in Forsyth County for five years.
“I have no problem being open with the fact that I welcome anybody or any family that wants to come to me,” she said.
Belle said she reached out to Rubin because she works with members of the LGBTQ+ community often, photographing weddings, families and even the drag queen story time at Atlanta City Hall with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in 2019.
“I am proud to say that I love and respect everybody that comes to me, and if there’s a symbol to let that be known, … I’m proud to have it,” she said.
Belle shared a personal experience she had a few years ago doing a shoot with a family of two mothers and their baby.
During the session, Belle said one mother went to kiss the other. The other woman stopped her and said “No, not in front of the photographer.”
“I realized that she told her wife no [because of] the fact they were both wives,” she said. “I had never even stopped to consider how a same-sex couple might feel showing their love or affection in front of a photographer in this community.”
Since that shoot, Belle said she has wanted to be “more forthcoming in my community,” letting clients know “you can go ahead and be as open as you want with family in front of me. And we’re going to be happy and celebrate that with you.”
Rubin said she didn’t anticipate the idea “taking off,” but there are 10 bricks in various businesses around the county.
However, she said she is “more than happy” to provide business owners with rainbow bricks and “digital bricks” for folks that don’t have a storefront.
“I think in the future, we won’t need bricks, hopefully,” she said. “I’m just really excited to see our new town grow.”
Business owners can reach out to Rubin on Instagram @forsythcountydrag to find out more about the rainbow-painted bricks.