Pamm Burdett, 1948-2017, !Presente!
As the Director of the Lloyd E. Russell Foundation (LER), Burdett quietly made strategic investments to support the LGBTQI community, the BDSM leather community, and the progressive community in general.
Lloyd Russell, was a media activist in the 1960s, a board member of Atlanta Pride, and a bar owner in the 1980s who ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1998.
Mr. Russell left Burdett in charge of his foundation, and she took her role very seriously.
Some of Burdett’s major contributions include making a 12,000 dollar grant to launch Georgia Voice magazine in 2010, after Southern Voice magazine went bankrupt in 2009 and Atlanta was without a gay print publication.
Burdett also made a 25,000 dollar grant to help create the Phillip Rush Center as an LGBTQI community center and a gathering space for progressive causes in Atlanta.
“When Linda Ellis of the Health Initiative and I had this idea of our organizations coming together in 2009, there were several potential donors who we had reached out to in early 2008 into 2009,” Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“And Pamm, through the Lloyd E. Russell Foundation, was one of those donors. She was a smart, strategic, and shrewd philanthropist,” Graham said.
“We had a meeting with her to talk about short-term emergency needs… when the economy tanked. She certainly saw the importance of that short-term funding, but she was intrigued about the long-term plans of turning this facility into a broader facility that could be used – at the time for LGBTQ organizations,” Graham said.
“Pamm was a strong sounding board to listen to these ideas, help us vet them, and think them through. She was very concerned that there had to be safe spaces for segments of the LGBTQ community that oftentimes had been overlooked in the past: very specifically, transgender individuals and the leather community,” Graham said.
“Frankly, there would not be a Rush Center today, had it not been for Pamm’s willingness to be a strong funding partner,” Graham said.
“She was a very private person. With her philanthropy, she was more interested in impact than notoriety. That speaks to her generous nature as a person,” Graham said.
LER made a 1,000 dollar grant to Atlanta Progressive News in 2010 to support our coverage of the Atlanta Eagle Raid. APN had broken the story of the raid in 2009, and APN’s News Editor worked with Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) in 2010 to introduce a resolution apologizing for the incident.
A long-time member of Atlanta’s leather community, Burdett held the title of Ms. Atlanta Eagle for ten years, from approximately 2002 to 2012.
Part of Burdett’s mission, and LER’s mission, was to create awareness about, and destigmatize, leather and BDSM.
When the Atlanta Police Department raided the Atlanta Eagle in 2009, the community came together to rally around the patrons who had been brutally mistreated, and had had their constitutional rights violated.
Burdett approached then-co-owners Richard Ramey and Robby Kelley with a check to begin litigation against the City.
Later, attorney Dan Grossman and Lambda Legal came on board and maneuvered the City into a large monetary settlement along with policy and practice changes.
Burdett made the following post on Atlanta Progressive News following the rally for Eagle patrons:
“I was at the rally this afternoon. It was peaceful and amazing. I am in awe of the number of people who came out to support the Eagle, the owners and staff as well as the patrons. It did my heart good to look out on the sea of supportive faces, many of whom either never go to the Eagle or go rarely. It didn’t matter, they were all there for support and it was beyond belief,” Burdett said.
“As Richard said, the ‘raid’ was kind of over kill… WTF, 30 officers for 60 patrons in underwear??? What did this escapade cost the cash strapped city financially as well as being a PR nightmare?” she wrote.
“DUH, no drugs or weapons were found, the liquor license is good and wonder of wonders none of the patrons had warrants, charges or anything that was arrest material. WTF, 8 people STILL got arrested, several held without bail on an apparently anonymous tip??” she wrote.
“I am so very proud of the way this rally was handled on all sides. My only disappointment was that none of the sitting Council were there. Some of them had excuses but where were the others?” she wrote.
“We MUST not let this die. We MUST be active and questioning. If it happened once, it can happen again,” she wrote.
“She was such a big inspiration to so many people. She was in our community, she fought for our community and was there at every turn, at every event,” Richard Ramey told APN.
“She’s a behind-the scenes person, she didn’t like the spotlight at all. She was part of the Eagle family for as long as I remember,” Ramey said.
“In terms of what the foundation supported, it was done behind the scenes,” he said.
“She was always there when someone in the community needed help, or to educate the community… she will be very missed in the community – her contributions, not only financial, just everything – she was always there for people,” Ramey said.
Ramey said that there has been progress for the leather community in terms of wider acceptance and tolerance.
“I think there’s been progress, especially when it comes to education and awareness, she was at the forefront of that, and that was part of her mission in life,” Ramey said.
Burdett had become increasingly ill in recent months and years.
According to Guidestar, the organization, which was formed in 1996, had its tax-exempt status revoked for three years without a federal tax filing.
LER’s website is down, and it is not immediately clear whether the foundation still exists.
It is difficult to list all of the organizations supported by LER, but here is a partial list, gleaned from APN’s email archives, Facebook, and other websites:
LER made a grant to Betty Couvertier, who for several years ran a radio show on WRFG 89.3 FM called Alternative Perspectives.
LER supported several leather organizations including one called LLC, the Leather Leadership Conference and its scholarship program; the Tennessee Gryphons; the Spring in the South event.
In 2009, the foundation supported a National Transgender Day of Remembrance event.
In 2010, the foundation supported a Flux Projects art program that featured a screening of the Andy Warhol film, Lonesome Cowboys.
In 2010, it also supported a social event called the Southern Bash.
At the 2012 Pride March, LER hosted the Official Dyke March and Trans March Closing Dance Party.
At the 2014 Pride March, LER hosted a Youth Liberation Space, a safe space for LGBTQI youth.
LER made a 1,000 donation to the Save Outwrite Books campaign, an effort to save the now-defunct gay bookstore in Midtown Atlanta.
LER also had a small grants program, including an emergency grant to individuals in the community who needed help with basic living expenses.
In its final years, the LER Foundation focused primarily on funding the Phillip Rush Center and the Ben Marion Institute.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2017)