The Southern Voice (SoVo) newspaper, a bi-weekly alternative newspaper for lesbians and gay men with a circulation of 5,000 copies founded in 1988 by by Christina Cash and Leigh VanderEls, began as one of the products of the first LGBTQ+ arts consortium SAME (Southeastern Arts and Media Education)(1985–1996), a multidisciplinary Atlanta based gay and lesbian nonprofit arts organization whose mission was to utilize arts for social change that was directed by the late Rebecca Ranson. SAME’s offices were located in the Little Five Community Center. As Chris Cash remembered in 2020:
“I launched the newspaper with the help of a few volunteers who were so excited to be a part of history that they worked without pay and without recognition other than their names in the staff box or on a byline. We had little money, only a small corner in the office of a nonprofit arts organization, no fax machine, and no telephone number of our own. Somehow, we managed to sell enough ads, to just enough brave business owners, to cover the printing bill for that first issue on March 1. I had no idea if we could afford a second issue. But again, and time and time again, the money showed up. Within eighteen months, we had our own office, our own fax machine, and a few staffers were able to be paid.”
In the October 20, 1994 issue, the office for Southern Voice was listed at 1189 Virginia Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA, 30306.
Archivist Heather Oswald writes, “Southern Voice grew out of the need for a dedicated news source for the LGBT community following the 1987 March on Washington. From its initial publication in 1988, it functioned as one of the only papers targeted toward LGBT issues in the southeast, providing information on topics such as the fight against AIDS, marriage equality, discrimination, and violence against gay individuals. In addition, it provided alternative perspectives on major issues to those presented by the mainstream media.”
For Chris Cash, the origins of Southern Voice were closer to home: “Southern Voice was born from my personal need to take action against the system that deemed my then partner as an ‘unfit’ mother because she was a lesbian. We lost custody of our son in 1987 and it would take nine years before he returned to us. When he was old enough to choose where he wanted to live, he chose us. During his visits before his return, he loved to go to Pride. I have photos of him proudly displaying his SoVo T-shirt.”
In 1997, Window Media acquired Southern Voice as well as numerous gay and lesbian newspapers across the country. When Window declared bankruptcy in 2009, Southern Voice officially ceased publishing in late 2010. In March 2010, Chris Cash, Laura Douglas-Brown, and Tim Boyd launched Georgia Voice, taking over where Southern Voice left off. Cash serves as Publisher Emeritus. In 2020, the newspaper celebrated its tenth anniversary, furthering its mission to serve as “the media outlet of record for the LGBTQ community in Atlanta and throughout the state.” Georgia Voice also produces an annual “Destination: Gay Atlanta,” the city’s official LGBTQ travel guide.
Cash, Chris. “Why Southern Voice, Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ newspaper, meant so much.” Atlanta. 30 October 2020. https://www.atlantamagazine.com/news-culture-articles/why-southern-voice-atlantas-lgbtq-newspaper-meant-so-much/
Georgia Voice. https://thegavoice.com/
Mastrovita, Mandy. “The Southern Voice Newspaper Collection, 1988-1995.” Blog of the Digital Library of Georgia. 27 July 2015. https://blog.dlg.galileo.usg.edu/?p=4802
“Race to replace Southern Voice heating up.” Project Q. 17 December 2009. https://www.projectq.us/race-to-replace-southern-voice-heating-up/
Southeastern Arts, Media and Education Project records. https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt8b69r38r/
Southern Voice newspaper collection, 1988-1995. https://dlg.usg.edu/collection/gkj_sovo
“The community needed the paper; they demanded a voice of their own.”Chris Cash, co-founder Southern Voice