Atlanta’s queer community is in mourning after two of its brightest stars drowned in a tragic accident.
Fire and Rescue found the bodies of Montell Newton, 24, and Kiwan Benson, 31, two days after they went missing off Tybbee Island near Savannah.
The pair went missing on Monday at the south beach sandbar which has notoriously brutal tide shifts and currents.
Newton – who went by the stage MonteQarlo – and Benson were prominent members of Atlanta’s DIY, punk and queer music scenes.
The two were also inseparable, described often as ‘almost twins’.
‘Kiwan is the only person that called Monte by their real name (Montell). They had a tight bond and a mutual respect for each other. I really admired that about them.’
Atlanta’s music, activism and art
Both used their work to uplift the LGBTI people of color (POC) communities.
Newton also helped organize the Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFPQ) – a queer and trans, arts and advocacy organization and festival.
‘Both meant so much to the Atlanta queer community – and to SFQP… They will be missed deeply,’ SFPQ said in a statement.
‘Two bright lights in our community have flickered off and we’re processing this new darkness.’
Through SFPQ Newton met other advocates and formed the CLUTCH underground party. Newton wanted a festival where music and activism came together.
‘I wanted CLUTCH to feel more communal versus just coming to see folks perform,’ they told Creative Loafing in June.
‘I wanted there to be food and STD testing and all that so it would feel like a family reunion of sorts, where people could be exposed to artists that looked like them and shared lived experiences.’
Newton also wanted CLUTCH to represent the diversity of the community.
‘Essentially, I just wanna present queer folks, especially those of color, in a way that accurately represents the diverse pool of talent in the community,’ the told Q Magazine.
Pope described Benson as a sweet person.