Column: Pride and Honor

Photo by J.R. Davis.

This past week here in Wilton Manors has left me worn out and ready to get some rest. Hopefully any photos taken of me will not be too harsh, since I looked a bit ragged by the time I got home Saturday night.

The festivities started on Thursday evening with the city’s Kick-0ff Party at Hagen Park Community Center. The event was very well attended by local elected officials along with volunteers from our city and from the Wilton Manors Entertainment Group. Good food and drink were supplied by Beefcakes Grille, thanks to Victor Zepka and his wonderful staff. Community members Anthony Logrande and Claudia Castillo were honored for their amazing commitment to our Island City. The awards were presented by Vice Mayor Justin Flippen, who did a great job presiding over the festivities.

Friday it was on to The Manor for the official Friday Night Stonewall Pride Party held in new Crystal Ballroom. Let me say that this new addition to The Manor is just fabulous. Great job Paul Hugo! The show was billed as “Our Night Out” An LGBTQ Arts Celebration. Headlined by Monet X Change of Ru Paul’s Drag Race fame, the show did not disappoint and neither did Miss Monet.

Unfortunately, not being a lady of leisure, I had early wake-ups each morning, a full work schedule, and a week of dog sitting to deal with between all the festivities. By the end of my work shift on Saturday, I could have easily come up with an excuse to stay home and not march in the parade. Thankfully, I decided to haul myself out to Wilton Drive by 4 p.m. as promised for the parade line-up.

Seeing the Drive packed with people is always a wonderful sight. Seeing the parade staging area so full of volunteers, parade marchers, floats and many good friends instantly put me in a reinvigorated mood. On the parade route, the mise-en-scene before us was one of colorful banners, happy faces, festive music, and a seemingly endless human corridor of rainbow-beaded revelers welcoming us further and further along as we marched down Wilton Drive. Marching behind our city’s elected officials were two U.S. Congressional members, Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Shultz along with State Senator Gary Farmer. I also spotted our Broward County Commissioner, Tim Ryan, greeting revelers. Mayor Dean Trantalis of Fort Lauderdale and many officials from the City of Oakland Park joined in the festivities. Local residents Paul Rolli, candidate for Wilton Manors City Commission, and David Walker, candidate for statewide Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, took part along with many of their supporters from the community. Various service organizations, area businesses, and social organizations had a large presence. The dreaded afternoon thundershowers stayed away, and the parade goers moved on to enjoying a wonderful evening of celebrating Pride in our great Island City.

Many thanks to the Wilton Manors Entertainment Group for their endless dedication and year-long efforts to make this wonderful event possible. Their efforts, along with those of so many others, make this event better and better each year.

Unfortunately, last week we lost a fierce advocate for LGBT rights, a great chef and a fellow Culinary Institute of America alumnus, Anthony Bourdain. His roguish culinary adventures and his tell-all book, Kitchen Confidential, launched him to almost cult-like reverence to many, like myself, in the culinary field. Bourdain’s suicide, along with that of designer Kate Spade, serves as a harsh reminder of the destructive power of depression and other mental health issues for so many in our community.

In the spirit of Pride celebrations this month, the LGBT+ community needs to demonstrate a strong acceptance of mental health problems in the same way we would about our sexuality or gender identity. Please seek help if you are experiencing depression, anxiety or any kind of addiction. Actively encourage others to seek help and work to promote an environment that fosters a sense of community and understanding. SunServe, Broward House, and many other local organizations are ready to assist.

In closing, I leave you with Anthony Bordain’s words from a 2014 Human Rights Campaign video as part of its Americans for Marriage Equality campaign, “I’ve met many people in my life, all over the world and a common thread that people I admire whoever they are, are people wo are proud to do things with love and feel a sense of responsibility to others. What sensible person would be against that? The desire to love and to commit to another human being- these are virtues. It’s why we need nationwide marriage equality now.”

Thank you, Anthony Bordain for making life more entertaining, more honest, so much more delicious, and just better for so many others.