SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT community leaders, activists and business people.
Over the past month we've seen a new generation of emboldened Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists come out of the shadows to express their views. What can we do locally to combat this? And how much should the LGBT community be involved?
Below are some of their answers:
The distressing events that have occurred over the past many months have tested our emotional and spiritual vigor. We find ourselves questioning whose America this is. Some of us are wondering if our country is being stolen out from under us by our humanity’s darkest of forces, determined to set us back decade, or further. Recently, Former Vice President Joe Biden poignantly cautioned “we are living through a battle for the soul of our nation.” What is especially challenging, is that we have a president who has deliberately inflamed the culture war that afflicts America. President Trump has publicly declared a moral equivalency between the malevolence and hatred of the KKK and neo-Nazis with the passions and courage of those who oppose them. Trump has emboldened the most depraved among us with his scornful rhetoric. The times ahead may appear bleak, but we should have faith that the good people of this land will hold this president and his sycophants accountable and that we will rise above our nation’s disunity.
— Jason King, Associate Director, South Florida Community Engagement & Legislative Affairs for AIDS Healthcare Foundation's southern region
We need to be very active in opposing fascism and white supremacy, through our donations to organizations of resistance as well as in our own personal lives. Many in our community are direct targets of this hatred, and we all have the potential to be targets at any time. None of us are free, or safe, until all of us are free and safe.
— Judy Ireland, Assistant organizer for BLAST Women of WPB
The LGBT Community leads the way to acceptance and equality in so many ways. We MUST be vigilant about ensuring no group suffers the way we do.
— Meredith L Ockman, community activist and a director of NOW
Younger LGBT people didn't grow up with the same cultural violence as we. It's essential that they be regularly educated, and encouraged to learn self-defense. Bigots today have as their leader the most powerful man in the world, and they feel free to express their hatred.
— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist
We cannot just idly sit by and allow this evil to gain momentum. I am reminded of Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler during the early post WW2 period and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist…” I think you get my point.
This is a powerful reminder that we here in our safe little bubble of Wilton manors, cannot sit in silence. We must speak out vehemently against these evil forces if we are to survive as a democracy.
— Paul Smith, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel & retired Clinical Social Worker