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Column: Wilton Manors is So Gay; But is it ‘Too Gay’?

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Oh Mary, don’t ask. Someone has complained that the Wilton Manors Business Association Directory is too gay.

That’s right, at the last City Commission meeting, a resident expressed strong disappointment with the radical revision done to the latest edition of the Wilton Manors Business Association Directory.

Sorry to disappoint, but the splash of color on the front cover is about as radical as it gets. The resident went on to point out that the inappropriate photo of men dancing inside a nightclub makes the directory seem more like a gay guide to our city. I guess some would like us back in the closet, out of sight, out of mind.

Ironically at the same city commission meeting, Hunter’s Nightclub was honored as the recipient of the Community Spirit Award, along with resident Jon O’Connor.

Each year the city’s Community Affairs Advisory Board recognizes one local business and one resident for outstanding community involvement and volunteerism here in our Island City. Hunter’s Nightclub has been a major sponsor of many city events, is always ready to step up when needed, and is a major asset to our business community, serving as a great example of how local businesses can improve and serve the community in which they do business. The photograph pointed out by that local resident as being too inappropriate for the Business Directory happens to have been taken at one of Hunter’s Sunday Tea Dances.

Seems a bit contradictory to honor a business for all they do to improve life here in our community then condemn as inappropriate a picture of residents having a good time at that establishment.

Prior to the City Commission meeting, I thought that the business association had done a wonderful job with the new directory. The front cover was colorful, with pictures depicting life and activities in our Island City. Inside is a wealth of information, from a brief history of our city, things to do around town, restaurants on and off The Drive, a wonderful summary of our city government, and a listing of local businesses throughout our Island City and the surrounding area. A job well done!

Unfortunately, the comment of ‘being too gay’ is not limited to just this one incident. At a recent Island City Art Advisory Committee meeting, a local artist was abruptly interrupted by a committee member who complained that painting a crosswalk on Wilton Drive in the rainbow colors was “too gay.”

The slight undercurrent of bigotry flowing beneath the surface here in our wonderful Island City rears its ugly head every now and then. A quote from Dorothy Day sums it up: “The legal battle against segregation is won, but the community battle goes on.” The LGBT community has come a long way in gaining legal protections and rights in our society, but we still must continue to educate right here in our local communities, to root out discrimination and bigotry embedded down deep within.

The Wilton Manors Business Association has come a long way in the last seven years after hitting rock bottom back in 2011. That is when the association leadership thought it a good idea to invite Allen West, Congressman and conservative firebrand, to come to Wilton Manors.

Community leaders and many WMBA members were in an uproar. Calls for a boycott of local businesses were thankfully called off by cooler heads, and the odious Congressman West road show was cancelled. Unbeknownst to residents who stood together back then, that firebrand style was just the warm-up show for things to come. Now the headliner across the nation is the Trump Reality Show. I can almost understand those who harken back to times gone by.

However, looking back is not an option. Looking forward is the solution. Our business community, led by WMBA President Tim Moffett, is looking forward to a bright future with their bold new business directory and active membership. Our city leadership, led by City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson, is also actively looking forward with sound financial budgeting and planning for future needs. Our community neighborhood associations are looking forward, working with city staff to bring about needed changes along Andrews Avenue, possibly unifying our city zip codes, and advocating on behalf of many other projects throughout the city. Residents should be looking forward to our upcoming city elections in November. Elections offer residents a say in the future by electing a Mayor and City Commissioners who will best serve our Island City.

In closing, I quote from Tim Moffitt’s Welcome Statement in the vibrantly revised Wilton Manors Business Directory. “Small businesses are the bedrock of every community. WMBA’s main goal currently is to form enduring alliances between city government, civic organizations, and business. In doing so, we believe we can help to build a stronger community and make what’s already a great city even better.”

Shop locally, support the Island City business community, embrace the future, leave bigotry in the past, and let us move forward together, and in doing so we will continue to make life just better here.

 

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