As I sit down to write my article on the eve of our city’s Stonewall Pride Festival, we here in Wilton Manors have plenty to be proud of. This past week has reinforced my pride in our city, our community, and within myself.
Each year’s Pride festivities cause many of us to pause from our daily routine and commitments to view our existence as part of a larger community. It’s more than just a time to head down to The Drive and take part in the parade and celebrations. It’s a time to acknowledge our role in the greater scheme of our existence. We come together, not to just celebrate Gay Pride, but to celebrate our role in moving toward a greater acceptance by our neighbors, our fellow countrymen, and our global community. Celebrating diversity and working toward a more compassionate and accepting world is something in which we should have immense pride of our work here in Wilton Manors.
Attending the Mayor’s and City Commissioner’s Stonewall Gala this past Thursday was a great opportunity to witness how our Island City contributes to the wonderfulness of Broward County. County Commissioners Chip LaMarca and Tim Ryan were in attendance, along with elected officials from various cities such as Commissioner Trantalis of Fort Lauderdale and Tim Lonegan of Oakland Park, judicial representatives, along with various non-profit organizations all coming together to celebrate the kick-off event for the Stonewall Festival. Many volunteers on our city boards and committees also took part in the festivities that evening, representing a strong commitment by our residents that celebrating and remembering the birth of the LGBT movement is something that benefits all of us here in our great city of Wilton Manors.
Many will question why we hold this great event in June rather than a more weather-friendly time, like February or March. The time of year is important because on a hot summer night in New York City, a group of drag queens, along with young gays and lesbians decided to fight against all the oppression, all the injustice, all the bullshit that life had deposited on their doorsteps and say “Enough is enough!”
One must remember that back in 1969, homosexuality was illegal in every state except Illinois. Gay bars were frequently raided by local police and harassment was the norm faced by many. Mocking headlines of New York Daily News read, “Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees are Stinging Mad.” We have come a long way since 1969 and have much to be thankful for. As we commemorate the birth of the Gay Pride Movement so many years later, we should be able to endure the heat, the downpours, the inconvenience of June in South Florida and come together to celebrate all that is great within our community and the world around us, and commemorate what those brave, bitchy and overheated queens did for all of us 48 years ago.
Speaking of bitchy queens, I just want to mention our Mayor and City Commissioners. Now now, they are not the bitchy queens I am looking to mention. I am referring to those in our community that constantly bitch and complain, who verbally attack those who serve, who find it easier to point fingers than to get involved and work together with our elected officials, our city government and neighborhood volunteer groups. We are blessed to have wonderful public servants from Mayor Resnick, to our Vice Mayor Justin Flippen right on through to Commissioners Tom Green, Scott Newton, and Julie Carson. We should never expect them to agree with us on every single issue, but realize that they give us their time, their professionalism, their willingness to listen, and their dedication to making our city the best it can be.
Celebrating diversity, respecting other opinions and lifestyles, working together as a community is what makes Wilton Manors great. We must never forget the struggles that made this all possible, we must continue to celebrate and remind ourselves how special we are and we must look ahead fostering our own special Wilton Manors Pride!
That Pride is why we can say, ‘Life is Just Better Here!’