All signs indicate that the streets of Wilton Manors will be packed this weekend.

Weather permitting, it may in fact turn out to be one of the largest gathering of Americans since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020. 

There is cause for celebration, of course, but we must not forget, and should reflectively commemorate, how many lives our country has lost in the past year. 

These are dreams unfulfilled, lives not lived, futures cut short, loves lost forever. Our community has lived with a pandemic by our side for 40 years. We know of pain. But because of agencies like the AIDS Health Care Foundation, or efforts like the Smart Ride, we also know of promise and resilience.  

As we step into a new era, we must look realistically at the horizons before us. Politically, in Florida, there are ever so many challenges. 

First and foremost, the gay community must stand up and be counted. Mobilize. In both the state house in Tallahassee and in the United States Senate, our elected representatives are pathetic. They do anything but represent us. Instead, their agenda demeans us, their voices disgrace us. Call them out for the hateful demons they are. 

Second, find the Pride to do more than party on the streets of Wilton Manors this weekend. Find the passion to participate in the roads that shape your future. The path ahead may be beyond your vision, but it is not beyond your control. 

Join with the groups that speak out and protect your rights, from the Pride Center to Equality Florida, from the Human Rights Campaign to the National Task Force. If you are not a joiner, an individual become. Be a force of your own.  

If you have dollars to donate towards LGBT equality, don’t waste your time and money investing in another mythical stock scheme heralded in the VIP Pride Tent. Invest in our future, not someone else’s index.  

Our Fund has earned a place of trust and honor in our community.   

The Pride Center at Equality Park has a multitude of programs that need your support and aid. Support the AIDS Health Care Foundation's initiative to develop an affordable low-cost housing complex in Fort Lauderdale. 

If you want your two cents to matter, think about SunServe and Latinos Salud.  If you want Pride to matter, think about neighbors in need and pets requiring rescue.  There is much you can do. 

There are rivers that need cleaning, food banks that need donations, and good friends suffering insufferable addictions; people who may need your help. The good you do will come back to you. That is the meaning of pride.  

Third, never forget that 50 years ago in New York, Stonewall was not a parade, but a protest. Back then, the emerging gay communities spoke out against those who repressed them. They did not cover it up and try to wash it away.  

The gay and transgender community in 1969 did not honor mayors who partnered with the churches that condemned you as Sodomites. It censured them. When one part of our community is threatened, so are we all.   

Guess what? If you are drowning 50 feet from shore, and someone throws you a 30-foot rope, they are not your friends, even if they met you more than half-way.   

Fourth, Pride means never having to say you are sorry. You are who you are. You are God’s little creation, and you can be whoever you want to be, from a dancing bear to an opera star.   

Fifth, don’t let anyone put you down. They never had a right to in the first place, and you have nothing to apologize for — only something to be proud of. 

Think about it. America’s gay community has endured unjustifiable discrimination for centuries. We have been through Hell and back. We are still standing, stronger than ever.     

Our mettle has been tested, and we have won. There is nothing Ron DeSantis can do to us that Nadine Smith and the rest of us can’t conquer. For those that doubt that, let them come to Wilton Manors this weekend. 

So enjoy yourself at Pride. Have a drink at the Alibi, a slice of pie at Dolce, or an ice cream cone at the Creamery. Indulge yourself.   

Remember, though, that when the tents are torn down, and the streets cleaned up, there are still causes to be fought and battles to be won. 

We owe that to those who came before us.  

Becoming part of the solution will bring sunshine to your life. Happy Pride. Make it special. 

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