Pride Wars

With a board consisting of three primary persons, it is remarkable that Pridefest South Florida managed to pull off another successful event last weekend. Their hard work deserves your applause.

What is more remarkable is that Pridefest South Florida continues to work with such a small board. It is not adequately representative of this community’s breadth and diversity, and it ought to expand. This editorial is not meant to criticize them, it is meant to encourage you.

In years past, the board of Pride South Florida was a centerpiece of our community, and consisted of weekly meetings with scores of volunteers and at least a dozen directors. Today’s numerically compromised board allows for unilateral decision making. Up until now, that authority and power has been handled prudent and wisely by the present team. Going forward, the organization’s small size presents a great risk.

Last week, an e-mail tirade launched by the board unnecessarily and abusively chastised Mayor Jack Seiler of Fort Lauderdale. After the e-mails sent to all the local media were disseminated, the board took the position that they were simply making “observations.” Well, observe this: the comments were unfounded and hostile, uncalled for and wrong. As the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, and as a Wilton Manors staple, Jack Seiler has done nothing to hurt or harm the gay community in any way. In the past and in the present, he has been uniformly supportive of our causes.

There are a number of gay activists in our community who may find legitimate fault with the mayor’s programs and policies, but saying he is the same as his nearly homophobic predecessor won’t fly. When you are in public life, the demands on your time conflict frequently. Last week, the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale had a prescheduled St. Patrick’s Day Parade at the same time PrideFest was opening. At the same time, he was supposed to be with his daughter at a family camping expedition in Lakeland. You can’t be everywhere all of the time, and the duties of the office and your family often conflict. Not being in one place does not mean you are being rude to the other.

The volley of e-mails calling out the mayor for not being at PrideFest was orchestrated by PrideFest board members and signed by the PrideFest board. Perhaps, as the event unfolded, they were dealing with an abundance of pressures. Maybe if they had a larger staff and bigger group, which was more supportive of their bold and brilliant efforts they would not have snapped and written such a nasty letter. Still, they have done so much good, please do not consider this an editorial censuring them for one mistake.

The emerging feud has now been tempered, and sane voices have prevailed. Let’s hope it remains that way. Let’s hope at the same time that the new and separate group contracting to run Stonewall Pride in Wilton Manors this June does so also with professionalism and purpose, insuring the integrity of their operation. This newspaper wants to celebrate pride in print, and not have to write about the past directors going to jail or the organizations going bankrupt. We can and must do better than we have done before. Help these groups help us do so.


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