The city of Oakland Park is erecting 14 signs around the city announcing to visitors and residents that all are welcome.
Each sign reads “Oakland Park welcomes all races, all religions, all genders, all ages, all abilities, all sexual orientations, all countries of origin.”
“It really reflects our pledge as a city and community to really stand together as one community and welcome everyone,” Oakland Park Mayor Jane Bolin said. “For me, it’s a physical manifestation of that pledge."
The first sign was unveiled at the City Hall entrance in a ceremony on Jan. 15 to coincide with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Bolin was joined by most of the Oakland Park City Commission as well as members of the Broward County Commission. An image of the sign has also been included in some employees’ email signatures.
The signs were the brainchild of the city’s Diversity Ambassadors, who came together after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May — during an arrest, a police offer knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, choking him to death. Last summer, Bolin drafted and passed a “Proclamation Condemning Racism and Reaffirming Commitment to Promoting Racially Equitable Development.”
Beyond the signs, Oakland Park appears to practice what it preaches. In December, the Human Rights Campaign awarded the city a 99/100 in its annual Municipal Equality Index report. This is a vast improvement since 2016, when the city scored an 86/100.
According to the HRC, Oakland Park is lacking in its non-discrimination laws and benefits to LGBT city employees. However, it got perfect scores in municipal services, law enforcement, and leadership on LGBT equality.
“I would like to be 100,” Bolin laughed. “There is a [really] big difference between 99 and 100. For me, it’s an excellent reflection of who we are as a city, including our staff and our values but I think we want to strive for 100.”
When asked why the city wanted to be so proactive after Floyd’s murder, Bolin said the city can’t pretend it doesn’t have its problems.
“We can't just pretend, ‘Oh everything is the greatest in Oakland Park, we don’t have any problems, we don’t need to worry about this,’” she said. “To not respond I think would have been irresponsible of us.”