Wilton Manors Florida Skies, Stonewall Pride

Other than the question of who in their right mind runs a street festival in the middle of South Florida in June, it was rather a nice day.

90 Degrees, brilliant sun, and a breeze that wasn’t too strong.

Not bad really, I mean there were some nutbags predicting doom and gloom for anywhere that had a Stonewall Festival.  Not here.  Oh sure, it was held at least a month later than the locals would have thought right, but there wasn’t a problem to be seen in the conditions.

After all, there was no rain, it could have been hotter like in some other cities north of here, and those torrential downpours were reserved for places that the nutbags were at like Texas.

Then again things are always nutty in Texas.

This is what I get to see most days.  Weather like this. 

Never really gets much hotter.  Sure, 95 at the peak, but I’ve been in hotter in Philadelphia.  One day I was at the Art Museum there when the conditions were announced as being 101F.  I merely stood up and continued on, did another 5  miles on my inline skate workout.

Heat is not a problem for me.

I did like the picture, and didn’t really know what I’d do with it.  Other than turn it into a Postcard From Florida, and place it in the blog.  I’m sure I’ll put it to use somehow.  After all, it is good as an illustration of what it looks like down here.

90F with a 20 percent chance of showers.

Stonewall Parade Pictures

Woo Hoo Pictures are working today! 

Ok folks here are some more pictures from the Stonewall Parade 2011.

You know, it just wouldn’t be the same without a long line of Motorcycles in the parade.  This one is from the Stonewall Knights. 

Yes, I want my motorcycle back.  Not in South Florida!

Rex, you look like you’re having a blast on that bike!  I should have hopped on the back or at least sat on the thing when it was in my driveway later!

I’m not exactly sure which specific band played as they marched past.   I looked at Roy’s profile on Facebook and didn’t find the “right” name so I’ll just say “South Florida Pride Marching Band” since that was what I saw on the shirts when I zoomed in on that clarinet…

The Wells Fargo Wagon – I’m glad they’re keeping this tradition alive.  So are the ladies up front.  The lady in orange on the right has a massive smile on her face and just looked so happy to be here to share the time with us!

True to their roots, The Wells Fargo Wagon is led by a smiling Cowboy and a team of horses.   Looks like a fun group of folks there!

Some beautiful woodwork and details on that Stage Coach.  These folks are having a blast!

The float from the Florida AIDS Walk came by.  I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this big guy!  There’s still work to do, and he’s helping us remember.

Equality Florida came out to support Stonewall and Wilton Manors.  In this Republicant led, Tea-bagger infested state we have a LONG way to go before everyone is free and equal!

Some amazing Asian dancers and their non-Asian friends came by with some beautiful costumes.

Latino Pride stops by with their Carnival inspired costumes showing the flags of many Latin nations and the diversity of Wilton Manors.

At the end of the parade is the float from The Alibi in Wilton Manors.   After that, the tradition is to have the rainbow flag unfurl from one end of Wilton Drive to the others.   These folks are starting the display of color for all to see.

From one end of Wilton Drive to the other, the entire drive is covered by a mile of Rainbow Flag.   Everyone is invited to take part of the celebration no matter who or what you are.

Welcome to Wilton Manors…



Stonewall Parade Luminaries – Picture

In the Stonewall Street Festival and Parade, there was something new.  There was a sense of history for a change.  Sure, it’s a party.  But the idea was to show where we all were and where we were going.  For once it was not strictly an excuse to act crazy and insane but a chance to reflect.   There were the receptions complete with the history timeline, the AIDS Quilt, and other items.

Of the items there were these posters of “Luminary Couples”.  The call went out to get some gay or lesbian couples who have been together more than 20 years.  Consider that time frame.  It goes back into the time period where people were hunted down because of who they dared to call their most important person.  Back to a time of persecution.  Some couples went back before that, there was a couple who had 48 years together.  48 years ago was a world away, and thankfully for the many minority communities, that life is long gone in most of the country.  

It still hangs on in the minds of some repressive individuals and some backwards areas in the nation.  Everyone knows of some backwoods areas that “you wouldn’t want to live in” because of the unaccepting mindsets. 

In the big cities there are corporations that you don’t want to work in because they have not learned that to embrace diversity means that you will attract the best and brightest.   To embrace diversity means to accept everyone’s strengths and work to help everyone past their weaknesses.   It is a competitive advantage both in business and when you go home.   Look at the top 100 best business lists and you will see a strong statement accepting the diversity in their hiring and in their Mission Statement.  Look at the lists of cities that are the best to live in and you find a vibrant community filled with people bringing their best and brightest to the game and feeling that they are welcomed there, not shunned because of their differences.

The one Luminary Couple I am honored to know the best is that of Fathers Larry Turner and Father John Joseph Reid.  38 years together.  They have lived through intolerance in South Boston to settle here and take up God’s Work in the Recovery Community and to help with the homeless while also tending to the spiritual needs of those who are fortunate to find them in their small chapel in Wilton Manors. 

You can find out more about their church on their website, that of New Divine Mercy.  I have been fortunate enough to work with Father John and Father Larry on their website and to help them out with their technology needs as their Project Manager as needs arise.  They also have a video channel on YouTube so they can reach further than just here in South Florida.  They are a fascinating couple, and if you are looking for an amazing experience, surf their web page, find the information and go pay a visit to their church for Mass.  They are truly doing God’s Work as well as being good friends to me and the rest of us here in South Florida.

John and Larry were chosen to ride along in the Parade, so I made certain to have my trusty and very creaky camera at the ready. 

As John later told the story, they were given the chance to ride in the parade but God had other plans.  Just as Larry and John got close to where I was standing in front of the announcer’s podium, the 1969 Eldorado blew a water hose and all of the antifreeze came out of the car in a gush.   I had literally taken this picture at the moment the water hose blew.  Thank God for slow digital cameras…

It was at this point where the crowd got together and pushed the 45 year old car down to the next entryway and to safety.

Now what to do?

Anyone reading this who knows Father John and Larry, knows they’re pretty unflappable.  You see, John and Larry got out of the car and walked the entire parade route.  They were the Luminaries on Foot. 

Father John later made a comment on his Facebook page that said it much better than I can:

I didnt understand it at first but God wanted us to be out amongst the people where they could see us and as we walked along, people along the route were very responsive with applause and thanks.

We were the only priests walking the length of the parade route and we did it to show that there are Catholic priests who profess that God loves everyone and that we are there for both Gay and Straight. It was an awesome moment for Father Larry and myself. It had to take God to get that caddilac to start smoking to get us out where we belong, out on the street with his people. And the bottom line is its not about us, its about Him. 

Love ya all Father John Joseph and Father Larry

Stonewall Parade and Festival Pictures 2011

In case you haven’t heard, there was a party last night.  Wilton Manors hosted at least 25000 people on Wilton Drive for the 2011 Stonewall Street Festival and Parade.

For a large crowd, it was a well behaved one, and the decorations were all over the place.  This was the Manor Bar Complex just before the parade arrived

Rosie’s had a stage set up with dancing as always.  The folks there were enjoying the vibe and the music.

Showing that everyone deserves to be accepted, the PFLAG of Fort Lauderdale Group shows up in force!

The Calm Before the Party

Walking around Wilton Drive at 6AM, I was struck at how many preparations were staged for the coming Stonewall Street Festival.   It really did look like the calm before the storm. 

At 6AM on a given Saturday morning, there usually is next to nothing going on.  I expect quiet.  I could have had it if I hadn’t been listening to a Historical Biography on the iPod and probably would have had a better walk. 

Not that anything went awry, but I had noticed that the lines were being drawn for tonight and tomorrow.  There were barricades at most intersections waiting to be deployed, caution tape was up, and signs saying ‘No Overnight Parking’ were quite common.

Continuing past the Gables at Wilton Park I was reminded of the party last night.  It was a reception that was held from 6pm onward in one of the unoccupied commercial spaces thanks to the generosity of the Gables Company.  They’re a wonderful neighbor and are truly going out of their way here to help out to make things better.   From what I saw of their development in Mizner Park in Boca Raton, Gables have succeeded. 

Once we come out of our Republican Induced Second Great Depression, hopefully those will be the first shops to fill.  Seeing them now shows their quality of construction and the location is excellent in the heart of Wilton Manors.

The reception was for the Stonewall Museum here in Florida and I was glad to see it.  It had pictures of gay and lesbian couples who have beat the odds and managed to stay together for 20 and more years, with one couple having around 48 years together.  Quite a difficult thing to manage when the country you are in is outwardly hostile to your relationship.

In the back of the rather large space was a timeline showing the highlights of the Civil Rights struggle for Equality that the long push Gay Rights has become.  Back to the 1800s and through to the current day, you could read about the days before Stonewall, the AIDS pandemic and how people have banded together, both gay and straight allies for a common goal. 

I was glad and surprised to finally get to see one particular display that I have only seen in pictures.  Actually, I have seen the Names Project AIDS Quilt in display before.  It has always been moving, the 3 by 6 foot slabs of cloth roughly the same size as a grave with some graphics to illustrate the departed’s life.

In the case of one particular piece of the quilt, I was stuck to my place standing for quite a while.  I have seen this particular quilt many times, the graphics popped out at me with the name “Joseph E Panko” in bold white letters on the lower left corner.   For some reason that piece has stopped me in my tracks before in print in many places and I have finally gotten a chance by some random circumstance to see it in person.  I’ve seen this particular quilt in books, in media, and on posters and now on the wall. 

It got me thinking back to the dozens of friends who passed before, in waves in the 90s and earlier in the 80s before the medications that finally hit the market gave them a hope to live a bit longer.  Whenever that happens, I think of my cousin Wayne who died back in the early years before there was any treatment or hope.

At that time it was a death sentence.  He died in the first 500 in this country in New York City in the early 80s.  Back then nobody knew how it was transmitted, how to cure it, or even what to do about it.  There was panic and confusion, typical when people don’t have a clue how to act, unfortunate to say the least whenever it happens.

It has been years since Wayne passed, he’d be in his late 50s now.  He was the first of many people who I knew who “had it” and died from it.  More will go in the future, although the rate of people coming down with it seems to be slowing. 

Now we know how it is Acquired.  That first A of AIDS.  We all have been well educated on how yet people still come down with it.  The “kids coming up” these days are educated from an earlier age about these sort of things as well as their sexuality simply because they have to.   Unless they’re from a traditional area, there is no reason not to know.

It’s a lot to carry on your shoulders, but in the history of human kind, there have been epidemics and each went through the same sociological steps from fear to acceptance to cure.   We’re waiting for a cure.  Telling someone to play safe is trite, and abstinence is a non starter of a joke. 

So walking out of that place I just had to think that parking issues and getting people together to celebrate civil rights wins and to party was only a mere sliver of what this is all about.

It is of course a time for people to get together with their own kind and with their allies outside of the community.  Hopefully it will be more than just a party.