The date: Sunday, June 19, 2016. The place: Wilton Drive.
A street adorned with rainbow flags. Windows of many shops had rainbow ribbons that said “Love Wins! We Stand With Orlando” or similar signs and phrases. We were proud to be LGBTQI, we were proud to let Orlando know they were in our minds and hearts.
Within a few days of the festival, there were few, if any, rainbow flags to be seen. Many of the Orlando signs were gone as well. It hasn’t gone unnoticed. I’ve had quite a few people comment to me regarding the void of rainbow. One even asked if the city is truly LGBTQI more than one or two days a year. “We’re supposed to be the ‘gay mecca.’ Other than a rainbow flag or two, how would you know?” The streets were filled with them a few short week ago. The same thing coming together remembering the lives taken at Pulse Nightclub. Aside from the Monday night peaceful protests on Oakland and Federal, Orlando seems to have quieted down here. There’s one rainbow flag across from Wilton Manors City Hall. Yes, it was momentous for many to get it there, but if you aren’t from or familiar with the area, what really stands out to let you know the LGBTQI are really welcome?
In my hometown of Chicago, it’s clear. Those of you who are from or have been there, you know what I mean. Since 1998, Halsted Street in the “Boystown” area of Chicago has 20-foot bronze pylons with rainbow rings adorning the street.
The date: 7/5/16: Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge was killed by police.
The date: 7/6/16: Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, was killed by police.
The date: 7/7/16: Five police officers in Dallas, Texas: Officers Brent Thompson, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Sgt. Michael Smith and Senior Corporal Lorne Ahrens were gunned down by a sniper.
As it does in times of crisis, the nation has come forward to show its solidarity on both sides of the spectrum. Two men whose lives were taken within hours by just being who they are. And, then, just hours after the last shooting, five lives whose lives were taken by just being who they are.
People have protested and marched to speak out against racism which reminds us it is very much alive. The color of their skin caused them their lives.
So, what do these two very different items have to do with one another? Easy.
There are those who jump on the bandwagon. For a short period of time, they get caught up in the hype of the moment, whether it be for a one or two day pride event, or the showing of solidarity when there is an injustice of some kind.
There are those who are the real deal; those who won’t stop because the events have. They are the people who continue to hang their rainbow flags or signs every day, long after June ended. They are the people who continue fighting causes to end hate and bigotry, the killings of another because of their skin color, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation long after the press has taken a story from page 1, then put it way back on page 50, and then eventually nonexistent. They’re the ones who continue to fight no matter what.
Our world is forever changing. We can’t afford to jump on a bandwagon for a short period of time. Nobody listens. However, we need and must become the real deal; not for today; not for tomorrow, but for always.
If the people of yesterday only jumped on the bandwagon, we wouldn’t have come this far. Eric Betzig says it best: “The real deal is always going to win in the end.”
** Columnist note: A year ago, I was asked if I would write a monthly opinion in the Florida Agenda by Peter Jackson, then newly named president and group executive publisher. Twelve months later, I am privileged to be able to contribute a bi-weekly column. I want to not only thank Peter, but a big thank you to Bobby Blair, Richard Hack and Maura Lane for allowing me to continue to say what I want, without stipulation, always with their support and confidence in me . Not everyone who doesn’t have a background in journalism is given this opportunity. I am truly grateful! **
Rev. Joel S. Slotnick is an ordained Interfaith minister and full time digital court reporter. He can be found on Facebook and followed on Twitter.