Thursday, April 10, 2014

One Spark

This picture was displayed as a poster as part of an ad campaign for We Are Straight Allies, a pro-human rights organization that was participating in Jacksonville Florida's One Spark festival.

Currently, Jacksonville Florida doesn't have a Human Rights Ordinance that would protect the LBGT community against discrimination. This kind of ordinance could have prevented the kind of discrimination one family faced from the Hands On Children's Museum last summer, which is what first got me involved in activism. It would also help protect against discrimination in hiring practices and in providing housing and many other services.

Who could possibly be offended by an image of a young person speaking out to help build a better future for her community? Parkway Properties contacted the organization to let them know someone was "displeased" with it. Chevara Orin of We Are Straight Allies reported to the Florida Times Union that they were asked to remove the poster. It is unknown who complained about the poster, but Wells Fargo contacted We Are Straight Allies to offer their support. The poster remains and We Are Straight Allies issued the following statement:

We Are Straight Allies would like to publicly express our deep concern and disappointment regarding statements made by Parkway Properties on April 8, 2014 on behalf of several of their “key stakeholders” in the Wells Fargo Tower at 1 Independent Drive in Jacksonville, Florida. As a registered One Spark Creator Project, We Are Straight Allies has spent the past several months preparing an intentional and educational advocacy campaign. During that time, we were not informed of any issues surrounding our campaign or materials chosen for the event.
When we were told there were building tenants that were uncomfortable with the content of our campaign and wanted us removed from the Creator Venue space, we were disheartened as it served as a stark reminder of the daily bigotry that faces our LGBT families.
While we appreciate the support of Wells Fargo, JCCI, OneSpark and several members of the Jacksonville community to help us resolve this matter, it does not detract from the fact that homophobia and discrimination are insidious in our city. As allies, we have made a firm commitment to champion the rights of those marginalized in our community. Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we again stand at the crossroads of freedom and equality.
We hope this unfortunate incident will serve as a catalyst for meaningful dialogue to reach better understanding of our differences, help us find common ground upon which to stand, and create a more inclusive city for us all. The larger issue remains that if these companies discriminate against allies, we fear their LGBT employees may face even greater bias. The time is now to pass a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
–Audre Lorde

Chevara Orrin, Laura Riggs and Dan Bagan

In an update to this statement, they offered thanks for the community's support and offered to meet with the leaders of Parkway Properties as well as any of their stakeholders and offer diversity training for their senior leadership and staff.

One little girl. Someone was so threatened by this image they wanted it removed and didn't want to take responsibility and own their attitudes in view of the public. One little girl has proven herself to be more brave, more moral, and a better citizen of her community than grown adults running a business. This young woman understands the consequences of bigotry and discrimination. She knows that the kind of attitudes shown towards We Are Straight Allies are the same attitudes that contribute to homelessness, suicide, and addiction in the LBGT community.

We live in a world right now where some parents are afraid for their children to even know gay people exist or are against their children seeing any gay person in a positive way. We live in a world where children are affected when one of their parents is sick or dies just because their parents happen to be of the same sex. We live in a world where boys are bullied at school for carrying My Little Pony backpacks and school employees side with the bullies.

We must keep standing up together, young and old, gay and straight, in order to help move our country forward and make sure our leaders are people like this young lady, who understand what it means to have an America that is the land of the free and home of the brave. All it takes is one small spark to ignite the torch of liberty.


  1. Dear Madison, your writing has never been more eloquently crafted! Joy in form as well as in content!

  2. I am the grandmother of that "one little girl." Johanna has been raised to see beyond color, race, religion and sexual orientation when she deals with people around her. I know I am a non-confrontational person and will avoid putting myself in any situation where I might be seen as "wrong" -- so their courage to show what is in their hearts makes me feel proud. It is so easy to stay in the shadows instead of speaking out for injustice against someone else. Denise Cordova Collado

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