We Face a New Kind of Jim Crow

Florida has unleashed some breath-takingly unfair legislation against LGBTQ+ folk. From demonizing drag performers to “Don’t Say Gay” in schools to the horrific bathroom bill to a war on Disney for opposing anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies…Florida seems to be less safe for and less friendly toward our community. In response, some have called for boycotts, and others have decided to leave.

As someone born and raised in Alabama, what immediately comes to mind is the Bus Boycott and the Sit-in Movement, nonviolent movements of the U.S. Civil Rights Era. All aimed at overturning Jim Crow Laws.

I am greatly aware of the intent and the impact of boycotts. Boycotts hurt businesses, but they also hurt employees of businesses, many of whom are Queer. And, Queer people are often found in the travel and hospitality industries – cruise lines, hotels, restaurants, ride-sharing, retail, clubs, B&Bs and guest houses, etc.

The intent is to punish “Florida”; the impact will be that Queer Floridians will also be punished, and allies, and small businesses, some of which are Queer owned.

I can’t tell anyone what to do, but please consider the various impacts of any action before taking it. If you do travel to Florida, perhaps try to visit places with sizable Queer populations and spend money with Queer businesses. If you boycott, perhaps you could make donations to Queer non-profits who will be busier than ever if non-Floridians try to harm our economy.

It’s a complex situation, and it’s unfair that abusers of power force us to make these seemingly “no-win” choices. Whatever you do, just consider the impact it will have on Queer Floridians in their day to day lives.

My question to the Queer Communities of the State of Florida and our allies, are you ready to ‘Act Up’? For those who don’t know, that was one of the rallying cries during the early days of the AIDS Epidemic. (I’ve been HIV+ since 1987).

Loving vs Virginia was decided June 12, 1967, four months before I was born, ending the state’s “right” to prohibit people from different races marrying.

My husband, Rev Dr Durrell Watkins and I were married on June 27, 2015.
What happened the day before? On June 26, 2015, there was the US Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v Hodges, the Supreme Court case where it was ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. States no longer could assume the “right” to keep same-sex couples from getting married.

Even while acting non-violently, many experienced harm and even death as they fought for civil rights, women’s rights, Gay Liberation, AIDS funding, Transgender visibility, marriage equality, and more…some did not live to see the victories. Yet, I believe that they, on whose shoulders we now stand, understood that what they were fighting for was, of course for themselves, and also for the generations that would follow. People wandering toward the Promised Land know that not everyone will see it, but they continue for those who one day will.

Queer Communities and our Allies of Florida, we must remember these words from the Declaration of Independence include us, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Boycott if you must. Leave if you must.
But, know this, the Queer Communities of the Great State of Florida will survive!

We will non-violently stand our ground for justice.
Some of us will take to the streets and march.
We will take to social media in our cries for justice.
We will write to state and national leaders.
We will sign petitions.
We will give and raise money for justice-seeking organizations.

Those of us who are persons of faith will not stop praying for “justice to roll down like waters” and we will not “forsake the gathering together” for worship: Queer-affirming, Queer celebrating, Trans blessing, Drag history honoring, non-binary, love is love worship.

We will not be silenced.
We will not be erased.
We will not be bullied.
We will not be pushed out of the Great State of Florida.

We will stand up, speak up and demand justice for those who are not able to do so —- may that begin right now!

Some may leave, some may boycott, and some of us will be right here, resisting injustice, and working for “liberty and justice for all.”

Queer Floridians pay taxes, participate in the economy, rent, own, travel, work, support families, enjoy retirement, some are veterans…We matter because we are human, but we also are a real asset to the state.

Queer Communities of Florida, this is our state too!

As Oprah Winfrey recently stated, “Know your own worth.”

My Queer Communities of the State of Florida, we know who we are AND we know who they are!

I’m gay.
I’m Black.
I’m HIV+.
I’m in a bi-racial same-sex marriage.
I know what bigotry looks like, I know what it feels like.
I know hatred even when people justify it with scripture.
I know how to hold my head up no matter what.
I know how to believe in myself.
I know that oppressors need groups to oppress in order to keep their privilege and I know they don’t give up power willingly.
I know what I’m worth and I won’t let anyone keep me from knowing it or from declaring it.

My parents instilled in me many values, but the one that I call on today is: “Vote in every election. Too many people bled and died for you to have that right, so use it.”

There is power in our words, there is greater power in our actions!
Vote! And if we don’t get what we want, vote the time after that, and the time after that. Don’t give up on your dignity. You deserve equality and equity. Vote for it until we get it, and then keep voting for it so that we won’t lose it.

So, am I advocating for or against the current call to Boycott Florida? Do what you believe is right; that’s what I will be doing right here in Florida.

About Sunshine Cathedral

Sunshine Cathedral is The World’s Largest Progressive Queer Church with both a local and global congregation of over 30,000. Celebrating 51 years, the Church is physically located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We are a progressive spiritual community with deep roots in Christian worship as well as the Gay Rights movement. While Jesus is our primary faith symbol we are non-dogmatic and are open to the truths expressed in various religions, philosophies, poetry, art, and science. We at Sunshine Cathedral affirm that all people have sacred value (“You are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake”), that God is omnipresent Love, and while we love the bible we tend to interpret it allegorically rather than literally. We resist weaponizing scripture and we believe religion is wrongly used when it is used to demonize, dehumanize, and demoralize people. Learn more at SunshineCathedral.org