Category Archives: Friends

From Stonewall to the demise of DOMA, we are the family and friends of Harvey Milk, Marco McMillian, Matthew Shepard, Ebony Whitaker and Amanda Gonzalez-Andular. We are following in the legacy of other great Movements: Women’s Suffrage, European Liberation, Farm Workers, and Civil Rights. We are leading the growing chorus in this fight.

Ally Profile: Keith Haring’s Ghost

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Over the past few months, we have been highlighting Keith Haring Ghost’s (KHG) work, from around the city.  Some believe the artwork to be vandalism – we do not agree.  Throughout history, art has been used as a means for expressing the things that we cannot or are not always allowed to share through spoken word.  Keith Allen Haring was an artist and social activist whose work responded to the New York City street culture of the 1980s by expressing concepts of birth, death, sexuality and war…concepts that were considered taboo at the time.

Keith Haring was an openly gay man and a strong advocate for safe sex.  However, his life was cut tragically short on February 16, 1990, due to AIDS. Before his death, he established the Keith Haring Foundation in 1989, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images. Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS.

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Inspired by his advocacy work, KHG told Queerty, he “has been beautifying the electric box eyesores of Jacksonville, Florida with images inspired by the late, great Haring as protest to the city failing to pass an equal rights ordinance that would have granted workplace protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

KHG’s work can be found all around Jacksonville, we have also highlighted his pieces on our InstagramFacebook and Pinterest pages, but the artwork is now being called into question by some city leaders as vandalism.  These officials have demanded the removal of the murals, from around the city, with the possible arrest of KHG.  As allies of the LGBT movement, and proponents for full equality for every person in our community, we stand in solidarity with Keith Haring’s Ghost.  Furthermore, we implore our city leaders to leave his artwork in place and focus their energy, instead, on passing a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Ally Update:  On March 19, 2014, Keith Haring’s Ghost was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for ‘felony’ vandalism charges for the beautiful ‘graffiti’ he has created around the city of Jacksonville.  Keith, aka Chip Southworth, was later released on bond, but he has an arduous road ahead as he has to answer in court for the work he has created to not only beautify the city, but to help get the message out about being more loving and tolerant of others.  We Are Straight Allies will be advocating on Chip’s behalf for charges to be dropped, but in the meantime, there are legal (and medical) expenses his family will face – his wife is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment.  Great minds are coming together to not only help Chip, but also send a message to the city that intolerance will no longer be tolerated.  Beautifying the city of Jacksonville is a necessity, both physically and in the hearts and minds of its citizens.  We hope you will join us and donate to the ‘Chip in for Chip’ fund.

We Stand in Solidarity

We Are Straight Allies will be standing in solidarity with the six openly gay Olympians competing in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, along with the openly gay members of the delegations attending this year’s games.  It is our hope that Russia will remain respectful of the Olympic Charter that states, “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

All beings everywhere have the right to be happy and free and we are inextricably bound to aide in the happiness and freedom for others.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We find the the level of intolerance, injustice, violence, hate, anger, and fear that the LGBT community faces around the world, as well as at home, inexcusable.  The Olympics creates the opportunity to bring Russia’s anti-LGBT policies center stage so the world can see and, hopefully, demand change.  While we are fighting for the fair treatment of LGBT people here at home, we have a greater responsibility to the global community to help stop the mistreatment of human beings everywhere.

Movements take time, some faster than others, but none happen in a vacuum.  If we can help make lives better for our local communities, that creates momentum for change on a global scale.  Please join us in this cause and help us affect change in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.

“Gay rights have taken center stage at Sochi, thanks to Russia’s own targeting of the LGBT community. In June 2013, the Russian government banned dissemination of pro-gay “propaganda” that could be accessible to children. The law’s vagueness, activists note, could prohibit almost any pro-gay expression, such as public statements, rallies, rainbow flags, rainbow nesting dolls, or same-sex hand-holding. Violators can be fined or jailed up to 14 days. Foreigners can be expelled.

Then in July 2013, Russia made it illegal for foreign gay and lesbian couples to adopt Russian children, and in October 2013, the government proposed legislation that would remove Russian children from their LGBT parents. The proposal is now withdrawn.

Over the last seven months, Russia has introduced or amended at least 13 laws restricting freedom of expression, association and assembly of non-governmental organizations, particularly those that receive foreign funding — a violation of international human rights law, says Amnesty International.”  —Global Post, February 5, 2014

Ally Profile: Hope McMath

Hope McMath

I am Hope McMath.  I am an arts administrator, an artist, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a friend, and someone who is passionate about my community.

I am a Jacksonville native and had the great fortune of growing up in an Arlington neighborhood where my schools and “my block” were diverse in every way.  It was a world of connections rather than divisions.  There was also the strong influence of my mother who has always been a nurse.  so care, compassion, humility and hard work have always been the expectation.

I have been involved in the arts since I can remember.  From being the kid always designing the classroom  bulletin boards to being a student of art and art history in college I knew that I would work, live and breath art.  I have been fortunate to have worked in the arts for over 20 years as an educator, connector, creator, and community builder. To make sure my immersion was complete, I fell in love and married the most amazing artist, art educator and human being.  I live a fulfilling, love-filled, artful life.

Why does all of this matter to me in my role as a straight ally?  My childhood and my path through the arts has taught me that an inclusive, compassionate community is the only way to go.  There is no room for hate, intolerance, or discrimination.  No room for closed doors.

The arts are an example to learn from.  The fields of music, visual art making, theater, and literature have historically embraced diversity and individuality.  Even in times of incredible injustice those individuals sharing their personal expressions through the arts could find acceptance.  More importantly art has always provided a platform to share the world through new and varying lenses.  I think about James and Rosamond Johnson writing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” or the great jazz musicians playing on stages in the segregated south or the painters of the Harlem Renaissance creating a new way of seeing…all find acceptance within the artistic community and changing the world through their art.

I also think of LGBTQ artists who haved shared their life experiences with all of us and made our world more beautiful, more interesting.  Painters like Cy Twombly, Frida Kahlo, and Keith Haring…photographers like Adi Nes, Gilbert & George, and Annie Leibovitz…mixed media masters like Hannah Hoch and Robert Rauschenberg…ALL have been accepted and celebrated.  As an artist it is hard for me to imagine a world without the presence of their creative bodies of work.

Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by, been loved by and have loved LGBTQ inidividuals.  Best friends, colleagues, fellow artists…I can’t imagine my life without.  Many now live too far away as the moved to places that would embrace them as full citizens… a personal loss and a loss for my city.  I have an incredible desire for everyone to have all of the same rights, privledges and recognitions that I have in the eyes of the law and in the heart of our city.  Again, there is no room for hate, intolerance, or discrimination…not in my life or the life of my city.  It is essential to follow the road to love and acceptance that the arts have paved and pass a fully-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance, opening the doors for all of our citizens.  When we do our city will be more like the environments of my mother’s living room, my elementary classroom, artists’ studios, theater stages, and the galleries of our great museums…caring, dynamic, compassionate, beautiful, creative, hard working, loving, and moving forward.

Ally Profile: Rabbi Jesse Olitzky

Rabbi Jesse Olitzky

Rabbi Olitzky formerly served as Rabbi and was part of the clergy team at the Jacksonville Jewish Center in Jacksonville, FL., He received rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary. In addition to ordination, he received an MA in Jewish Education from JTS’ William Davidson School of Education. Prior to relocating in Jacksonville, Rabbi Olitzky served communities in Kingston, New York and Parkchester, New York. His mission as a rabbi is lower barrier of access to Jewish ethics and values, promoting social justice in order to fulfill the Divine vision of peace, equality, and harmony. He is married to Andrea and is the proud father to Cayla and Noah. Follow his writings on his own personal blog at rabbiolitzky.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter at @JMOlitzky.

Rabbi Olitzky affirms his role as an ally because Judaism maintains the belief that “Kulanu B’Nei Elohim”, meaning “we are all God’s children.”

“As a rabbi, I believe that God created each individual in God’s Divine image. I believe that each individual is holy; each individual is sacred. I cringe when I hear preachers and people of faith spew hate in God’s name or try to make conclusions of discrimination or inequality based on scripture. My responsibility as a rabbi, member of the clergy, and person of faith, is to promote inclusion, promote love, and promote the holiness of every individual, regardless of background, faith, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. That is why I am coming out as a straight ally. We need to stand up for the rights of all of God’s creations and celebrate the sanctity of all.”

Brennan Campa, Age 14

Brennan believes that everyone should be treated with respect and that everyone deserves to have equal opportunities, including his mother, who is a lesbian. Read more about Brennan here: http://wp.me/s3PnKk-brennan

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