Tag Archives: Jacksonville HRO

Ally Profile: Ronald Breaker

Ronald Breaker, US Army CW2 (Ret.)
Ronald Breaker, US Army CW2 (Ret.)

Ronald E. Breaker is a native of Jacksonville’s Eastside.  He served 21 years in the United States Army, retiring as Chief Warrant Officer 2.  Mr. Breaker then served for 13 years as a Department of Defense Civilian, retiring in September 1996 as a GS 13.  He returned to Jacksonville with his high school sweetheart and bride of over 48 years, Barbara Lewis-Breaker.  They currently reside in Historic Springfield.  Presently, Mr. Breaker works as a freelance photographer. He studied photography with New York Institute of Photography in 1965 and University of North Florida in 2001. Ronald and his wife are the proud parents of four children and four grandchildren.

In his own words, Ronald shares his journey towards allyship:

My journey to this point as a straight ally has been one of reevaluating my thoughts and beliefs. When the LGBT community started framing their plight as a civil rights issue I disagreed and would often say, “they choose to be gay, and could stop if they wanted to. Being black is different, I don’t have a choice.”   When I think of people I have known as early as 3rd or 4th grade who were gay, I realized gay people could no more change their identity than I could change mine.

We live in a changing world, and when the military realized that, they knew their policies of discrimination against women and eventually LGBT members of the military had to change.  It is very hard for a lot of us to accept these facts, but I believe, when you know better you do better. To that end, If Jacksonville is to become a first class NFL city it cannot discriminate against any of its citizens. Injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us.

See a video clip of his statement here: 


Ally Profile: Frieda Saraga

Frieda Saraga_FP_Print_new logoFrieda Saraga, mother of five children — all adults one gay son, two twin daughters who are lesbian and a son and daughter who are straight — they all love one another very much and supportive of one another.

My husband, Leonard and I have been married 62 years and certainly did not envision having such a diverse  family–we both had a great deal to learn.  Since they are all in their 50’s and a little beyond, there were no GSA’s, no local PFLAG chapters and no internet available to us for information but we had the main ingredient–we love our children very much.  We began realizing that being gay or lesbian was even much less accepted by many and I began to hear jokes and remarks that were hurtful and suddenly I stopped friends who were making those remarks and tell them these remarks are not ok to use–we have gay children I became an advocate without realizing it.  Our friends realized they still loved our children and being gay was just one thing about them.  Jacksonville was even more conservative if possible than in this day and age and many religion biases.

Growing up I remembered prejudice for being Jewish–as a child having children stick me with pins to see if I had blood like everyone else–ideas that parents had raised their children with and to realize my children and many of their friends might go thru greater prejudice made both my husband and myself aware that something had to change. After being in retail business with three stores for thirty years we were both at a loss as to what to do when we grow up–I started volunteering at the HIV testing clinic –this was twenty years ago when the gay population was being so infected with the virus.  i took the counseling training with the encouragement of my son who felt I would have compassion for the gay population that was coming in to be tested and have remained an HIV testing counselor during my 16 years at Planned Parenthood and the last four years testing every week end in the Bay Street jail with inmates.

At the same time a wonderful co-facilitator, Judy Higgison and myself were asked to take over an HIV support group called Positive Attitudes that met every Tuesday evening and for the past eighteen years we have been with many wonderful men and women thru the years–thankfully for the last few years we have seen people live their lives unlike the first ten years when we saw so many pass away.  The group is based on attitudinal healing and we both have gained even more than we have given. As this was all happening, about twenty years ago, our son, Scott, again suggested that perhaps we could have a group that parents of glbt children could meet together, thus the beginning of PFLAG of Jacksonville.

We found a place to meet and thru the years we had to find other meeting places and put something I believe about a support group in a small spot in the paper and a phone number with no address for the security of those who might attend.  Those first few years each monthly meeting brought mostly mothers of gay children who were crying and so many were torn because of religious beliefs.  Within time we became a chapter of PFLAG National and thru the years have met every month, have a hot line and have become a viable organization which gives support, education, and advocacy in the community concerning GLBT issues.  We work hand in hand with JASMYN and are active with many organizations in the community.

I have presented programs for companies, college classes and other groups.  Our biggest project being our Scholarship program–the only one in the state of Florida that has awarded over $250,000 to GLBT students since 1996.  Imagine conservative Jacksonville in north-conservative Florida having a program that you would expect to find in a more liberal south Florida!

My husband and I have had the privilege of being such a part of our children’s lives and having their partners and friends become our extended family.  Their older brother and sister are always advocates on these issues–we have a family that has embraced one another for who each person is and the key word LOVE prevails always.

Life brings many journeys –love and caring- made us speak for those who could not speak. I have been overwhelmed by the respect and love we have received from the community. For parents who refuse to love their child for who they are, and not embrace them with love, they have lost the gift of the journey we have traveled –not always easy–but so worth it–we have grown as a family to love and respect differences, not just likenesses.

See Frieda’s video statement here.

Darnell Smith: Market President, Florida Blue

Darnell Smith, Florida Blue’s market president for the North Florida Region, explains why it is imperative that we have a Human Rights Ordinance that protects the LGBT community from discrimination. 

[Despite some misinformed beliefs, no there are currently NO protections at the City, State or Federal level for the LGBT community…]

Read his full profile here:  http://wp.me/p3PnKk-dn

Thank you for the Equality Party at One Spark!

We Are Allies would like to thank our courageous allies, incredible performers, amazing volunteers, and wonderful sponsors for your support during One Spark. Your commitment to seek and uphold justice and equality for all as we work to build a better community continues to inspire and motivate us. Through education, engagement and partnerships, we were able to secure 1,936 signed equality petitions, garner 759 votes, add 305 new ‘likes’ on our Facebook Page, and placed 22nd out of over 600 Creator Projects.

Many of you are aware of the controversy and discrimination that we faced during the beginning of One Spark. We would like to publicly thank the local media, corporate and community leaders and national organizations for their quick response and unwavering support. This challenge underscores the very real need for a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance and continued dialogue and action within our community about the lived experiences of those who identify as LGBTQ.

We were deeply moved by so many of the comments from attendees and the wide range of diverse backgrounds of the people who support this Movement. Here are a few snippets we wanted to share with you:

“My younger brother came out to me on New Year’s Eve. He sent me a text. I was completely shocked…still trying to wrap my head around it, but expressed my support.
–40something Black man with wife and two children

“Our daughter is a lesbian in Philadelphia. She’s marrying her partner in Hawaii. We have two sons – one is openly gay, but we think the other one is too.”
–60something white couple from St. Augustine

“I came out last year. Now, I’m homeless. I’ve been sleeping on friend’s couches. I’m moving to another state next month.”
–20something college student

“This HRO will be detrimental to my business. It will result in lawsuits and from a Christian perspective, I have problems with the message of gay rights.”
–50something white male small business owner

“L-G-B-T! I love me some LGBT’s. They make the strongest drinks. Five dollars and three drinks later and I’M seeing rainbows!! What’s your [Creator] number? I’m voting for you!”
–30something Black woman walking behind us on our way to the Hemming Plaza stage for our Creator Pitch

“I’m pretty sure this [equality] is what Jesus would want.”
—60something, white male, as he signed his Equality Pledge

“I am sooooooooooooo hoping EVERYONE votes for your great work.  I am honored to have worked & volunteered with you.  Count Me In On Your Next Event / Venture!”
—40something, Hispanic female

“Just wanted to pop in and say thank you for everything you do to help our community.  It’s people like you and your organization that helps our (LGBT) community over come hatred and discrimination.  Thank you again.”
—30something, white male

“So glad that I volunteered with the We Are Straight Allies campaign at One Spark. I am used to talking with people about the inclusive HRO and collecting pledges in different venues, so it was not brand new for me. What was new was the fact that the entire discussion centered around straight people, their attitudes, what they know, and what is misinformation. It was about their journey, not mine.

First, I wasn’t necessarily the authority! It was great. The straight people behind the table were talking as authorities on what it means to be a straight ally. I was seen as a resource, so when someone had a question, they would turn to me for a little help or boost. It was great for me to be acting as a resource as opposed to initiator of a (sometimes) tricky discussion.

Second, gay people walked up and they were a little disoriented like me! We started to realize that we have a specific role within We Are Straight Allies. Our role involves showing up, being out, and feeling grateful for political support. When we do that with our straight allies, we’ve done A LOT.  The rest is up to the straight folks. It’s up to Jacksonville’s straight majority to get the info, define their position, and either become an ally or not.”
—40something, white female, community advocate and volunteer

And, a woman’s nephew came out to her as she was signing our Equality Pledge.

We have provided an overview of highlights from One Spark including links and images below.  Again, we thank you!

Equality Party at One Spark! Photo Album 

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Orchestra Equality

‘Coming Out Monologues’ at OneSpark 

The Incredible Al Letson

Press Coverage from the week:
Florida Times Union
First Coast News


Ally Profile: Reverend Dr. Bruce Havens

Bruce Havens_FP_Print

We thought we would let the Reverend Dr. Bruce Havens, Pastor of the Arlington Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, tell you in his own words why he joined the ‘We Are Straight Allies’ campaign:

I am a native of Florida and grew up in the years where schools were just beginning to integrate.  To me it was normal, natural and “cool.”  As a student at Harvard University, I learned about Martin Luther King, jr. and the principles of seeking social justice for people – no matter who they were:  people of other races, nationalities, different abilities, WOMEN! and those who were from many different sexual orientations.  I learned about the pain people suffer when they are discriminated against.  Since then I have been ordained in the United Church of Christ which has an historic record of inclusiveness:  we were the first primarily European – American denomination to ordain an African – American pastor, the first to ordain a woman and the first to ordain an openly gay man.  I am proud of that history and proud to represent that here in Jacksonville.  I am also a husband and a father of 2 boys and a girl and I want them to be proud of their community and its commitment to social justice and equality of opportunity for all people.  Every Sunday at our church we say to people, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here!”  I want that to be true for Jacksonville too.  We can disagree about how we practice our faith and still be for justice and against discrimination.  That is the legacy of all faiths.  If the business community can stand for justice and what is right, then the faith community should surely not lag behind.  That’s why I am a “Straight Ally,” for the Human Rights Ordinance.