Viewpoint: Celebrate all Prides

by John Wohl

As a member of the Detroit area gay community since 1973, I've been to many Pride events. I remember going to the state fair years ago and the fun times we've had through the years. Attending the Pride events in Ferndale has been a yearly event, along with an occasional visit to Lansing.

Over the last dozen years or so, I've also attended numerous Hotter Than July events, in particular the annual picnic in Palmer Park. For years, we have had this beautiful park in the city of Detroit that is still mostly bordered by the lovely historic neighborhoods we have all admired from near and from afar.

I attended both Motor City Pride and Hotter that July this year. Many of my friends had mentioned to me that they noticed many more of our brothers and sisters of color had attended the Ferndale event. I imagined that this year, the Palmer Park picnic would have had a larger caucasian presence.

I was so wrong! What was also missing was the clear evidence of our Latino and Arab communities represented at this Pride event. In fact, as I look back on other years, the attendance by my white brothers and sisters this year was almost nil compared to previous years. I believe we should embrace all of the Pride events in our region - especially when they happen so close by to where we all live. We are fortunate to have more than one event to celebrate here in Detroit.

In the perfect world, some would question why we all can't be together as one. I believe, as many other people do, that in order for that to happen we must first acknowledge each other for all the wonderful things that we are to each other.

My experience this year at Hotter Than July was fabulous! The rain that was with us and forecast for all day ended at noon and the miserable weather we had been promised was made scarce by partly sunny skies.

What I was able to witness beyond seeing many old and new friends, many of whom have been working in the trenches of our social service agencies, were the likes of a beautiful and loving crowd. One of the things that was so wonderful about the crowd was seeing everyone in the daylight and sunlight. Not in a dark crowded bar or club, but outside.

Here's a group of people who love, live and work in our community every day like all the rest of us, looking for a chance to celebrate the best of who we are. That should be all of us, together.

As a white person, we often relish in our ability to celebrate the joy of jazz music, or the Motown Museum, or hip-hop culture, or any of the many cultural nuances that living in Detroit offers us. We love to participate in the Arab and Chaldean street festivals, and our love of going to have some "authentic Mexican food in Mexicantown" is just one of the things we love about being Detroiters.

Do we believe in our culture that we are not safe spending time among our gay brother and sisters because they are of a different race? That we can't go into "their" park or neighborhood is an idea so ill-founded that it should make us all look at how we separate ourselves from each other.

As a resident of the North Corktown community near downtown Detroit, I'm not blind to the fact that many consider my neighborhood, which is bordered by Rosa Parks and Trumbull, generally not a safe place for white folks to be around. Nothing could be further from the truth. To demystify that pretext takes someone to break that theoretical barrier and show the naysayers how docile and thriving our seemingly ramshackle communities are. That is something I hope my words will shine some light on.

People are people everywhere. We are all human beings living on this earth. When we speak - especially about gay folks, no matter what their racial origin - we should and must all have the understanding that we are the world's most beautiful and peaceable people. To not be able to experience each other is a dreadful loss that we must never let happen.

For years, I've seen different levels of discrimination that we have shown toward each other. In this instance, I'm not referring to racial discrimination, but to the way we often treat each other as LGBT people. He's so gay, so effeminate, so affected; he is such a bull - all of the things that separate us. If we could just stop wringing our hands over the problems we feel toward our society and open our arms and draw toward us the great things within our reach, we can then learn to believe that living our best life is within our reach.

Most of our neighborhoods don't reflect the fact that we live in a multi-racial society in this country. That should not preclude all of us in our gay culture to believe our healthy viability can function in a segregated fashion. I believe we are God's chosen people and can show the rest of the world what our power of personage and togetherness can do.

John Wohl is a member of Black and White Men Together and Detroit resident. To comment on this article, e-mail editor@pridesource.com.
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