It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Come Out With Pride. My personal plan is to watch the parade, wear as much glitter as humanly possible (if no one has put you on to Unicorn Snot yet — here ya go, you’re welcome), and maybe grab a popsicle. My very first Orlando Pride weekend, my friend showed me The Pop Parlour. Knowing that there was a dedicated space for popsicles made me realize that Orlando really got “it,” ya know? That friend also made fun of my outfit that day and he is no longer in my life (Scorpios seriously know how to hold a grudge, y’all). Fortunately, Pop Parlour is still going strong.
In anticipation of Pride, I recently attended The Center’s Stonewall Exhibition opening which was really lovely. I didn’t even realize how much they offer the community:
Free mental health counseling every Tuesday & Friday
Free Monthly Legal Clinic
Free Computer Lab Access at the Cyber Center
Free Monthly Hep A & Hep B Vaccinations
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cases pending in SCOTUS impacting the LGBTQ+ community via employment discrimination. But it’s not just about employment discrimination; the potential impact to federal civil rights could go deeper. Get a proper education here.
Was I making this up or did we as an electorate in Florida pass amendment 4? You know, the constitutional amendment allowing nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences to vote again. As much as that seems like a liberal fever dream, I’m pretty sure that actually happened. But then the Florida legislature did what now?
WELL, wouldn’t ya know it, they decided to add some stuff. They passed a bill that: changed the voter registration form so it’s extra special confusing, made the supervisor of elections responsible for determining voter eligibility and holding a hearing on the matter if necessary (pretty tough to do without a database that centralizes the various information you need from the Florida Department of Corrections, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, etc. but OH WELL), and very significantly — made fees and costs a part of one’s sentence, meaning that guess what. You have to pay back the money you owe in court costs, fees and restitution before you can vote (oh, the clerk of court may or may not be able to tell you what you owe, good luck!). The ACLU et. al. are suing, and calling it a “poll tax” because… um… that’s what it is. It all adds up to, as presiding federal Judge Hinkle put it: “an administrative nightmare.”
Y’all, go check Article VI, Section 4 of our State Constitution (that’s where Amendment 4 lives now). I dare you, go ahead. That stuff is NOT there. There are a lot of moving parts to this thing and a lot to be upset about. But I am downright PEEVED that our representatives feel like they can just ignore us. If I ignored my boss, I am pretty dang sure I would I get fired. Can you imagine?
“Nicole, can you stay late next Tuesday?”
“Sure, no problem! But you meant leave early this Friday, right?”
“No, I definitely meant stay late…to help out, you know, because of those deadlines? Next Tuesday.”
“Got it. I will leave at 12:30 SHARP on Friday. You’re welcome!”
Please read more about this dumpster fire here and here. Then call your representative and remind them who employs whom. Last but not least, check out how you can help with the folks who started it all: Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.
Ya know those recipe blogs that make you read about how their mom made this recipe when they were little, and all their friends love it oh-so-much, and you’re like please tell me how to make these tacos? Yeah, I don’t want to do that to you. So you can totally download the guide via the link above and be on your merry way.
BUT, if you want to know why I think street art is going to change your life, it’s because it changed mine:
The year was 2015. I was exiled to roam Lisbon, Portugal alone after I had ticked off my friend’s then-boyfriend (now husband, whom I adore). I think I had talked about feminism too much or something; it’s hard to remember the bad stuff when it turned out to be one of my most cherished adventures.
But in the moment, I was devastated. I remember crying in our Airbnb thinking, I’m a young woman alone in a new city, what am I gonna do? I vaguely tried walking around by myself and even the actual police cat-called me.
Fortunately, my best friend gave me a pep talk from several time-zones away and assured me that I was 100% That B*tch. So I dried my eyes and did what any sensible Alternative Girl would do; I joined a motley crew of other young travellers on my very first Street Art Tour. I had never heard of such a thing and didn’t know what to expect; it seemed like a bit of a con. Couldn’t I just go look at this stuff myself? It’s OUTSIDE, that’s the WHOLE THING – it’s free.
Ultimately, this turned out to be one of the most fun days of my life. I learned about Fado music, the country’s severe economic crisis, and their unique response to drug addiction among other things. Not to mention I had a killer dance party with my new friends.
Since then, I make a point to look for street art whenever I travel. Nothing tells a city’s story like its own walls. For example, in Puerto Rico there was a very simple question posed on the walls of Old San Juan – it wasn’t a fancy commissioned mural, in fact the spray paint looked pretty rushed (it was in Spanish, the English translation was): “What happens to the Puerto Ricans that don’t rebel?” As an outsider, I had no idea what that meant. Speaking with new friends later on they explained – all Puerto Ricans know they live in a colony, but what can they do, realistically? These particular young men were in the U.S. military. They knew the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico wasn’t perfect, to say the least. They “bought-in” to try to live the dream despite what some perceive as unfavorable odds — but what would become of them? This conversation sparked a paradigm shift in my understanding of U.S. / Puerto-Rican relations, and it started with a wall asking me a question.
The Orlando street art scene is an orange glistening in the sun, ripe for harvest. My hope in putting out this guide is to facilitate appreciation for all of the luxurious color and creativity we are a little bit spoiled by. I tend to drive by so quickly that these beautiful pieces are sort of reduced to scenery in my mind’s eye. Taking the time to look at them more intentionally resulted in greater appreciation and insight. Check out the link for Volume 1, encompassing Primrose, Bumby and a bit of Colonial. My only lament is that while we have large, lavish commissioned works we may be lacking in spaces for newcomers. I did see tags and little tiny unsanctioned pieces in the more obscure spots, but it seems we either have a heavy hand or lack of space for up-and-coming art.
Which pieces are you APPALLED that I missed? Comment below with info about your favorite piece so we can add it to the guide. I’m really most curious to know: what story do you think Orlando is trying to tell?