Orlando United Day Will Honor Pulse Victims….

Monday, church bells will chime, the rainbow flag will unfurl, and Orlando will attempt to heal from an enormous blow. As the city prepares for the one-year mark of the mass shooting at Pulse, leaders plan to sound a message of unity and hope in the face of tragedy and pain. “We’re going to put together a beautiful tribute,” says Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan. “We’re calling it a day of remembrance.”

The day comes a year after gunman Omar Mateen started shooting patrons inside Pulse, an Orlando gay bar, in the early hours of June 12, 2016. Mateen would be killed by police after a lengthy standoff, but 49 others would die as well, making the attack the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

The city of Orlando and Orange County, Fla., have declared June 12 Orlando United Day: A Day of Love and Kindness. In addition to a series of events sanctioned by the city, including a ceremony at Lake Eola Park where the named of the 49 people killed in the attack will be read, there will be a several private events.

The Dru Project

Organizers of the Dru Project, named for victim Christopher Andrew “Drew” Leinonen, will host an official launch party for the organization on the eve of Orlando United Day. Leinonen founded a gay-straight alliance at his high school, and the Dru Project will honor his memory by creating curricula to share with schools across the state and by raising money for “Spirit of Drew” scholarships to those representing a desire for unity, inclusion and love. “We are doing everything we can to honor Drew,” says Brandon Wolf, vice president of the organization and a friend of Leinonen’s. “This is only the beginning.” The launch party will take place at the Abbey in Orlando from 6 p.m. to midnight Sunday.

Private Vigil

At 2:02 a.m., exactly a year after the shooting began, a private vigil will be held inside of Pulse. Club owner Barbara Poma says this event will be primarily for families of the loved ones and survivors of the attack. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs will be in attendance alongside select community leaders, but members of the public, including the media, will not be in attendance for this event. Sara Brady, a spokeswoman for Poma, says this event will be among the most personally important to those closest to the shooting. The names of each of the victims will be read aloud, and those invited to the event will be allowed to stay until around 3:30 a.m.

Inspiration Orlando

A mural that may soon be traveling the country will be officially unveiled near the Pulse nightclub Monday. Pennsylvania-based muralist Michael Pilato and artist Yuriy Karabash have been working with Pulse survivor Christopher Hansen and other artists on a work that will celebrate the lives of both those lost and those who continue to fight for the community. The Inspiration Orlando mural includes pictures of victims, and Pilato says he worked closely with families to make sure the lost are represented as loved ones want them remembered. “Sometimes we have them smiling, but a family will want them to look more serious,” he says. “We will paint an image 20 times until the family feels we have it right.” Pilato feels a certain kinship to the parents, as his daughter Skye died of an asthma attack at 19; he says her memory was a big part of why he took the trek to Orlando to create this work of art. Hansen, who also is depicted in the mural, says the work provided tremendous healing and catharsis for him. “With stories of heartbreak and disaster and trauma, this shows we are going to get through this and turn tragedy into triumph,” he says. Hansen would like to travel the world with the mobile mural and share the experience. The art will also have an augmented reality components, where digital storytelling will supplement parts of the story.

Sea-to-Sea Flag

A section of the famous Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag, originally draped on the Orange County Administration Building five days after the attack, will make its return to the iconic Orlando structure Monday. Jacobs requested the flag, which she referred to as a “sacred cloth,” to fly again in tribute to the shooting victims and in support of freedom lovers worldwide.

49 Bells

The 49 Bells project has called on churches around the world to chime their bells 49 times at noon Monday in honor of the victims killed in the attack. Several Orlando area churches will be among those sounding at noon, including the Reformation Lutheran Church, located just blocks from Pulse. The families of several victims have been involved in the effort. “As parents, we don’t want our children to be forgotten, and most importantly, we would love the support of spreading love, not hate, as a message for humankind,” says Mayra Alvear, whose daughter Amanda died in the attack.

History Center

The Orange County Regional History Center will present an expanded exhibition of images and items collected at the de facto memorial site set up at Pulse or sent to the city of Orlando. Curated pieces from the One Orlando Collection include community artwork and signs of international support. A digital collection of the many makeshift memorials and tributes to victims can be viewed now at the history’s center’s website. The gallery will display the physical artifacts for a week, with the collection viewable through June 17. Admission to the history center will be free. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Pulse Nightclub Reflections and Remembrances

A second vigil will be held at the site of Pulse at midday, this one with broader admission, though media access to the event will be limited. Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday, community speakers return for a reading of names of the 49 killed and the display of 49 wreaths at the site. Violectric will provide music. The Angel Force, a group of Orlando residents who have regularly attended events in white robes with tall, flowing cloth wings, will also be present; the group originally came together as a way to create a barrier between homophobic protesters and funeral attendees after Westboro Baptist Church threatened to protest funerals after the attack. Organizers from Hang a Heart, which handed out stitched hearts after the attack, and Stars of Hope, a disaster response effort to heal communities through art, will also be present at this event.

Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels

Elected leaders including Dyer, Jacobs, Sheehan, and others will take part in a one-year remembrance ceremony at the Lake Eola Park Amphitheater, which has been repainted since the attack in the colors of the rainbow flag. Musicians Olga Tanón and Sisaundra Lewis will perform at the event, and the names of the 49 fallen will be read aloud. “I hate the distinction of this being the largest mass shooting,” Sheehan says, “but also, the city came together in a way that showed us as resilient, strong, and amazing. Leaders of the church came and condemned the shooting. Never as an LGBT elected official did I expect to see that. It’s wonderful to see how we have come together in spite of this horrible tragedy.”

Pulse Candlelight: Moments of Hope and Healing

Community members are invited back to Pulse for a final on-site vigil at 10 p.m. Monday for prayers, live music, inspirational dance, and reflection. “It’s a day intended for reflection and to remember these families and survivors who were taken,” Brady says. “The entire city will be really focused on this one-year mark.” This event marks the last of three similar events at Pulse itself, and the last event officially sanctioned by the city and county governments.

onePulse Foundation

One thing not happening Monday? Any fundraising for Poma’s new effort, the onePulse Foundation. That’s intentional, with Orlando United Day focused on tragedy, not exploitation. “It’s a day to try and heal,” says Brady. But the foundation will continue its work to turn Pulse into a permanent museum and a shrine to the 49 killed, 68 injured, and countless other impacted by the tragedy there last June. The foundation formally launched May 4 with a press conference in front of the club. Poma will serve as the foundation’s CEO and executive director. “I remain awestruck by how many people have stepped up and committed their hearts to this project,” Poma said at the event. “I am profoundly grateful to the members of the new board of trustees who have joined me to guide the future of this project.” That board includes local business leaders like attorney Earl Crittenden and Walt DisneyWorld president George Kalogridis, but also national figures like singer-actor Lance Bass and retired NBA star Jason Collins. Poma has already consulted with foundation teams behind similar memorials in Oklahoma City and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. In addition to opening the memorial in 2020, the foundation plans to issue grants and scholarships in the names of the 49 killed in the attack.

Jacob Ogles – The Advocate

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Love Letters’ To The LGBTQ Community…..

As part of Billboard’s 30 Days of Pride celebration this June, we asked numerous pop culture luminaries to write ‘love letters’ to the LGBTQ community. Read them below and share your love letter to the community using #30DaysPride this Gay Pride Month.


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I Call Bulls**t On HGTV Star Chip Gaines’ Blog About Anti-Gay Controversy….

Sorry buddy, my humanity isn’t something anyone gets to “lovingly disagree” with.

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 19: The Build Series presents Chip Gaines to discuss the new book “The Magnolia Story” at AOL HQ on October 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic)

Chip Gaines wants to “change the conversation” in America.

Chip Gaines, who stars on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” alongside his wife Joanna, got a heap of praise for his blog post discussing our country’s “divided humanity.”

The piece, which many media sites assumed was written in direct response to a Dec. 2016 Buzzfeed story that claimed the Gaines attend an anti-LGBTQ church, was lauded as “perfect” and “filled with love and compassion” by conservative and religious outlets. If you didn’t look closely ― or weren’t thinking critically enough ― it’s easy to understand why.

“Joanna and I have personal convictions,” Gaines wrote. “One of them is this: we care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. It’s not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith.”

Aw. Thanks, Chip. That’s sweet.

“You wanna talk about how to build bridges between people that disagree? We want to be a part of that conversation,” he added. “Do you want to talk about healing and compassion and kindness and restoration? We’re in the restoration business, we can for sure make time for that.”

Healing and compassion and kindness and restoration? Sign me up!

“Disagreement is not the same thing as hate, don’t believe that lie,” Gaines implores.

Uh oh.

“Our family wants to fight for a world that knows how to lovingly disagree,” he adds. “We believe it starts when we operate from a position of love in all things. If your position only extends love to the people who agree with you, we want to respectfully challenge that position.”

You were doing so well, Chip, but here’s where I have to stop you.

People disagree about whether New England clam chowder is better than Manhattan clam chowder or what to name their new iguana or whether or not Kylie Jenner has really gotten butt implants. But a church or an individual or a government telling a queer person that they are a sinner or that they don’t deserve to get married or that queer people should be treated any less or any differently than non-queer people merely because of who they are is not “lovingly disagreeing.”

It’s the same tired nonsense that’s continually peddled by folks who aren’t cool with queer people but don’t want to be called a bigot or deal with the possibility of a boycott against their businesses. And as much as it hurts to hear, in this case, disagreement is hate.

No, gussying up homophobia as a simple difference of opinion doesn’t feel or look as obviously offensive or hurtful as a Westboro Baptist Church protest, but in some ways, it’s even more dangerous because deceptive framing allows people to feel justified in their discrimination.

The bottom line is: My humanity is not something you get to disagree with. You don’t get to tell me that I’m morally corrupt or sexually deviant or unworthy of the same rights that you enjoy and then look me in the face and tell me that you still love me. That’s nothing remotely close to resembling love.

By the same token, if by some chance you don’t agree with your church’s doctrine, you don’t get to attend a church that’s anti-LGBTQ and not be called out. If you really care about me and love me and truly aren’t anti-queer, why would you look the other way? Why wouldn’t you publicly stand up and say something?

I like you, Chip, and I like your wife and I like your TV show (and so does my mom) and I’d love for you to come and redo my apartment (or at the very least hang a few pictures that I’ve been meaning to put up for the past 14 months). And I appreciate that you guys want to “change the conversation” in this country and help to make it a better place. I want that, too. But we’re not going to get there if we aren’t calling out bigotry wherever we see it. Otherwise, what’s the point? That’d be like spending thousands of dollars to beautifully redo a house but never taking care of the black mold happily rotting in the basement.

So let’s do this: You start unequivocally calling out bigotry (however blatant or incidental it may be) against queer people wherever you see it ― without any of the “love the sinner but hate the sin” or “I care about you, I just don’t believe in gay marriage” bullshit ― and I’ll do whatever I can to help you on your mission. Let’s plan a conference. Let’s start a national conversation. Let’s have a real honest to goodness come to Jesus moment. This country needs some fixing up and if you’re really serious about taking part in that, I’m in, too.

Noah Michelson – Editorial Director, The Huffington Post Voices
Mireya Acierto – Photo

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Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage….

HGTV says, “We don’t discriminate against the LGBT community in any of our shows.” (This story has been updated with a comment from HGTV and with the Gaineses’ pastor’s response.)

Joanna and Chip Gaines by Jennifer Boomer

Chip and Joanna Gaines’ series Fixer Upper is one of the most popular shows on HGTV. The couple has recently graced the cover of People magazine; their book, The Magnolia Story, has been on the New York Times’ best-seller list for five weeks; and they were the subject of a long profile in Texas Monthly that credited them with revitalizing the city of Waco, Texas, where the show is set and where their businesses are located. The couple are riding a wave of success, largely due to their charm and appeal. Joanna’s design aesthetic — large kitchen islands, open-concept floor plans, and shiplap — is one of the show’s stars; Chip’s goofiness — his willingness to call himself fat, his sadness and terror when he has to deliver bad news to a client during construction, and his buoyant attitude — is the other.

They have built a small empire, and they are not done yet. They have a huge retail space in Waco, as well as a new magazine, the Magnolia Journal; they have a real estate company; Joanna has a paint line and a home decor line. Season 4 of Fixer Upper begins Nov. 29.

They are also, as they detail in The Magnolia Story, devout Christians — Joanna has spoken of and written about her conversations with God. (God told her both to close her store to spend time with her children, and then to reopen it a few years later.) Their church, Antioch Community Church, is a nondenominational, evangelical, mission-based megachurch. And their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, who described the Gaineses as “dear friends” in a recent video, takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight.

So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s House Hunters and Property Brothers? Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. HGTV’s PR department did not respond to initial emails and calls. Two days after this story was published, they released the following statement: “We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows. HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.”

Fixer Upper has fans of all stripes: Christians, feminists, and LGBT viewers have all found something to love in the Gaineses. So in the absence of a response from them or their representatives, it’s worth looking at the severe, unmoving position Seibert and Antioch take on same-sex marriage.

Jimmy Seibert, left, with Joanna and Chip Gaines. Antioch Community Church

When reached by phone, Antioch Community Church’s communications director pointed me toward the church’s website under “beliefs,” where it states, “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” The church has held the same position since Seibert founded it 17 years ago, she said.

And in June 2015, on the Sunday after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, Seibert scrapped what was going to be the program at Antioch that day in order to reaffirm where the church stands, whatever the law of the land may be.

After talking about Genesis, and saying that marriage is between “one man and one wife,” Seibert emphasizes the fixedness of this idea. “This is a clear biblical admonition. So if someone were to say, ‘Marriage is defined in a different way,’ let me just say: They are wrong,” he says from the pulpit to applause from the congregation. “God defined marriage, not you and I. God defined masculine and feminine, male and female, not you and I.”

Seibert then goes on to discuss sin. “Truth No. 1: Homosexuality is a sin. The lie: Homosexuality is not a sin.” He urges compassion for the sinners, though, because “the statistics say that 90% of people who are in a full-blown homosexual lifestyle were abused in some way. Physically, sexually, mentally.” He also says that gay pornography deserves some of the blame. “We have people and young people that never had any intention of a same-sex attraction et cetera, who have seen sexuality up front in pornography and now are trapped in the addiction of it.”

Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper by Rachel Whyte

But LGBT people have a choice, Seibert says, and can change. “Truth No. 2: God is able to give us power over every sin, including homosexuality. Lie No. 2: I am a homosexual in thought and action, and I cannot change.”

He tells the story of a playground conversation he recently had with a friend, who was wondering whether one of the kids in their charge was going to be gay or straight. He said to her, “Can I just tell you you don’t have to wonder? You can lovingly, carefully bring them back to Scripture, be compassionate in the journey. And help them direct their passions rightly to how god created them.”

He expands on that notion: “We can change, contrary to what you hear. I’ve worked with people for over 30 years — I have seen hundreds of people personally change their direction of same-sex attraction from a homosexual lifestyle to a heterosexual lifestyle. It doesn’t mean they don’t struggle with feelings, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t hurting, it doesn’t mean it’s not challenging. But they have chosen to change. And there has always been grace there for those who choose that.”

(In 2009, a task force of American Psychological Association concluded that “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm.” The Human Rights Campaign has also decried conversion therapy, linking it in minors to “depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.”)

seibert-delivering-his-sermon-after-the-supreme-court-decision-in-june-2015-antioch-community-church***Seibert delivering his sermon after the Supreme Court decision in June 2015. Antioch Community Church***

Nevertheless, Seibert urges educators in public schools not to accept normalizing same-sex marriage, which will trickle down to “teenage relationships,” and even into kindergarten. He says that teachers should risk being fired. “If they feel you can still work there, so be it. If not, God will have another way for you.”

His sermon is available to watch online in full @ http://antiochcc.com/sermons/a-biblical-response-to-the-supreme-court-decision

The spokesperson for Antioch said she could not speak for Chip and Joanna Gaines on same-sex marriage. But Seibert clearly does not offer any wiggle room on the issue, as he says emphatically in his sermon: “Business leaders, you will have to be clear about who you are. And you will have to be willing to stand to lose even a deal or two or 10 or even lose your business. But if you’re not clear, you will have no leg to stand on down the road. If you think you’re going to get away with it in the short run, I promise you won’t in the long run, because the spirit demands submission.”

“We’re being called to a higher calling,” Seibert says. “A greater compassion and love, but a greater clarity than ever before. Because it is coming now. Starting Monday morning, we will not have the option anymore.

“And with that,” he concludes “will come persecution.”

Kate Aurthur – BuzzFeed News Reporter
Joanna and Chip Gaines Photo by Jennifer Boomer
Jimmy Seibert, left, with Joanna and Chip Gaines- Antioch Community Church
Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper by Rachel Whyte
Seibert delivering his sermon after the Supreme Court decision in June 2015 – Antioch Community Church

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I Stand With The Women’s March On Washington….


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On This The Blackest Of Fridays….


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Happy New Year Everybody!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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