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Working With J-Flag



I have always wanted to travel to Jamaica. Str8 friends who have vacationed in the Caribbean, speak of wonderful experiences. Days full of beach excursions and water toys, and warm nights filled with dancing and rum filled concoctions. Right around the time I was considering travel dates, I learned about Jamaica  Forum Of Lesbians, All- Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG). The organization was similar to PFLAG, and was working hard to bring awareness to queer discrimination in the Caribbean.

I Learned A Lot Over Breakfast

I was invited to a breakfast meeting with Detroit area LGBTQ activists looking to offer support. The hate queer Jamaicans faced was real. Restorative rape for women, and flammable tire necklaces for gay men. Trans fam, seemed the most hated. I learned of parents turning gay offspring out of their homes pushing them into the streets where angry mobs waited. Their fate sealed by communities full of intolerance.          

Activism In Action

What I learned from our Jamaican visitors Gareth Henry and Carleen Williams-Clark who spoke passionately both at breakfast and later that evening as honored guests at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, was there were many people concerned with their plight. Having presenters tell their stories first hand, put faces and names to those on the receiving end of such egregious  homophobia and gender oppression.                                                                   

They had two major tasks, one, that Americans spread the word about the brutality against queers,  and two, that we stop supporting the tourist industry. They wanted to get the government’s attention. Perhaps word of how influential PFLAG National is in helping families through the maze of queer issues that tear some families apart, made them believe it was different for all or most queers here.

Nothing Was Further Than The Truth

I couldn’t help thinking how similar some of the crimes committed against American queers are.  Especially, in the Black community, where some parents accept convicted pedophiles  and murderers back into the family fold before they will the gay, lesbian, or trans son or daughter.                                                                   Most heterosexuals wouldn’t think to base travel plans on whether a destination is queer friendly or not. Why would they? Let’s keep it real. Heterosexual privilege, makes it a non-concern, unless you choose to be an ally.  

Who’s At Greater Risk?

There are other people who may consider safety more closely than others when traveling, and going from work to home. I’m thinking women and other minorities. Right here in the U.S.,  The Missouri NAACP has issued a first ever, traveler’s advisory for queers, blacks, and other minorities.  Basically, if you aren’t a cis white male, travel to Missouri at your own risk. My maternal grandfather was from St Louis. He left there to start a family, build a house, and give his life to Ford Motor Co. He felt he stood a better chance in Michigan in 1921 than in Missouri. What’s changed?                                                                           

Backlash Against Efforts For Equality

The whole push back against queers, women, and equality in general, is happening everywhere. We do have a say in what we support with our money and how. In addition to playing on the beach while vacationing, I want to know about the culture. Meeting locals and getting first-hand accounts from the people, is my thing.                                    

Don’t we all have an obligation to act with urgency against governments that allow people to be mistreated?  Americans tend to take our right to freedom of speech, as a right which we can utilize as we see fit. The land of social media is evidence. Jamaicans are a proud people. They are also a culture where patriarchy runs deep. I see that as a huge and continuous threat to anyone stepping outside of political boundaries set in place.Let’s use social media to deal with the issues.

Leave Jamaica or Die

Many, like Gareth and Carleen, have left Jamaica. Gareth suffered multiple brutal assaults by Jamaican police. Both he and Carleen and have taken asylum in Toronto , Canada, where they continue the work of ending homophobia. Now they assist other Jamaican queer community members facing prosecution, by aiding them in the process of taking asylum elsewhere. Since homosexuality is still criminalized in Jamaica and comes with the likelihood of assassination the options are few.  Gareth and Carleen, both touched with me with their commitment to positive change, years before being forced away from their homeland. They deserve recognition for tireless work.

Needless to say, I won’t be traveling to Jamaica, before they change their policies on queer folk. It’s clear that there is still much to be done to increase tolerance, not just in the U.S., but globally as well. Now is the time to get involved and make a difference. Learn more about J-Flag here.


Love It, Leave It: The Miami Edition



Hi There! I’m Erin Oliveri — a sarcastic, yet unexpectedly friendly native New Yorker. My obsession with travel might be borderline unhealthy, but I’ve learned to combat this affliction with my pre-flight multivitamin. I’ve been to more than 35 countries and 6 continents, exploring the finest food and drink establishments a city has to offer.

In each city, there are those “can’t miss” hot spots that locals and tourists alike are queuing up around the block for. But, let’s be honest, many of those are overrated. I’m here to let you know what’s worth the hype and what’s not. And, maybe, just maybe, there are some under the radar places that should be on your checklist instead.

Love It, Leave It: Miami Edition

Ah, the 305. It seems like Miami is an ever-bustling scene that seamlessly transitions from beautifully buff and bronzed sunseekers during the day to slick suits, stilettos, celebrity sightings and nonstop revelry at velvet-roped South Beach clubs. Somewhere between the beach and the dancefloor, it’d be advisable to hit one (or a few) restaurants; otherwise, you may not make it to last call. With hundreds of restaurants to to snag a reservation at, you have to be careful not to fall victim to the tourist-ridden, glitzy beach spots just because they’re conveniently located.

Love It: Wynwood.

When a friend of mine took me to Wynwood for the first time, I was a bit bothered that I hadn’t discovered this hipster, art-obsessed mecca earlier. The area is most well-known for its epic, hand-painted and graffitied walls. Just search #wynwoodwalls on Instagram and you’ll get the picture, quite literally. The reason why most travelers might miss this constantly evolving community is that it’s a slight trek from the beach. From the iconic Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach to the main drag of Wynwood, it’s about a 20-minute drive (or Uber, let’s get real about it).

But, much like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the hipster scene also churns out culinary works of art that compliment any budget (yes, even if only old movie stubs line your Velcro wallet). Let’s start with the budget-friendly joints – Coyo & KUSH. Coyo, a bustling Mexican spot on 2nd Avenue (where you typically start Wynwood excursion) dishes out reasonably priced, flavor-filled tacos, and also houses a hidden speakeasy in the back. Wait—is that possible? Yep. Go there. And KUSH by Lokal, sitting on the outskirts of Wynwood (awkwardly straddling the train tracks), has tons of local craft brews that wash down substantially sized, award-winning burgers. The Johnny Utah – which I had to try – is smothered in a homemade sauce and topped with a hearty handful of pastrami.

If you can tap into an expense account or you just saved up for one top-notch dinner, pull up a chair at Alter. This warehouse-turned-fine-dining-hot-spot is tasting-menu driven. Choose from the five or seven courses for $69 or $89. But, if you’re going all out, the ‘full chef’s experience’ comes in at $165. Bold flavors and artistically-plated entrees ensure the food tastes as good as it looks.

To keep you there all night long, Wynwood has microbreweries on what seems like every other street. From the popular Concrete Beach Brewery, with the kitschy “Drink art. Make Beer.” slogan, to the smaller J. Wakefield Brewing, decked out with the owner’s favorite Star Wars and superhero memorabilia, you’d be crazy to leave this trendy community without trying out a few taps.

Leave It: Lincoln Road Mall.

“The Beach” – Miami or South – is where nearly every tourist stays. With miles of soft sand surrounded by hotels, restaurants and clubs, dropping your bags here isn’t a question, it’s an innate decision. Yes, while one of these spots should be your designated ‘home base’ spot, venturing out a bit for your meals (and liquid refreshments) will be the highlight of your trip. The quintessential tourist trap, which I myself fell victim to and would certainly not blame you if you’ve been, is Lincoln Road. I don’t have many regrets in life friends, but this is certainly one of them. Jam packed with chain restaurants and shops, this road is one you may as well walk blindfolded down, since foot traffic moves at a snail’s pace. While shuffling down this mini-mall-esque street, you’ll see some names that might seem vaguely familiar: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Rosa Mexicano, SUSHISAMBA, ad nauseam. I kind of live by the motto that if you can eat dinner while staring at a Crocs store, you might want to re-evaluate some of your life decisions. How did I get here? Where did I go wrong? (All questions to ask your therapist in next week’s session.)

The week prior to my trip, my parents had gone to Miami and told me a horror story, brought to you by the aforementioned SUSHISAMBA. As far as chains go, this is a fairly reliable joint for slightly overpriced sushi (we have a couple in Manhattan). But, the service at its Lincoln Road locale was nightmarish – incorrect orders and exorbitant food wait times. Of course I didn’t dare step food in this establishment, but headed over to a meat-centric eatery aptly named Meat Market. Hello again, horrendous service. These restaurants are so overcrowded, and with a slim wait staff that has to service both indoor and outdoor tables, creating the “can you grab our waiter?” effect. You know it well. When you sit down, look at the menus, have been ready to order for 15 minutes, and no waiter is in sight. You start tapping bus boys, hostesses, even other patrons, just dying for someone to jot down your steak tartare appetizer. By the time the food is set down on the table, you’re so ravenous that cardboard dusted in truffle salt sounds appealing. The service – or lack thereof – just destroys the whole dining experience. Head to Lincoln Road if you need a few $10 tank tops from H&M, not if you’re looking for a quality dining experience.

Originally posted 2017-07-07 19:40:13.

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Rainbows Everywhere: Atlanta Pride 2017



June has come to a close, but just because Pride month stops doesn’t mean the LGBT+ community does. Whether you’re still sporting a rainbow shirt every day or reminiscing about the pride-react emoji on Facebook, pride doesn’t take a break. But how do you keep the celebration going?

Whether you’re queer or just an ally for the cause, pride festivals are an amazing celebration of love and equality for people from all walks of life. This year, Atlanta Pride¹ is yet again pulling all the stops to top last year’s festival and parade. With main events starting Friday, October 7, this year is sure to be just as massive, positive, and more powerful than ever. And thanks to the city of Atlanta, the streets are more colorful than ever, with the city’s June decision to paint it’s crosswalks with permanent rainbows². In memory of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims, the crosswalks are a way to remember the tragedy and why we need Pride parades now more than ever. Now you can’t just show off your pride, you can walk with pride too!  

You can spend your weekend visiting booths and food trucks at Piedmont Park, finding the hottest clubs to dance in, or just walking around, enjoying the sunshine and the smiling faces of people who want love and equality just like you. Atlanta Pride is a huge event, and you won’t find a sense of community quite like this anywhere else.

According to Atlanta Pride’s website, musical talent on Saturday features artists such as Kiiara, Zara Larsson, and Jody Watley & Shalamar Reloaded; Sunday includes performances from Starlight Cabaret, Deven Green (sponsored by David Atlanta), and DJ Citizen Jane. With all of this diverse talent, pride weekend in Atlanta is sure to be a wild party and a celebration of love like the city has never seen.

The weekend also features its various marches, including the Dyke March, the Trans March, and of course, the Pride Parade (sponsored by Delta Airlines). After the parade on Sunday, be sure to stick around Piedmont Park to revisit the booths, listen to music in the grass, and spend time with your friends or significant other. It’s an action-packed weekend but worth it for the chance to show your pride and support the rest of the LGBT+ community all in one place.

Originally posted 2017-07-07 09:58:52.

Also published on Medium.

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Donald Trump’s Failure to Declare Pride Month Proclamation is ‘Dissappointing’ and But Not So Surprising




President Donald Trump has still not yet (or maybe never will) issue a proclamation for Pride Month. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community groups call it ‘deeply dissapointing’ but not so surprising. It is a paradox to have former President Barack Obama issue a federal proclamation every year dating back to 2011, and seeing no recognition at this time.

Congressional Democrats are now criticizing the President for not showing any acknowledgment of June being LGBT Pride month. Sources say that Seventy-two congressional Democrats on Friday criticized Donald Trump for refusing to issue a proclamation. Fifty-three House Democrats signed a letter, while 19 senators joined a second letter, for Trump to take action. The effort in the house was led by New Jersey Rep. Donald Norcross, while Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin led in the senate.

“The White House’s decision to remain silent about Pride Month after eight consecutive years of presidential recognition sends a troubling message to the LGBT community that your administration is not committed to advancing equality for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge you to honor your campaign promise to be a ‘real friend’ of the LGBT community by issuing a proclamation and supporting lasting change and progress through policies that advance LGBT rights,” the letter states.

Ivanka Trump was the only Trump family member to recognize LGBT month with a series of tweets. The first daughter’s tweet said that she, “wishes everyone a joyful #Pride2017. This month we celebrate and honor the #LGBTQ community.”

“I am proud to support my LGBTQ friends and the LGBTQ Americans who have made immense contributions to our society and economy,” she said in another tweet, regarding the subject.

No one in the LGBT community was having it with Ivanka Trump for wishing a ‘joyful’ Pride this year. For instance, The Advocate which is a predominant gay magazine, had a few words for her.

“No rainbow hashtag can fix what the Trump administration is doing.”

Other well known gay social media’s like celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton responded to the tweet with his twitter account.

“Who is this ‘we’ you talk about? Because your father isn’t celebrating us – that’s for damn sure!!” Hilton said.

Ivanka is usually labeled as complicit as her father by the LGBTQ community. In NBC News and elsewhere showed that Donald Trump received 14 percent of the LGBT vote against Hillary Clinton’s 78 percent.

During last year’s election Donald Trump positioned himself as a pro-LGBT Republican. On the campaign trail Trump promised he’d be “better for the gays” than his opponent Hillary Clinton. The president even made history by mentioning LGBT issues during his acceptance speech at the Republican National convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

In February, Trump rolled back protections for transgender students which allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity. It started the movement of “Trans equality now.”

Another attack Trump did to the community was when he rolled back protections in May by signing an executive order relative to religious liberty that pro-LGBT organizations say will only open the doors for further discrimination against gay americans.

Now, Trump broke the tradition at the start of Pride Month this year by not declaring a proclamation. Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, called “deeply disappointing.”

In order to prevent the LGBT movement from losing ground after the most pro-LGBT White House in history under President Barack Obama, veteran activist and director of Rise and Resist, Ken Kidd says leaders like himself need to remain involved and continue to make their voices heard.

“We should celebrate the heritage of Pride and the gains that we’ve made. But we also need to stand and fight to hang onto them and fight for our future,” the longtime New York City activist said.

Originally posted 2017-07-01 18:55:58.

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