It’s my pleasure to welcome everyone to the second Pride Fest here in Buckhannon. My remarks this afternoon are numbers & history oriented. On July 1, 2017, 728 days ago, our Buckhannon community came together for the inaugural Pride event, & this second one is long overdue.
It was 50 years ago yesterday that the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, in New York City began, launching the LGBTQ movement & revolution for equal rights in the United States. It was 46 years ago this Monday past that 32 gay people or their allies were murdered in a fire in the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans.
It was 45 years ago that the status of homosexuality was removed by the American Psychiatric Association from the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM). It has been nearly 21 years since 21 year-old, college student, Matthew Shepard, was beaten to death in Wyoming for being gay.
It’s been 13 & ½ years since the hate mongering Westboro Baptist Church was here in Buckhannon taunting our community in wake of the Sago mine disaster carrying their hateful signs attacking the LGBTQ community. It was three years ago on June 12 that 49 members of the LGBTQ community were murdered at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida.
It was 177 days ago that Buckhannon’s own non-discrimination Ordinance 434 failed by a 4 to 3 margin. Four to three on 4-3-4. Those numbers are all telling. But what do they reveal? My friends- be vigilant & come to know your history.
During my more than three years now as mayor of Buckhannon, I know I have uttered what I suppose some dismiss as a cheap cliche- “We are all in this together,” hundreds of times.
It’s not a cliche to me. By “We,” I mean absolutely everyone- including the proud, talented, & contributing members of our LGBTQ community many of whom are assembled here this afternoon. I applaud your coming together to celebrate & to contemplate how we might TOGETHER further advance acceptance in our B-U community of all people regardless of their race, religion, gender, ethnicity, handicap, or orientation- by all people.
During Strawberry Festival week last month, I hosted a great gentleman here for lunch by the name of Jim Hunt. Jim is the former mayor of Clarksburg, but more importantly, is past president of the National League of Cities, the most powerful alliance of municipalities in the world.
A boy who grew up in one of our sister cities but 30 miles away, came to preside over the National League of Cities. So you ask- “Where’s McCauley taking us with this story?” Jim Hunt is one of the most prominent speakers & writers on what it takes to be a successful city- in all of our world. He has traveled our planet, and spoken and wrote about successful cities.
His book entitled “The Amazing City: Seven Steps to Creating an Amazing City,” is a best-seller. I already had a copy of Jim’s book, but when he was here last month, he gifted me another copy, & inscribed it- “Dave- Always be amazing! Jim Hunt.” Jim’s fifth step of his seven steps is titled “Inclusiveness.” Please indulge me while I read a brief passage from the Hunt book.
“Why inclusiveness? With a growing diversity in the United States and unresolved issues from decades before, it is hard to be truly Amazing without addressing inclusiveness. Many cities have found that they have all of the components to be successful but they are continually falling short of Amazing.
Conversely, cities who have made inclusiveness a core part of their community have seen a growing economy and a sense of working together that strengthens the fabric of the city.”
Hunt continues- “Not surprisingly, the technology sector and the Millennial generation have come to expect inclusiveness. When it is not present they will vote with their feet. Even remote towns and villages have found that welcoming those who might look a little different than they do can be a strategy for new jobs and exciting developments that are sustainable and long lasting.
Several small towns in Virginia and West Virginia have benefitted from a diverse array of people who have escaped the beltway of Washington, D.C. and created thousands of jobs and revitalized decades old buildings as they realize that a slower paced lifestyle is quite attractive when communities adopt an inclusive approach.”
Jim concludes- “As we look to the future, inclusiveness may well mark the divide between success and failure in cities. Cities who fail to address racial, gender, and sexual orientation issues may find themselves excluded from the new economy and opportunities that are available in a diverse society.
An entire generation of adults have little memory of a segregated society or a time when people were openly discriminated against. While there are many issues to work on, cities who are failing to plan will most certainly be planning to fail. It is hard to imagine the word Amazing being used to describe a city that is defined by unresolved racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination.” Jim Hunt is a brilliant guy.
Let there be no perceived, mincing of my words, I shall continue to be 100% committed to this cause of ending all forms of discrimination during the remaining year of my current term as mayor- & hopefully beyond during the following four years- knowing I will be the first to file for reelection come January.
Please mark your calendar, our next local election is on May 12, 2020, & back to my numbers’ theme- that’s 318 days away. That date is important to support candidates who subscribe to all-inclusiveness & who oppose discrimination of all kinds.
At the urging of former City Council member John Waltz, & as then City Attorney, I drafted the resolution that was unanimously adopted by our City Council on May 2, 2013, more than six years ago, as Buckhannon became only the fifth city in West Virginia to accord limited protections to LGBTQ community members.
That 2013 Buckhannon resolution was a good start, but- so much work remains. Last Fall, I established the Diversity Appreciation Coalition, and our group has performed some terrific work. Come be a part of our good work.
As an ole history major, let me remind you about the most important history lesson for the LGBTQ community. Where does all of this “Pride” stuff come from anyway? On June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The Stonewall was a favorite tavern & gathering spot for many segments of the gay population. Harassment of gay people wasn’t something new, but- it’s what this raid spawned that became so important to the LGBTQ Movement.
For days following the raid, the effects of which were miscalculated by NYC police, thousands gathered in protests that turned violent ultimately coming to be characterized as rioting. One year later, on June 28, 1970- the Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28, 1970 marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots with an assembly on Christopher Street; with simultaneous Gay Pride marches in Los Angeles and Chicago, these were the first Gay Pride marches in U.S. history.
Within two years of the Stonewall riots, gay rights groups were established in every major American city, as well as Canada, Australia, & Western Europe. The Gay Pride Movement was born. For 50 years now, the Pride movement has grown & continues to grow throughout the world.
As I leave you- it is up to all of us to collaborate to end the stigma, the bullying, & the marginalization inflicted upon our society’s LGBTQ members. Young LGBTQ people are especially susceptible to succumbing to the stresses of their orientation. The Trevor Project reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death among youths between 10 and 24 years of age.
Even more startling, the suicide rate of LGBTQ youths is three times the already alarming rate of heterosexual youths. As a society, we simply have to do better. We all can be kinder, more empathetic, & supportive of one another. Our differences should not just be tolerated- they should come to be understood, nurtured, & appreciated. Our uniquities are what make us great as a society. We all should enjoy the right to be what we are without incurring the disdain of selfish others.
As you may have heard me say before- and it truly remains our community’s greatest truth- and potentially our greatest strength- we are all in this together- thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts. Enjoy a terrific Pride Fest! Remember, numbers & history – 4 to 3 on 434!