On Sunday November 15th The Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Community Center on Mills Avenue and some local businesses were vandalized with anti gay messages, slurs and swastikas. Signs of this mindless hate crime were quickly removed but the damage to the community lingered. An inspired proactive event was planned to paint a rainbow mural on the side of the Center. People who showed up to this fund raising event could paint a section of the mural with a $5 donation. Funds raised went to the Centers "Secure, Restore and Continue Challenge". The plan was to eclipse the hate with a message of understanding, acceptance and diversity. “We are not letting the vandals win by living in fear,” said Micheal Vance, Executive Director of The Center. “Instead people are becoming active in our community, in our fight for rights, and in our local organizations to ensure that the public continues to be educated that hate and discrimination hurts everyone.“
When I arrived Dewey Chaffee and Douglas McGeouch were shooting video. We said our hellos and I got a warm hug. Also on hand were the Orlando Sisters who helped by holding signs out by the roadway and organizing the event in general. A family with their children arrived as I was sketching to work on the mural. The youngest boy maybe 10 years old, asked if the people doing the mural were Christians. The mother explained that they came from all walks of life. She then told him that some nasty people had painted bad things on the wall and that everyone was coming together to make a positive difference. The little boy had to stand on his tip toes to paint his section of the mural. Much later a young woman standing on a ladder said "We should also donate to the Adult Literacy League should this happen again." She was referring to the fact that some of the damaging messages looked to have been written by a grade school drop out. It is hoped that the Orlando community will remember the good work done on this vibrant and fun day rather than the hateful crime of last month.