From Tahrir Square to Hart Plaza

Let's put some motion in our movement at this year's Pride

By Michelle E. Brown

Like the rest of the world, I was glued to the television watching the events in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. The 18-day protest against the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak ultimately led to Mubarak's resignation and put the people of Egypt on the pathway to democracy.

Each day, the number of demonstrators grew, from 50,000 people on Jan. 25 to an estimated million-plus protesters on Feb. 1. Although it was led by the young people, the crowd grew to include Egyptians of all ages, classes and genders. That's right- even women.

They all came out of the closet of repression to demand democracy and the resignation of Mubarak. Even after Mubarak made a speech in an attempt to placate the masses, the protestors stayed in the square demanding that conditions in Egypt get better now, refusing to wait any longer.

They came out by the thousands, day by day. Although there were some reports of violence, it was amazing to see that the mood for the most part was determined, hopeful and even joyous.

When Mubarak finally stepped down, Tahrir Square erupted in a celebration, with shouts such as "Lift your head up high, you're Egyptian." In the days following, Egyptians returned with brooms and paint to clean up the square - men, women and children who loved Egypt, coming together to rebuild.

I was blown away by what I was seeing. In the face of overwhelming odds, possible violence and a myriad of challenges, the Egyptian people said "Enough!" and there was no going back. It was that moment in movement, that tipping point that must occur if there is to be change.

We've seen it before. In 1955 when, sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks, the Montgomery bus boycott went on for thirteen months that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling segregation on public buses was unconstitutional.

The massive bombing campaign against North Vietnam in 1965 gave rise to the anti-war movement with protests and marches that continued until the peace pact between the United States, South and North Vietnam and the Viet Cong in 1973.

But it wasn't just in the past or in Egypt that the winds of change were sweeping the landscape. People were saying "enough" and demanding change throughout the Middle East. It was even making its way to the Midwest, right here in the good old US of A, in Wisconsin where protesters descended upon the state capitol in protest against anti-union legislation proposed by the state's governor, Scott Walker. This action sparked similar protests in state capitols across the country.

The common thread in these protests and others resulting in real change seems to be that moment when people are no longer satisfied to wait for it to get better but take a firm, unwavering, immovable stance that "It gets better now!"

Interestingly, about the same time that the events in Egypt were reaching the high point, the announcement came that Motor City Pride was moving from Ferndale to Hart Plaza.

Still reeling from the rash of suicides from bullying among LGBT youth and the infamous "It Gets Better" media campaign, I had to wonder if our expanded Motor City Pride on June 4 and 5 might provide our community a chance to do something bigger, to stake our claim on equality here in Michigan and say loudly and proudly - "It gets better now!"

Crazy? Perhaps. But imagine if, from the Detroit Electronic Festival the weekend before, to Motor City Pride and then to the Downtown Hoedown the following weekend, we make Hart Plaza ours. I'm not talking raising rainbow flags everywhere, or changing the name from Hart Plaza to Queer Plaza. What I'm talking about is showing up and showing OUT - as OUT and proud members of the metro-Detroit community.

I know it's kind of a scary move to go to downtown Detroit. Like most, I was comfortable in Ferndale. It was safe. Each June we were here, we were queer and they were used to it. But staying safe and comfortable for one day hasn't gotten us very far the other 364 days of the year. We can still be fired for being gay. We are still fighting for an anti-bullying bill with enumerated teeth. We can't get married and our adoption rights are under fire. Need I say more - it's tough being gay in Michigan.

So maybe it's time. It's time that we stand up and tell Michigan that LGBTQIA doesn't spell separate or special. It spells community. It spells neighbor. It spells Detroit in all its diversity, in all its greatness.

This might just be our moment to catch the winds of change in our sails and put some motion in our movement. So come on down to Hart Plaza. Make some new friends while dancing and enjoying the music at the Detroit Electronic Festival and invite them to Motor City Pride. Then show up in your best western hook up the following weekend 'cause we're here, we're queer and everyone needs to just get used to it.

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