As I edited these photographs, I reflected on my core beliefs, and at the root of what makes me me is live and let live; although I know the Negative Nellies would say this is nearly impossible in our modern society. I’m writing this post as an ally of the LGBTQIA community and not as an expert, but as someone who cares greatly. I’ve considered myself an ally for as long as I’ve known the differences among us create a struggle among us. So take it for what it is, one photographer’s documentation of the Birmingham, Alabama, Pride Parade and a few heartfelt words.
It’s very possible the first half of my life was somewhat sheltered. I lived in several southern states, but spent most of my time as a young child in a small town outside of Birmingham and as a middle schooler, in an even smaller town in Mississippi. I don’t remember even meeting anyone that was openly part of the LGBTQIA community until I went to college. Notice I said “openly,” because I was in high school in the late 80’s in Birmingham, Alabama, after all, and it wasn’t really talked about. It’s also possible that I was so wrapped up in my teenage self that I missed a lot.
Something you may know about me if you’ve read other blog posts is that I’m an introvert. If I had written that statement a few years ago, I would have inserted the word “extreme” right before “introvert” and that would’ve been the truth. As a business owner, I’ve had to retrain my brain and have really worked to overcome some of my fears, or at least challenge them every once in a while. One of those fears is being surrounded by hundreds of strangers, i.e. crowds! I’ve missed many cool events because I couldn’t bring myself to go out in situations like this one. Because of that, 2019 was my first Pride Parade.
I heard about a group of people in various cities that would go out to these events and give hugs to anyone willing or needing them. Free Mom Hugs https://www.facebook.com/freemomhugsalabama/ is an awesome non-profit organization that does their name justice. There are chapters all over and one here in Alabama. As you can imagine, one more thing an introvert doesn’t place very high on the ole’ To Do List is go into a huge, sweaty crowd of strangers and start hugging them! But guess who did it! That’s right, THIS woman!
If you look below, you’ll see some wonderful artwork by Birmingham’s own, very talented Paul Wilm https://paulcordeswilm.com/home.html . Some of these same colorful figures can be seen in a mural featured at the Birmingham Museum of Art all summer long!
I really loved how supportive everyone was. There were many handmade signs, but this one, obviously made by little hands won my heart! Teach your children well! I think Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young said that. But seriously, without sounding totally cliche’, children are our future! Hate is not an innate quality, it’s learned.
To quote Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person…People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” I believe this to be true. This Birmingham photographer is an ally and will always be an ally to the LGBTQIA community. Thank you, Birmingham, for the opportunity to be a part of something wonderful-an event full of love and support, and people living as their true selves. Isn’t that really all we want as humans? Don’t we all deserve the chance to be authentic and happy?