It’s the morning after the Kentuckiana Pride Parade and, as usual, I am left pondering a Zen koan:
If a tree falls in the forest but no one is around to hear it, does it really make a sound?
We have four local television stations. The one with the hour-long telecast that comes on at 10pm gave last night’s parade thirty seconds of dour-faced airtime in which they related the facts – there was a parade downtown, it had a theme (United in Love), some people showed up.
The second station, with only a thirty minute broadcast, gave it fifteen smiling seconds.
I believe the third didn’t cover it at all. I can only watch so many stations at once. I know there was nothing in the three hours of re-broadcast news they aired this morning, because I DVR’d and scanned through all three hours.
I’m not sure if the last did, but I’m betting against it because while they do have coverage of it on their website it’s static coverage, not video. It’s essentially a short newspaper article capped by a color photo. It is, however, the most flattering coverage of all the major news outlets, noting that thousands, not hundreds, of people were in attendance, and quoting several of the participants.
In an odd twist, the Courier-Journal newspaper has video coverage on their site. It’s actually a really nice representation of what the parade/march was like, but the clip is edited to end with an image of the only float I’m aware of with that classic Pride feature: cage dancers. Because of the editing, that’s the image you see when you click to read the headline, and if you don’t play the video, that’s the only image you get outside of the more generic one back out on the main page. Interesting. They also ran the headline, Hundreds turn out for Kentuckiana Pride Parade. Hmm.
This sort of one note, scant coverage – don’t blink or you’ll miss it – always frustrates me. When I first started marching the event took place on Saturday morning. Downtown Louisville was a ghost town on weekends back then, and pretty much still is, especially in the mornings. There were a hundred, maybe a couple hundred, participants and no one to view the thing. So we would march down empty streets, shouting, then have a festival in Central Park, and at night none of the stations would cover it.
Though this isn’t my first rodeo or even my fifth, it is the first year in quite some time that I have marched. First, events in my own life got in the way. I’d been going strong, never missing a year, and then came the year we were set to move into our new house on the weekend of Pride. Let’s just say my proposal that I spend the majority of one of the days marching for social justice instead of schlepping boxes on and off a U-Haul did not go over well.
We did manage to get up to Chicago for Pride that year, though that turned out to be a mixed blessing. We stood on the sidewalk outside the 7-Eleven watching as the firefighters and police and floats by major companies went by, and it actually made me more depressed about the marches back home. Compared to Chicago, Louisville’s Pride seemed to be happening in a vacuum. Sure, we marched, but we were alone.
Shortly after this there was a power struggle among some of the groups here and the march was moved to Friday evening. The rallying point changed, too; it became a bar not a public space. Looking back, I think it was a misperception
on my part, but I felt uninvited. I wasn’t the only one. The friend I would always meet up with at the event and march with took it the same way. Because of it, I began simply attending the festival on the Belvedere on Saturdays. I’ve been pleased to see the attendance at that grow, and the expansion of the number and type of organizations represented, but I felt very distanced from it.
This year, everything’s different. I just got back from the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. A story I wrote was just published in their annual anthology. I read a selection from my work at the book launch party and got a lot of nice feedback. I made many new friends, got re-acquainted with an old one, and felt extremely welcome throughout.
And then, last week on Facebook, a call went out from the Fairness Campaign: We need people to walk with us. So I put on my Fairness tee and I marched. One of the first things I noticed was that the chant has changed. Now in between “What do we want? (Fairness!)” and “When do we want it? (Now!)” there is “Where do we want it? (Kentucky!)” I’m not sure I like that change. First of all, it’s the Kentuckiana Pride Parade. Yelling “Kentucky!” omits Indiana. Secondly, I don’t know about you, but I’m over the whole statewide thing. At my job I screen people for Medicaid eligibility (yes, I really am a socialist*) and periodically we are reminded that it doesn’t matter if according to their state two persons are legally married, we go by federal rules and on a federal level, those people aren’t married.
Lastly, I miss the other slogan we used to chant: “We’re here. We’re queer. Get over it. Get used to it.” I liked that. A lot. It worked for me. But then again, I’m a Sagittarius, and we’re not known for our tact. I’m also from Chicago, which means you get a double-whammy of bluntness. Have a problem with that? Get over it. Get used to it.
Here’s the thing: If you don’t go to the parade, you don’t experience the parade, because if the media cover it at all, they barely cover it. Fifteen seconds. Thirty seconds. So I was thrilled to see so many people, and so many organizations, marching. Ford; UPS; Humana; Third Lutheran Church; Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church; the Geek Squad; the IAW; the ACLU and many, many more. And spectators, too, especially as we got closer to Main Street. The area around the Connection nightclub complex was packed, of course, but the sidewalks on other stretches were also filled, lots of middle-of-America types clapping and cheering, waving and smiling, or else with their cellphones out, snapping away or making videos. I hear there were one or two groups of protestors along the way. I never saw them.
Last night and this morning I started to get upset because of the sparsity of traditional media coverage. It seemed the same old, same old. We marched, but who knows that we did? Then I realized – the world has changed. Every one of the people along the route and in the parade was busy uploading images to their Facebook wall, or their blog, or their Pinterest account, where it will be seen and shared by all of their friends. That’s more coverage than any news outlet could ever provide, and more important coverage, too, because it comes with a human face. It says “I support this issue because it affects me and/or people I care about.” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Harvey Milk was right. If everybody can be made to realize that they know people being discriminated against, things will change. Social media is the key.
A tree fell in a forest, but it wasn’t alone. Thousands of people were there, and they uploaded the video to YouTube, so that millions of people could hear the sound.
*That’s a joke. I see nothing inconsistent with being a member of a democratic country and wanting all citizens to succeed, but apparently some people do.