As this year quickly comes to a close we are ever mindful of what this year has wrought. We began 2019 with hopeful hearts ushering in all the hopes and dreams for a better time as we do with each New Year. We did see and experience some wonderful things in 2019. We saw the most diverse class of lawmakers ever elected and sworn in to the 116th congress. This includes the most women ever, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who came out swinging right out of the gate. We saw great strides in movies and music in 2019 with director Spike Lee finally winning his first Oscar after years of nominations. Remember when a 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thurnberg and the rest of the youths around the world who walked out of school in May in protest of climate change? Whitney Houston was right on the money when she sang “I believe the children are our future.” Or when billionaire Robert F. Smith announced he would pay off every Morehouse student’s debt in his touching commencement speech? So 2019 has had it positive notes!
2019 also had it challenges. Early on we learned of an affiliated KKK group that wanted to come to Dayton. As true believers in free speech, Dayton allowed them to come. Yet, we saw a whole town rally together in meeting after meeting to show just how much our city exemplifies our acceptance of diversity and our non-tolerance of hate filled speech. Thirteen KKK members came to Dayton, and thousands showed up to protest their hate filled speech.
Just days later on Memorial Day, fifteen tornados came through our area leaving behind a huge path of destruction. Thousands of people would be impacted by this storm. Many without electric and utilities for days and weeks, other homes were wiped out completely and lives forever changed.
In this dark time, Dayton’s humanity and compassion shown bright as the whole community rallied together to aid those affected by the storm. With this massive destruction the re-building will be slow, but the re-building has begun as we continue to rally together, Dayton Strong.
The following week we celebrated Gay PRIDE in the city, with “50 years since Stonewall.” And a true celebration it was with a record number of people participating in the parade and over 70 information booth at Courthouse Square. Almost 5,000 people crowded onto the square as we celebrated PRIDE in how far our LGBTQ community has come since Stonewall, and pride in who we are. Our Washington elected officials may continue to attack our LGBTQ community, especially our transgender brothers and sisters, but we are resilient and strong and we will not be erased nor will we go quietly into the night. Dayton PRIDE was certainly a high point of the year for our LGBTQ+ community. We are out, we are proud, we are Dayton Strong and we are Dayton PROUD!
Of course just after “PRIDE” in the morning hours of August 4th a gunman killed 9 victims and injured many others in the Historic Oregon District. Not only was our community in shock and grief for the loss, but the ever presents of menace held on in the minds of many for such an extended period of time. But again Dayton is strong, Dayton is proud and the whole city rallied around our own to hold our community together. Many celebrities offered their support and even the orange baby man came to Toledo, and mean came to Dayton to extend his support. Springfield’s John Legend and Dayton’s Dave Chappelle led in the healing by doing free concerts for the city headlined by the great Stevie Wonder.
It has taken some time for the healing. Many of our bars and establishments are still feeling the effect as people are not going out as they once did, choosing to stay in the safety of their own homes. Our confidence has been shaken, but it is time to step out and enjoy the city again.
This year is coming to a close and while we have indeed been challenged this year, we will forever step out and embrace the joys this wonderful city has to offer. Happy Holidays! Let’s ring in the New Year with Style!!!
Randy Phillips is the Executive Director of the Greater Dayton LGBT Center
24 N. Jefferson ST, STE 200 Dayton, OH 45402