Watermark Year in Review: March 2015

By : Jamie Hyman, Billy Manes and Jeremy Williams
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As they celebrated their 25th year, the Orlando Gay Chorus also named James Rode as their new artistic director and conductor. Rode, who is also the vocal director for Celebration High School in Osceola, was excited and pleased to be at the helm for the OGC’s 25th year. Rode showed what he was capable of with his inaugural OGC concert One Voice at the Plaza Live which celebrated a quarter century of music in the LGBT community.

The Hope and Help Center raised funds and awareness for HIV/AIDS for the 20th year with the Orlando AIDS Walk March 28. The two-mile march around Lake Eola brought more than 1,400 walkers and raised over $120,000. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence led the walk followed by 89 registered teams and individuals.

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The New ‘It’ Gay Destination: St. Pete Set to Host Global LGBT Travel Convention

By : Aaron Drake
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St. Petersburg will be the first on Florida’s Gulf Coast to host the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association’s Annual Global Convention. Sunshine City will doubly welcome LGBT travelers and the LGBT travel industry as a whole when travel professionals convene at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club on May 3-6, 2017.

“In recent years, this event has been held in Brazil, Madrid, Los Angeles—and this coming year to Cape Town, South Africa. Now St. Petersburg joins the list,” St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement to Watermark. “We are honored and look forward to sharing with the LGBT travel community the many diverse offerings we have to offer.”

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Why does the Holy Land Experience keep getting away with pretending to be a church?

By : Michael Wanzie
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Michael Wanzie

Michael Wanzie

It is no secret that about three weeks ago I personally placed the phone call to the Orlando Sentinel informing the publication that Holy Land Experience Theme Park (HLE) had painted a mural on the retaining walls which support the I-4 west-bound exit onto Conroy Road boarding HLE property. The mural consists of an angel and a scroll that is rolled open to reveal a watery-blue backdrop meant to blend in with HLE park theming. I encouraged Sentinel journalists to investigate whether or not HLE theme park sought permission from the City of Orlando and/or the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to create the mural.

I have legitimate concerns when I see a business defacing public property for the purposes of enhancing a private, profit-making enterprise. The powers that be at Trinity Broadcasting Network (the the money-bilking machine that owns the park) can carry on all they want about how their business is not a theme park but rather a church or a museum – thus justifying the tax-free status reprehensibly bestowed upon the theme park by Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee – but let’s be real here; on its web site, HLE lists its $50 entrance fee as a “Gate Price.” One passes through a turnstile to enter an attraction overflowing with gift shops. The park presents a nighttime fountain and light show, and HLE is currently in the process of installing a Putt Putt-style 9-hole mini golf course. HLE recently announced the repurposing of their “Smile of A Child” interactive children’s playground into the (get this) “The Trin-i-Tee Miniature Golf Course” at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo.

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Virginia gunman claims shootings are payback for gay, racist discrimination

By : Wire and Staff Reports
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MONETA, Va. (AP) — Vester Flanagan, the Virginia gunman who killed two co-workers on live television, said he did so because he allegedly had been discriminated against both for being gay and black.

In a 23-page letter sent by fax Aug. 26 to ABC News shortly after the shooting, Flanagan described several instances where he had been harassed. He also wrote “I’ve been a human powder keg for a while, just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

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Center stage ceremonies: Nine stories of love and marriage

By : Aaron Alper
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Edgy. Accessible. Gay. Those three words are what drew director Donna Donnelly to the West Coast Players Production of Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays.

“I was looking through new plays,” Donnelly says. “Since the play would be in June, I wanted something that had a gay theme to coincide with Pride month. I wanted something interesting and unique.”

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Indiana pizza shop threatened on Twitter, coach fired

By : Wire Report
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DUNLAP, Ind. – A northern Indiana school district says it has fired a coach who tweeted about burning down a pizza shop after its owners said they wouldn’t cater a gay wedding because of their religious beliefs.

Concord Community Schools Superintendent Wayne Stubbs confirmed to The Goshen News that Jessica Dooley was terminated on April 20. Dooley was the head coach of the girls golf program and also an assistant coach with the softball and girls basketball programs.

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My View: From A Broad- This is what you call an Introductory Offer!

By : Jill Shargaa
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Jill Shargaa

Jill Shargaa (Photo by Judy Watson Tracy)

Watermark has asked me to write a column. “It can be on anything you want, political, serious, humorous…and it has to be about 900 words.”

I thought, “I don’t know 300 words, so this is gonna be a challenge.”

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‘American Idol’ runner-up Aiken seeks win in NC House race

By : Wire Report
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ERWIN, N.C. (AP) – Eleven years after becoming a national TV sensation, Clay Aiken still attracts a crowd in central North Carolina. In an hour he could only get a block or so down the street during an old textile town’s fall festival while fans stopped to talk and take pictures.

“I can’t believe you’re here!” exclaimed Suzanne Strickland, 23, after she and her mother left their craft booth at Erwin Denim Days. “I saw you watching `American Idol’!”

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Cleveland give a warm reception to Gay Games 2014

By : Wire Report
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Cleveland (AP) – Nick Gill says he was warned by a teammate on his indoor volleyball team about what Cleveland might be like before they left Portland, Maine, for the Gay Games this week.

“He was telling us horror stories about growing up here,” Gill said Thursday while watching the beach volleyball tournament at a lakeside park just outside downtown Cleveland, which is staging the Games with nearby Akron.

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A Taste of GayDayS 2014

By : Jamie Hyman
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There’s no doubt about it – A Taste of GayDayS is a really good deal.

For a mere thirty bucks, attendees get four hours of food, drink and entertainment.

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Making headlines: Transgender issues have made it into the national news

By : Staff Report
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In the past year or so, transgender issues have made their way from obscure news websites and community groups to major headlines. While the exposure has been good for the transgender movement for equality, not all of the headlines have been positive.

Probably most notable of late was the appearance of Laverne Cox of Netflix’s hit, Orange is the New Black, appearing on Katie Couric’s talk show.

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Monday Ripples: Back to School with Recycled Backpacks

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“Creativity not committed to public purpose is merely therapy or ego satisfaction” â┚¬â€Ernest A. Jones (Tweeted by Urban ReThink)

Last week I gathered with colleagues from Orlando Ballet for training on our soon to be re-launched website. I suggested we meet at Urban ReThink. To be honest, I had one other encounter with Urban ReThink and I left with not necessarily a negative feeling, but not feeling like it was the creativity-enducing, out-of-the-box thinking place that it's advertised to be. I suggested Urban ReThink in part because my awesome new co-worker Anna McCambridge is involved with the trendy think tank spot.

I'm glad we met there because I got a whole new perspective on the place. Urban ReThink was a hive buzzing with quiet activity. From where we sat, we could see a meeting happening using Inforgraphics from Good magazine. The next table over, two pierced, tattooed, bearded guys shared information about who knows what on their Macs.

Could it be that Orlando is turning into a do-gooder's mecca? My internal Magic 8 ball says: Outlook Good!

Here's what I think I learned about a place like Urban ReThink: if you're not using the space to be productive, then you're going to be on the outside of the collective good vibe. The first time I went, Brendan I were simply having lunch at the satellite version of Virgin Olive Market located in Urban ReThink. As creative and inspiring as our conversations can be, we weren't there for an active purpose and the experience felt empty. I'm not sure what this means, really, I'm just sharing.

If you're an Orlandoan, I highly recommend taking advantage of the alternative workplace phenomenon that is happening across the City Beautiful. It's easy to forget the world that you're company is trying to be an active part of, unless you get out into more often. In fact, I think not doing so could be counterproductive.

For the OB team, seeing our new website for the first time outside of our headquarters, we greeted it with minds that were more open than normal. Well, at least that's how it seemed to me.

Here we are on Monday, and of course I have some links to share with you. I hope you click and find inspiration or you click and it triggers some other thought for you. Enjoy, my little do-gooders.

Green Greens
Golf courses have rightly been given a bad rap as of late. As we more and more begin to take a look at the world with our green goggles on, we've realized these courses take an unusual amount of resources, not to mention the earth toll taken by their use of fertilizers and insecticides. Enter Tennessee's Mirimichi course with its environmentally friendly duffer's approach. It'll probably come as no surprise that Justin Timberlake is involved. I haven't golfed in years, but knowing JT is out there doing it has me thinking of picking up the sticks again. Is there anything he can't make sexy?

Put Your Pants on for Water
Levi's Drive for Water.org via Facebook
I love making a difference in the world just by clicking things. It's weird how an act that doesn't cost you anything, winds up staying with you. The New York Times piece is about the Levi's cause marketing campaign to help Water.org to help people get clean water, something you and I can't help but take for granted. This is my favorite part of the article: â┚¬Å”It's a campaign born from the insight that young people today want to make a positive change in the world.â┚¬Â Go, young people!

Lazarus Bags
While it may be a healthy slice of the consumerism pie, I miss going back to school because Mom always made sure we had brand new clothes and supplies. Nothing said education more to me than putting on a stiff, months from faded pair of Levi's and a squeaky pair of fresh Nikes. As you head out the door to class, you also need a bag for your stuff, and these bags from Instinctive using recycled materials are just the trick. Three percent of their money goes to The Wild Foundation, an international acclaimed conservation organization. On top of all that, the damn things are nifty looking and ergonomically orgasmic.

Follow, Follow, Followâ┚¬Â¦
A colleague recently convinced me to get over my trepidation about Twitter and join the virtual cool kids club and I have to admit I'm a bit addicted to it. If someone had told me I could get a daily smile from some wisecrack Steve Martin makes or get to witness Alec Baldwin bitching about politics and answering fan questions in real time, I would have become a Twit a long time ago. Follow me here @CampScottie to delve more into the world I'm saving. You can also like me on Facebook by click here.