OnePULSE Foundation to honor Parkland victims at one-year mark of school shooting

By : Abigail Brashear
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ORLANDO | OnePULSE Foundation announced that it will begin honoring victims from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 7 at the Pulse Interim Memorial.

According to a press release sent out by the foundation, a banner will hang at Pulse for “community members to leave messages of love, hope and support.” They will also tie 17 ribbons – one for each of the victims – on trees at the memorial.

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We look back on 2018, a midterm year for a country that’s just living on a prayer

By : Jeremy Williams and Ryan Williams-Jent
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It’s been two years since we, as a country, entered into the reality that is the Trump Administration. The country feels more divided than ever and the phrases “fake news” and “it’s all a witch hunt” are commonplace.

The violence that seems to define who Americans are these days is also there, particularly in Florida, where there has been no justice for the five transgender women of color who were murdered and yet another mass shooting—this time at a high school in Parkland, Fla.—pulled the focus of the world to our state.

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Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (HD47): first Iranian-American woman lawmaker elected in Florida

By : Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (HD49)
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Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (HD49)

If you haven’t heard the name Anna V. Eskamani, you have probably been living under a rock … especially since Republicans spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads to portray Eskamani as a vulgar, radical extremist (they actually made her look like a badass in a leather jacket). Voters made history in November by electing Anna as the first Iranian-American to serve in the Florida Legislature, rewarding her with 57 percent of the vote.

Odds are you have heard of Eskamani, who has become a role model for young people across Orlando. You saw her on the cover of TIME magazine featured as one of many women across the country running for public office hoping to make real change. You read in local newspapers about her healthcare expertise as a senior director for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. You watched her lead the Orlando Women’s March or proudly walking in the Come Out With Pride parade at Lake Eola. If not, you more than likely overheard her signature Eskamani-style laugh in person at any number of local community events, since she makes it a point to attend every single one of them.

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Trump’s safety panel seeks to revoke school discipline rules

By : wire report
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President Donald Trump’s school safety commission on Dec. 18 called for a rollback of an Obama-era policy that was meant to curb racial disparities in school discipline but that critics say left schools afraid to take action against potentially dangerous students.

The panel, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, made the recommendation in a report that lays out dozens of suggestions to improve safety in America’s schools. Trump created the commission in March following a Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17 students and staff members.

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Emma González’s summer of activism

By : Karen Ocamb OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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LOS ANGELES | Emma González is famous now. She’d rather be enjoying the summer before college hanging out with friends.

But the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., stole away that carefree freedom, morally forcing the survivors to take on the responsibility of doing something about the gun violence that has impacted more than 150,000 students in the two decades since the mass shooting at Columbine High School.

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Tony Awards: De Niro slams Trump, Parkland students perform

By : MARIAH COOPER OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, performing Rent’s ‘Seasons Of Love’ at the 2018 Tony Awards. Screenshot via Twitter.

The 72nd annual Tony Awards, hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, featured a clean sweep from “The Band’s Visit” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two” as well as plenty of onstage antics.

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Gay-owned company brings Parkland shooter’s brother to Va.

By : Lou Chibbaro Jr OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: Zachary Cruz was arrested for trespassing at the school where his brother allegedly killed 17 people. Photo courtesy Broward County Police.

A Virginia-based company founded by a gay businessman last week arranged for the release from jail of the brother of the Parkland, Fla., shooting suspect who had been arrested in March for trespassing on the grounds of the school in which his brother allegedly killed 17 people.

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Never again, but why now?

By : Jamie Hyman
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In the weeks since a shooter killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., survivors have been featured in a town hall on national television, visited the Florida Legislature and led a march of more than a million protesters nationwide, demanding sensible gun control.

In the weeks following the shooting at Pulse nightclub in 2016, the levels of advocacy and response were far more muted, which is forcing members of the LGBTQ community to wonder why, after a mass shooting that at the time was the deadliest in U.S. history, government officials, the media and the nation failed to rally behind the Pulse survivors with the volume and intensity that are leading millions to take action today.

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04.05.18 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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It’s often argued that one shouldn’t discuss religion or politics,

so I’d like to talk about both.

When I was in high school, I learned through friends in my Southern Baptist youth group that the deacons of my small-town, smaller-minded church were trying to pray my gay away. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.

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04.05.18 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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In many ways I’m just a big kid. Unless a collar shirt is forced upon me, you will almost always find me wearing a pair of baggy jeans and a t-shirt with some cartoon character or pop culture phrase on it.

If you ever have the chance to come by Watermark and sit in my office, you will be greeted by a shelf behind my desk that is littered with a Hillary Clinton action figure, a faux-Oscar, a Baby Groot doll, an Iron Man mask, Wonder Woman and Catwoman Funko Pop! toys and an array of knick knacks and trinkets—most of which were obtained from my monthly Loot Crate subscription or my occasional Happy Meal.

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Homo Erectus: The Evolution of Us – Hope (and Thoughts and Prayers) for Our Gun-Totin’ Future

By : STEVE YACOVELLI
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Steve Yacovelli

The Parkland shooting has yet again re-ignited the great American gun control debate. Both sides of the coin have brought out their best arguments for control/freedom. It’s sadly yet another repeat of the same ol’ “thoughts and prayers” responses we have heard time and time again: from Sandy Hook to Virgina Tech to Las Vegas to our own Pulse massacre. Yet this time something feels a bit different; it feels like a tipping point of sorts.

While there was ample focus after Pulse within our community and beyond to look at common sense gun control, sadly we were constantly met with that “thoughts and prayers” shenanigans from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Some – like Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan and Florida State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith – passionately reached out to lawmakers to change things. Groups like the Orlando chapter of Gays Against Guns and The Dru Project formed and shouted for gun reform. But nothing seemed to change. Some thought that, gee, if Washington wasn’t moved into action when kindergarteners were gunned down in their own classroom at Sandy Hook, maybe nothing could really turn the dial.

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Gun control rallies take place in Florida, across U.S., around the world

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: A participant in a “March for Our Lives” rally in Tampa, Fla., on March 24, 2018, holds a sign in homage of Emma González, a bisexual student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who has emerged as a vocal gun control advocate after a gunman killed 17 people inside her school last month. Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers.

TAMPA, Fla. — Hundreds of “March for Our Lives” gun control rallies, marches and protests took place across the U.S. and around the world on Saturday.

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