2016 was the worst year ever, and 2017 was the year we found our footing

By : Jeremy Williams
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In these very pages one year ago we proclaimed 2016 to be the worst year ever. It started off with so much promise and optimism, with the official passing of the torch as the former owner of Watermark turned the reins over to new owner Rick Claggett and Watermark Media became Watermark Publishing Group.

President Barack Obama was heading into the final year of his second term and everything seemed in place for another torch to be passed, that of the first black president passing the country off to the first female president.

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Watermark’s Top headlines of 2017

By : Watermark Staff
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2017 was a roller coaster of a year. Our highs were marked with great achievements and big celebrations, and our lows were filled with the passing of great LGBTQ leaders and fear-filled headlines we thought we would never read.

Below we look back on the top 5 LGBTQ headlines out of Central Florida, Tampa Bay, from the state of Florida and across the nation, and the world.

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12.28.17 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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New Year’s Eve is upon us. This day has changed for me over the past few years. Usually I’d spend the evening getting drunk and complaining about how awful the year was. At midnight my friends and I would hug each other in the hopes for a better new year.

December 31, 2014 would be much of the same. In the early morning hours of that day my father passed away, pretty much sealing the deal on making 2014 an awful year. Later that evening my family joined me at my favorite watering hole before we all retreated back to my place where I drank the year away. That was the last New Year’s Eve I would spend drunk.

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Report: Police responding to Pulse nightclub performed well

By : Wire Report
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – A federal report says the response of Orlando police and other agencies likely saved lives during a deadly mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services released a review Dec. 18 of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, where a man killed 49 people before being fatally shot by police. Officials interviewed first-responders, reviewed 911 calls and researched police procedures.

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PHOTOS: Dedication of the Pulse Memorial Labyrinth

By : Maia Monet
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Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Commissioner Patty Sheehan, Pulse owner Barbara Poma, Pulse survivors, and members of law enforcement joined with LGBTQ citizens and allies for the dedication of the Pulse Memorial Labyrinth at Colonialtown Square Park on Dec 21.

The Orlando United rainbow heart at the center of the memorial is surrounded by the labyrinth outlined in brick. The outer edge is made up of 49 equal pieces of granite inscribed in gold with the names of each Pulse victim. After the dedication and a request to hold hands for a group prayer, those gathered were invited to walk the labyrinth in memory of those lost in the tragedy.

More photos of the proceedings after the jump and video clips have been posted to the Watermark Instagram page.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: James Rode, Orlando Gay Chorus’ artistic director

By : Jeremy Williams
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It’s difficult to take an organization that’s celebrating 25 years and change the way the community sees it, but Orlando Gay Chorus artistic director James Rode doesn’t make decisions based on what’s the easiest thing to do.

OGC celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2015, the same year Rode became the organization’s new artistic director.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Barry Miller, Orlando attorney and founder of The 49 Fund

By : David Lee, writer/director of O-Town: Voices from Orlando
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David Lee

In the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, local attorney, entrepreneur and CEO of The Closing Agent, Barry Miller wondered “What about the kids?” He was concerned about the future of the children of the victims of the attack.

We sat outside of his apartment at Lake Eola in the summer of 2016 and he said to me, “So many of the victims of the Pulse incident were parents of small children. Some of the survivors are barely out of high school. Who is going to take care of them? Their future? Their education?” Thus began the idea that became my friend Mr. Miller’s very own brainchild, The 49 Fund, an endowed scholarship administered by The Central Florida Foundation (CFF). This scholarship is offered to LGBTQ students in Central Florida with special consideration to be provided to survivors of the Pulse tragedy or to immediate family members of those whose lives were lost in the tragedy.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Pamela Schwartz, Orange County Regional History Center’s Chief Curator

By : Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Mayor
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Teresa Jacobs

It’s an honor and privilege to celebrate Pamela Schwartz as a 2017 “Remarkable Person.”

In the early hours after the Pulse Nightclub massacre, when we were reeling with anguish and disbelief from the brutal attack on our LGBTQ, Latinx and Hispanic communities and the unimaginable loss of 49 innocent souls, one person was already thinking about how we could help memorialize the staggering loss and remember the innocent victims. That was Pam Schwartz, who by the next day, had already outlined a plan for the collection and preservation of the tribute items that she knew would come.

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Puerto Rico’s first LGBT monument undamaged by Hurricane Maria

By : MICHAEL K. LAVERS of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National LGBT Media Association
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Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part interview with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz that the Washington Blade conducted on Nov. 1, 2017, at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in D.C. Part one of the interview can be found here.

The mayor of the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan on Wednesday said Hurricane Maria did not damage the U.S. commonwealth’s first LGBT-specific monument.

Carmen Yulín Cruz on June 26, 2016, formally unveiled the monument — which is located in San Juan’s oceanfront Third Millennium Park — during the city’s annual Pride parade.

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The Lines That Join Us

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The Lines That Join Us is a collection of portraits by photographer Carrie Moran that tell the stories of people who have chosen to get tattoos in response to the Pulse tragedy. Each portrait is accompanied by a brief narrative, and will introduce viewers to one of the many who have decided to honor the 49 and greater LGBTQ+ community in this way. The Lines That Join Us will be on display at the Orlando Public Library through November.

Orlando approves temporary memorial at Pulse

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Orlando City Council approved a temporary memorial outside of and around the Pulse nightclub Oct. 9.

The onePULSE Foundation submitted the plans to the city which includes removing the existing fence put around Pulse by the FBI and replacing it with a “more durable and artistic” fence that will incorporate murals as a tribute to the victims and survivors of the tragedy.

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Orlando to create rainbow crosswalk near Pulse

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | A permanent rainbow crosswalk near the site of Pulse has been approved by the Florida Department of Transportation and the City of Orlando.

The crosswalk will be on West Esther St. off South Orange Ave. going from Pulse to the Dunkin’ Donuts located across the street.

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