Watermelon and melted snow cones dripped into sticky puddles on the sidewalk as people abandoned their treats to dance to DJ Mellow’s remixes of the latest pop hits. Children jumped to the beat in bouncy castles, ran through hazes of bubbles and threw footballs around the park.
The sizzle of grilled burgers and hot dogs overlapped conversations about tarot readings and local politics July 1 at Cora P. Roberson Park.
At first glance, it would seem like any regular summer block party — but it wasn’t. The event was both a protest and a resistance against the harmful legislation that went into effect July 1.
Florida for All aptly named the event Joyful Resistance. Its goal was to fight against the fear and hardships resulting from new legislation on abortion, education, concealed weapons and LGBTQ issues by providing a place where people can feel safe to have fun and be themselves.
With the help of local organizations like Florida Planned Parenthood, UF Graduate
Assistants United, Gators for Gender Affirming Care and Sierra Club Florida Chapter, Florida For All brought the community together to celebrate one another.
Jaime Suarez Roy, a 25-year-old representative of Sierra Club, was glad to have an event to highlight the progress made to preserve freedom. But it’s not about conventional freedom, they said.
“This whole event is about celebrating freedom,” Roy said. “So, bodily autonomy, freedom to have clean water, clean air, freedom to learn about your history, freedom for folks to get the kinds of health care they need, all that jazz.”
It’s easy to feel disheartened by the tense political environment, but it’s also important to see the positive side, they said.
Roy knows there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but they try not to get lost in the negativity.
“It's really important to step back and acknowledge the joy and resilience that our communities already have, and then work on that because it's what gives us life,” they said.
Florida For All, a statewide organization dedicated to fighting for equity and inclusivity, created Gainesville’s Joyful Resistance, which was just one of six other events happening throughout Florida.
There were also events planned in Tallahassee, Tampa, Homestead, St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach and Jacksonville.
Nat Tucci, a 44-year-old Florida For All employee, believes the event was an opportunity to show there is still hope even when people feel defeated and alone, she said.
“We had so much pain and so much fear that we're like, ‘We've got to focus on something else,’” she said.
The intention of Joyful Resistance was to focus on the happiness that comes from being in community.
“Our communities are joyful as f—,” Tucci said. “We are here. We are about love. We are about acceptance.”
Kai Christmas, a 26-year-old regional organizer with Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, loves Florida despite the struggles of being queer and trans in the South, they said.
“Politically, things can be f—ed sometimes,” Christmas said. “But there's so much beauty here and there's so many incredible people fighting for our rights and the rest of the United States just doesn't get to see that very often. And it's sad for them because we got some cool s— going on here.”
Joyful Resistance is the last event Christmas is attending as a representative of Planned Parenthood.
They will move to New York to work on sex education. Though they are excited to move north, they have mixed feelings about leaving at a time when Florida needs people to speak up for queer issues.
However, they still know Florida For All and other organizations will succeed without them.
“Joy is what will keep us moving forward,” they said. “If we get stuck in despair, it's really easy to just stay there, but our joy and our creativity is what's going to bring a better future.”
Another Florida lover, Rachel Harnett, is also glad to see people are still fighting back.
Harnett, a 35-year-old representative of Graduate Assistance United, grew up in Florida and has seen it change over the years.
“It really hurts me because this is a state that I love,” she said. “I think it's amazing for its diversity and its weirdness and its eccentricities, but it seems like all of that is under attack.”
Like Christmas, Harnett is leaving Florida for a new job opportunity. In six months, she will be in Atlanta, but she hopes Gainesville and the rest of Florida remembers there is still a reason for joy.
“It's really beautiful to see that the fight isn't over,” Harnett said. “People are gonna keep fighting, and we're gonna keep Florida as weird and as strange and as wonderful as it has been.”
The diversity of Florida is appreciated by people of all ages.
Elsa Ladendorf, an 11-year-old Gainesville resident, is glad to see the community supporting each other, she said.
Ladendorf was born in Gainesville and attended Joyful Resistance with her mom. Apart from the food she ate, she loved seeing local businesses and artists at the event. Most of all, she was glad to see the LGBTQ community represented.
“I really like how there is a spot for a booth for pride supporters because I have a lot of friends that are part of pride, and I’m really happy that it's out here,” she said.
As people of all ages, colors, sizes and backgrounds gathered in joyful resistance, they demonstrated the simple ideal that hope is the enemy of fear. Gainesville continues to celebrate that hope.
Contact Aubrey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @aubreyyrosee.
Aubrey Bocalan is a third-year journalism major. She is also pursuing a double major in Art. When she isn't writing, she's probably watching TV with her dog, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Bocalan.