On a creative, expressive island, hate should have no place

A rainbow crosswalk on Vashon seems to have been a target of vandalism.

  • Saturday, August 29, 2020 11:17am
  • Opinion
Stephen Silha

Stephen Silha

What a roller coaster we’re all on!

We sniff out moments of beauty in an atmosphere of gloom, doom, and washing-machine turbulence. We know how many earthlings are suffering, and I feel super-privileged to live on such an enchanted island, with only 14 cases of COVID-19.

Who knew the world order would be upturned by a virus with such an unsexy name? Influenza is much more poetic.

At the top of the roller-coaster heights are the amazing, creative works of art emerging from island forests, bogs, and shorelines amid all this:

The “Broadway-Yurt” performances by David Mielke and Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma (check out Broadway in the Yurt on YouTube);

The giant masked sculpture Mik Kuhlman inhabited to welcome and warn Memorial Day weekend guests when they drove off the ferry: “MASK UP – WE HAVE NO HOSPITAL;”

The amazing virtual Pride Parade and Dance which the Heritage Museum, the Queer Task Force, and Gordon Tribble produced with four (!) drag queens and historical dancers leading the celebrations;

The incredible concerts and performance events so lovingly produced by Vashon Live;

The crazy Fourth of July watch-quickly-we’ve-got-the-whole-Island-to-cover parade;

“It’s Late on Vashon,” Darragh Kennon’s fabulous late-night talk and variety show from Vashon Center for the Arts; (Speaking of VCA, how have they managed to continue curating the stunning Summer Arts Fair, while also providing us with top-quality music and performances virtually from Kay White Hall?)

SOOOO many other creative expressions — including West McLean’s gorgeous portraits of people killed by police-with-immunity (putting that reality smack in front of our mostly-white faces), creative posters and uplifting signs anonymously popping up around the Island, and many, many Zoom calls, Community Councils and Town Halls.

And Backbone Campaign has amplified the current of this pandemic’s creative potential by training us in how to use Zoom, convening conversations with progressive experts in many fields, making sure Town Hall meetings are simulcast in Spanish, connecting Islanders whose projects could synergize, and perhaps most exciting, developing a new Vashon Time Bank. All the while, continuing their national “Light Brigades” to shine MESSAGES and create healthy memes, and pursuing their visionary Solutionary Rail project. (If you don’t know what that is, check solutionaryrail.org.)

I’m proud to be a Vashon islander (for 41 years now)!

There’s always been a dark side to Vashon, too—and that’s showing itself now as well. When I first moved here, I was nearly mowed down by a pickup truck that swerved as if to kill me and a gay friend as we walked the Burton roads. (We weren’t even wearing pearls or boas.) He must have been dealing with his own homophobia, as generally, the most anti-gay people are those who hate themselves.

Lately, the homophobic side of the island has reared its ugly head again. Some of our neighbors on Van Olinda Road created a stunning rainbow crosswalk in the most queer and unlikely of places – the crossroads of a driveway and their mailbox across the road. It brightened the day for all the many islanders who walk the Dilworth Loop.

Until a couple of weeks ago when some homophobes “laid rubber” all over the beautiful rainbow crosswalk, in both directions. It seems to have started a fad for other homophobes (or maybe the same ones) to screech more tire marks on the crosswalk.

The Vashon Heritage Museum’s exhibit, “IN AND OUT: Being LGBTQ on Vashon,” which I co-curated with Ellen Kritzman, is rife with stories of homophobia that lives within many of us, not unlike racism. Another upside of the pandemic is that the exhibit will stay up through February 2021. The outdoor AIDS Memorial Garden and Gender Gardens continue to be accessible throughout the pandemic. You can visit virtually at vashonpride.com.

Even in paradise, some days I just wake up feeling helpless and hopeless. I’m trying to lean into that – and/or out of it – and see what it has to teach me. That’s my challenge today.

Stephen Silha, a longtime islander, is a writer, journalist, film producer, activist, and the co-curator of The Vashon Heritage Museum’s current exhibit, “IN AND OUT: Being LGBTQ on Vashon.”


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