‘NOH8’ an effective affront to recent wave of hatred

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When people see what Adam Bouska captures through the lens of his camera, it’s difficult to deny he has a vision: A world where every face has the chance to express NOH8.

NOH8 (phonetically — “no hate”) is a “photographic silent protest created by celebrity photographer Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley.” The campaign aims to “promote marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media and visual protest.”

The duo created the campaign in response to California’s Proposition 8, which amended that state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriages. As with all epic ideas these days, theirs went viral. Now their team travels the world, camera equipment in tow, in search of volunteers who elect to be photographed wearing white, a piece of duct tape covering their mouths, and a temporary tattoo on their face that reads “NOH8.”

In May, the NOH8 Campaign swept through South Florida conducting open photo shoots in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale and at Compass Community Center in Lake Worth. This past Sunday nearly 1,000 people in South Florida received an email directing them to their unique photographs, and if you have even one friend on Facebook there is a chance you’ve seen a familiar face or two striking a pose in front of Bouska’s lens.

Families, same-sex and heterosexual, people of all ages and races, mayors, city commissioners of all political persuasions, and other community leaders participated in the photo shoots. Photographing celebrities and making them look perfect in their pictures is one thing, but bringing out the beauty of any person willing to stand for the campaign’s mission is truly a work of art. Their pictures are worth more than a thousand words.

Hate is defined as “intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger or sense of injury, or extreme dislike or antipathy.” So do not be fooled by carefully crafted messages you hear from individuals seeking “to define marriage between one man and one woman,” or by Hobby Lobby’s march to the Supreme Court to force women to pay for contraception.

The people behind these initiatives — the ones so concerned about the private decisions of others — are expressing hate even if they don’t realize it.

The problem is the majority of people swayed by these arguments don’t know hate when they see it. Manipulative strategies are produced and executed by people who hate, plain and simple.

Whether people justify their motivations to limit others through laws as hindrance to their religious expression, or if they simply have a penchant for homogeny created in their own image, anyone who uses our legal system to limit the rights of others are motivated by hate, literally. Keeping loving couples from making their unions legal isn’t about saving traditional marriage anymore than Hobby Lobby’s commitment to limit a woman’s access to contraception — by forcing women to pay for it — is about the love of an unfertilized egg.

Too many of us know the face of hate for one reason or another. Too many of us experience animosity because of our gender or gender expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity – and the list goes on. What makes Bouska and Parshley’s team so genuinely unique is their commitment to treating every single person who participates the way we should all treat one another — with respect and dignity and a clear focus on the potential for our laws to hinder human equality and self-determination.

“Seeking marriage, gender and human equality” is about fighting hate as defined in any dictionary you pick up. The NOH8 Campaign is making the fight against hate picture perfect, putting a twinkle in every eye and making the faces of those standing silently against hate flawless. We may never agree on what the face of hate looks like, but Bouska and Parshley’s 38,000 photographs (and counting) are a mission in motion and it has momentum.

Everyday people are walking away with pictures that capture a moment that’ll last lifetimes. At this rate, the story of the NOH8 Campaign will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most effective affronts to hate in history.

Copyright © 2014, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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