blog 240506 leadingthefloat

This year when I saw the email about the Mardi Gras Parade, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. This would be my second time walking in the Parade.

The thought of walking with Positive Life NSW again, made me happy and being that the previous year I had an awesome time, meeting new people and feeling so much joy and pride. I wanted that feeling again.

My family were going to walk with me but they had to pull out at the last minute, so I felt like I may be alone. Walking into the office where we all met, took away the feeling, as I saw many people who walked last year and we got to chat.

After getting my make up done, we all lined up to start walking to Hyde Park. The walk was short and fun. By fun, I mean the cars passing by were waving at us, we heard chants of happiness and I saw beautiful costumes on other people coming to the parade.

Once we were at our starting spot on Liverpool street, I saw our beautiful float with the flags, lights and music. We had a short wait before walking, and in that time I spoke to many other people who were walking in the parade. I heard their stories and shared an immense amount of excitement regarding the march we were about to do. When the time came to start getting ready to walk, I was preparing to hold one of the signs we have or simply just march with the rest of the participants behind the truck.

I was approached by our Board President at Positive Life NSW, telling me I have been chosen to hold the banner that introduced our float. Naturally I freaked out and got nervous, as it meant I would be at the front of the float.

I accepted the challenge, and for a moment I had all these emotions and thoughts running through my head, as well as thoughts of all the hats I wear at Positive Life NSW and how to represent each hat with pride.

The first hat was as a member walking in the parade. I thought about how wonderful it is to walk with these lovely people who gain a great deal of support from Pos Life, and showing the world so very publicly how proud I am to be apart of this organisation.

The other hat I thought of was my Board Director’s hat and what that means to me marching in the parade, where people are watching me to see my reactions, and my emotions. I thought about my reasons for being on the Positive Life NSW Board.

What an opportunity it is going to be marching at the front of our float, and putting into practice my goal of connecting with women, black women, women of all races, women no matter what their pronoun preferences are, people of colour, and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Then I thought about my other hat, as a Positive Speakers Bureau speaker and that meant I’m actually walking the talk, as many times I talk about my pride in Positive Life NSW, my pride in my community and my personal pride.

Having the moment to stop and think about all these hats and emotions, I felt so much joy. My nervous feeling of walking out front went away. I grabbed the banner which had our name on it and number, and walked to the front of the float. I saw Jane and Andy sitting in the truck and their smiles of support and pride gave me so much confidence.

I had a pep talk with the Board President again. He also encouraged me and guided me through what I would need to do.

When the time came to walk, I felt the most overwhelming feeling of happiness. It was a beautiful feeling. As we walked, I held our banner high and waved to the crowd, many times connecting with women and people of colour. I heard them yelling out to me things like “go sister”, “we see you”, “beautiful”. The most touching comments were “thank you”.

I remember making eye contact with what I thought was a group of ladies of colour, and they yelled out “thank you sister, we love you”! I yelled those same words back and waved and also teared up, as I felt like I was representing them!

They are me. I am them. I am a black heterosexual woman walking in a parade that some may think my culturally and linguistically diverse community don’t always agree with. With me walking would hopefully make a difference to others watching. My feeling of connection with my community was amazing, and I got to do it that night. What a powerful statement I was making, holding our banner with so much pride and dignity.

The Parade was filled with colour, love, lights, joy, pride, people from all walks of life.

I firmly believe there were people who needed to see a black woman introducing a float, and not just any float, a float representing an organisation that supports all people living with HIV.

I felt very honoured to be in my position, and I am very grateful to be walking alongside heterosexual women, heterosexual men, lesbian women, gay men, transgender women and men, and at the end of the day were all just people who gathered to march at this amazing event. We all had a fab time connecting with others in what ever that meant to us individually.

Thank you Positive Life for choosing me, a mum, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a co-worker, a director, a speaker to introduce our float to Australia and the world.

– Melissa Carolus

Published in Talkabout #208 March 2024

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