Facebook launched 10 years ago on Feb. 4, 2004. This is one of 10 stories celebrating a decade of connections made possible through the platform. See the rest at FacebookStories.com/10.
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, our local council installed a rainbow crossing in the heart of Taylor Square in February last year. Six bold stripes of colour were painted across Oxford Street to represent pride.
I thought the symbolism of the crossing was fantastic. Mardi Gras was born out of a gay rights protest on Oxford Street in 1978 where many arrests were made. To see our community's flag proudly painted on that road just a few decades later demonstrates how far we have come in Australia. History aside, the crossing was a fabulous colourful addition to our city. I thought it would be fantastic for tourism and local businesses.
I even took my dad to visit the crossing, and he loved it. I came out to my dad when I was 23, and he's been the most supportive father and friend a guy could ask for. It meant a lot to show him this great bit of public art.
The rainbow crossing was meant to be temporary just for Mardi Gras, but the community really started to feel attached to it. Some of our city officials had had spoken in favour of it, and there was an online petition to let it stay. Despite a groundswell of support to make the crossing permanent, it became increasingly clear that our state government was intent on removing it on the grounds of road safety. So many people who loved the display would stop and take photographs that the roads minister said it had to go.
I sell BBQs by day and host community radio by night. In between that, I try to do a lot of creative stuff in the city. When I heard that the crossing was going to be torn up, I dressed up as a pot of gold to signify the "end of the rainbow." I spent a day with a mate sourcing a garden pot and gold facepaint, and we took some fun shots at the crossing. I thought it might raise awareness to get more signatures on the petition, but mostly I just thought this was hilarious. When I shared the photos on Facebook, they got quite a few likes and some news organisations used the pictures when reporting on the possible removal of the crossing, but I hadn't saved it in any way.
On April 10, the night the state government ordered workers to swoop in and remove the crossing, I was broadcasting from a local radio station. A dear friend of mine, Denton, called in and described the scene. People watched as tractors and men with shovels tore up the short-lived installation and covered it with plain black bitumen. It was such a shame.
The next night is when the magic began. On my way home, I thought about making my own rainbow crossing in a laneway behind where I live. It was basically a joke for my friends on Facebook. I figured chalk would be the easiest and cheapest way to do it, so I picked some up on the way home, along with a bottle of wine. At the time I was living with my sister and we had a third housemate Vladi, a german backpacker. Once I had outlined my six stripes in chalk I convinced them both to colour in this DIY rainbow in exchange for a glass of white wine each.
We started taking photos of our ad hoc crossing and the images quickly spread on Facebook. Our quiet night of what I like to call "whimsical activism" really resonated with heaps of people who were also disappointed with the rainbow crossing removal. As the night progressed, there was a lot of chatter from people saying they'd love to make their own rainbow. At this point I wasn't really convinced this would happen. It's one thing to get people to like a photo, it's another to get them outside making something.
I remember the next day, which was a Friday, really well. Some fine ladies a few suburbs away made a DIY rainbow chalk crossing in Paddington. Their photos were also extremely popular. At this stage I started the Facebook Page, DIY Rainbow, to share any other crossings that might come in. Quickly, chalk rainbows started popping up all over Sydney. It was one of the most exciting things to see. With a sunny weekend on the way and the page growing quickly, it was a perfect storm for a complete chalk rainbow explosion.
That weekend was the most exhilarating time I've had in front of a computer screen. Chalk rainbows started coming in, along with various tales of people meeting their neighbours and making new friends from nearly every corner of Australia. Television crews had arrived at my house to get me to "recreate" my original chalk moment. For someone who spent a lot of time and money dressing up as a pot of gold just a week earlier, it was fairly hilarious that just $7 of chalk is what grabbed people's attention.
With pictures flooding in, Sydney actually had a chalk shortage that weekend, particularly for the colour red. People were posting to the page about stores that still had chalk available. Others were posting to connect with strangers who wanted to join them to make a crossing in their local area. It was incredible. Our first international rainbow was from a lesbian couple in France. Everyone loved their photo and quickly we started receiving photos from all over the world. In that month of April we received rainbows from Cambodia, New York, Zurich, Vietnam, Singapore, the U.K., and many more places. So many places that I struggled to keep up with it all.
By the end of the month I had organised a "chalk off" around the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House for a mass chalking. Although the authorities weren't too happy about a large crowd with chalk, over 300 people coalesced in Sydney's Circular Quay for one of the best moments of my life.
Clearly the movement, although born from the removal of the Sydney Rainbow Crossing, meant more to people than just a single government decision. The page morphed into a vehicle for gay rights across the world and for marriage equality in Australia, which we have yet to receive.
It's been 10 months now and DIY Rainbow has become my part time job that I love. We don't get the same volume of submissions that we did when the whole thing exploded, but a beautiful community has developed. One of the lovely things that has struck me is how few homophobic or negative comments there are towards the LGBTQI community on the page. It's just a really fun place for everyone. Rainbows sent to us are from families, straight people and gay people -- a total mix across the population.
We've chalked outside the Russian Consulate here in Sydney in support of our gay brothers and sisters in that country. We have even recreated the rainbow crossing at its original site on Oxford Street during a number of marriage equality rallies. One nearby council, with fierce lobbying from its citizens, has implemented a permanent rainbow installation in Summer Hill, which was born from a DIY chalk rainbow.
As we approach the 36th annual Mardi Gras this year, I've got a team together making a float for DIY Rainbow, which will drive over the original crossing location, and pay homage to the rainbow that started it all.
Chalk your own rainbow and submit a photo to the DIY Rainbow page.
Check out the slideshow below for more stories celebrating Facebook's 10 year anniversary.
U.S. (New Jersey) and Kenya Andrea Mihalik, of New Jersey, creates unique and artistic chairs by adding new materials to vintage furniture for her business called Wild Chairy. On a trip to Kenya last year, Andrea met Samburu women who make incredible beaded fabric that she wanted to use for her designs. Through Facebook, Andrea has stayed in touch with the people in this village and commissioned some beaded fabric for two chairs. The proceeds of one of the chairs will be donated to a school in the village. Learn more
Costa Mesa, CA & Republic of Congo Sevenly began as a new way of charitable giving that gathers people around weekly sales of fun clothing inspired by serious causes. Using Facebook Ads, Sevenly reaches thousands of people who care deeply about helping others, and introduces them to charities in need. Brent Murray, who was born with clubbed feet, and who had his own surgery as a baby, saw an ad for a t-shirt sponsoring MercyShips, a fleet of hospital ships that travel to remote regions in need of medical care. Learn more
Southern California Kimmy Kirkwood and Will Stacey knew each other as teenagers, but didn't start dating until Kimmy left for college. By that time, Will was enlisted in the marines and deployed to Afghanistan for the first time not long after. Over the next three years, the couple endured three deployments, and Facebook quickly became their most reliable source of communication. Two months before he was scheduled to return from his third (and final) deployment, Will was struck by an IED and killed. Kimmy turned to Messenger one more time to send him a final "I love you" message, and when she did, she noticed that she had an archive of their entire relationship in one place, something she cherishes today. Learn more
New York City Brandon Stanton moved to New York in 2010. As a photographer, he was fascinated by the crowds of characters throughout the city. He began to take street portraits of these people and share them in an album on his timeline: Humans of New York. As his photography gained popularity, he created a Page that took off even further. More than 2.3 million people have liked the page, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for charity, and Brandon has had a book published and reach No. 2 on Amazon. Learn more
Sao Paulo, Brazil Raimundo Sobrinho lived homeless in the same traffic island in Sao Paulo for 19 years. He spent his days writing poetry. One day, a young woman, Shalla, came over to speak to him. He handed her a poem, which she found very compelling. Over time she got to know Raimundo, and eventually decided to create a Facebook page for him in order to share his poetry with the world. One day, Shalla received a message on the page from Raimundo's brother, Francisco, who he hadn't seen in about 50 years. Now, Raimundo lives with Francisco and Francisco's wife and kids. He and Shalla remain close and are working to get his poems published in a book. Learn more
San Juan La Laguna, Solola, Guatemala Yisrael Quic is a librarian from San Juan La Laguna, Solola, Guatemala who is using FB to inspire digital literacy, Mayan language preservation and to promote the need for free Internet access. His small village is only accessible by boat or one lone road. The townspeople began using Facebook on feature phones a few years ago, and there are a few Internet cafes in town, but they charge, so the library really is the only place to log on to use a desktop. There, Quic gives locals Facebook lessons, and even teaches a course for young people on how to use Facebook for civic debates instead of personal attacks. In all, he has helped more than 400 people sign up for Facebook. Learn more
London, United Kingdom After 16 years in jail for over 100 convictions, Patric McGuinness is now a leader in his community, volunteering with at risk kids and being an advocate of giving people a second chance. With his own second chance, Patric is studying to be a cabbie. In London, cab drivers are required to memorize city streets and an intense series of oral exams to be certified as a cabbie are known for being painfully tough. Scientific studies on the process that have determined that most London cabbies end up with large hipppocampuses as a result of having to memorize an entire city worth of routes. To practice for the exam, cabbies-in-training have created a Facebook group set up as a support system to provide tips to one another as they study. Learn more
Sydney, Australia Earlier this year when the New South Wales state government removed a rainbow crosswalk commemorating the 35th anniversary of Sydney’s gay pride festival, due to traffic concerns, it was seen as a sign of disrespect to the gay community. James Brechney, a community radio host in Sydney, was inspired to hit the street and make his own rainbow crosswalk out of chalk. He posted a photo of this to his timeline and shared it publicly. As the tally of likes, shares and comments took off, James realized he might be onto something and created a page called “DIY Rainbow.” Soon people all over Sydney and around the world, started chalking their own rainbows and sharing photos to the page. James continues to manage the community, which has become about gay rights, marriage equality and other larger issues beyond the rainbow crossing that inspired it. Learn more
South Korea/U.S./France Anaïs, a French fashion design student living in London, had been told by some friends that there was an American actress who looked just like her. After doing some research, she realized that she and this actress, Sam Futerman, had the same birthday, and that Sam was adopted, just like her. She reached out through Facebook and the two started to put together the pieces that suggested they could be twin sisters. Sam and Anaïs created a Kickstarter project to raise funding for a trip to meet and to film the whole thing for a documentary. They've also gotten a book deal. They continue to talk frequently through Facebook and have gotten to visit each other a few times. Learn more
Sweden Swedish hair metal band Eyes saw success in the 1980s, but without a record deal their musical ambitions gave way to the realities of everyday life. Twenty-five years later, a Facebook Group reflecting on memories from a local rock venue in Malmö, Sweden, asked the band to reunite for one last show, and band members found themselves trying on their zebra print pants again. Learn more