On Monday, June 12, 2017 people gathered in somber groups in cities all around the country to mark the one year anniversary and to honor all the victims from the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Massacre. A lone gunman slaughtered 49 people at the popular Orlando Florida gay nightclub and injured a further 58 before he was killed by police. A large memorial/vigil was held in Orlando on Monday but members from both the LGBTQ and Latinx communities gathered in cities across the country as well to remember all those affected by the tragedy. The majority of the lives lost at Pulse were Latinx with many of the victims either from or descended from family from nearby Spanish speaking Caribbean islands including Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
In Seattle, community leaders including myself and Adam McRoberts from Seattle Gay Scene, Sarah Toce from The Seattle Lesbian and former Seattle LGBT Commissioner Mac McGregor created the event We Remember – Pulse Vigil – 1 Year Memorial to honor the anniversary. The event held in Cal Anderson Park at the exact location of last year’s community vigil held the day after the massacre drew a couple hundred members of the community to hear speeches from community leaders as well as musical tributes from area performers and a reading of all 49 names lost in the attack.
McGregor, currently running in this year’s municipal election for a spot on the Seattle City Council acted as emcee for the ceremony which included speeches from Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim, representing Mayor Ed Murray who was unable to attend the memorial due to a previously scheduled engagement. Several other community leaders spoke including a tearful key note address from King County Elections Supervisor Jacque Larrainzar and a less well received political harangue from James Khan, a community organizer for Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and a member of the political group the Socialist Alternative. Sawant was also unable to attend the memorial and while Khan opened his remarks with a deeply felt personal story about his connection to Pulse Nightclub, the first gay club he visited in his coming out process, his following remarks wandered from the issue at hand, (honoring the people of Pulse Orlando), to a fiery discourse on the socialist agenda which many in the audience probably adhere to in one form or the other, but also felt out of place in an event meant to focus on the people affected by the events at Pulse Orlando.
But, Ms Kim’s remarks, on behalf of the Mayor, were the best at conveying the loss we still feel today and how we move on in a world post-Pulse:
As we mark the first anniversary of the 49 lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer people who were targeted for their identity and murdered for simply being at a club—out in their city, dancing on a Saturday night—we are still grieving.
Grieving for the pharmacy tech, the financial aid officer, the spa owner, the caregiver, the marketing company owner, the McDonalds worker, the professional dancer, the journalist, the Target employee, and all the students. So many students. Just starting out in life. Aspiring to be nurses, computer techs, TV producers, firefighters.
More important, we are grieving for these daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, and spouses. These people who brought so much joy to their families. Kimberly Morris, a bouncer at Pulse who was murdered that night, had just moved across the country from Hawaii to take care of her aging mother and grandmother.
We are also reflecting.
Reflecting on the unchecked epidemic of gun violence. Just this week there was another mass shooting in Orlando.
Reflecting on homophobia. Just last week the governor of Texas called a special session to pass legislation that violates the civil rights of trans people.
Reflecting on racial intolerance and hatred; most of the victims at Pulse were Latino and African American. And as we are grimly aware: Last week in Portland, a white supremacist murdered two men who tried to stop him from accosting two teenage girls with his racist abuse.
But as we Grieve for the victims at Pulse and Reflect on the intertwined ills of bigotry and violence, we are also celebrating who the victims were: Out, LGBTQ people who were proud members of our courageous community.
The most important way to celebrate is to fight for a country that prioritizes inclusion. And we have been celebrating their legacy all year.
When we marched for women’s rights in January, we were honoring the victims in Orlando by fighting that fight.
When we sued the Trump administration in March to protect the Constitutional rights of Seattle’s immigrant community, we were honoring the victims in Orlando by fighting that fight.
When we passed landmark police accountability reform in May to make sure African Americans aren’t being treated unfairly by the police, we were honoring the victims in Orlando by fighting that fight.
And as we gather here today, a resilient, loving, LGBTQ community, in a proud show of strength against bigotry, we are fighting that fight.
And in their name, we will continue to fight. Every day.
The event also featured placards depicting the faces and names of all 49 people who died that day all held up by members of the Seattle community in solidarity. Their names were read aloud in remembrance.
Stanley Almodovar III – Amanda L. Alvear – Oscar A. Aracena Montero, – Rodolfo Ayala Ayala – Antonio Davon Brown – Darryl Roman Burt II – Angel Candelario-Padro – Juan Chavez Martinez – Luis Daniel Conde – Cory James Connell – Tevin Eugene Crosby – Deonka Deidra Drayton – Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández – Leroy Valentin Fernandez – Mercedez Marisol Flores – Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz – Juan Ramon Guerrero – Paul Terrell Henry – Frank Hernandez – Miguel Angel Honorato – Javier Jorge Reyes – Jason Benjamin Josaphat – Eddie Jamoldroy Justice – Anthony Luis Laureano Disla – Christopher Andrew Leinonen – Alejandro Barrios Martinez – Brenda Marquez McCool – Gilberto R. Silva Menendez – Kimberly Jean Morris – Akyra Monet Murray – Luis Omar Ocasio Capo – Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez – Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera – Joel Rayon Paniagua – Jean Carlos Mendez Perez – Enrique L. Rios, Jr. – Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez – Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado – Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz – Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan – Edward Sotomayor Jr. – Shane Evan Tomlinson – Martin Benitez Torres – Jonathan A. Camuy Vega – Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez – Luis Sergio Vielma – Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez – Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon – and Jerald Arthur Wright.
Other moving movements during the service: three musical performances from local artists Jack Mozie, Michael Cagle and Ruth Soto whose beautiful bi-lingual performance of John Lennon’s iconic “Imagine” brought many in the audience to tears.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for todayImagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace…-John Lennon