We are Orlando. So let’s do something about it

We are Orlando. So let’s do something about it

Even two days later, it’s hard to make sense of the brutal tragedy in Orlando.  There’s something truly incomprehensible – about so many lives lost at once, about raising our kids in a world where mass shootings have become horrifically normal, about the polarized political response, and about our galling failure to act.

First in our hearts are the lives lost and the families torn apart. Last night, outside the Stonewall Inn, thousands of us stood together to read their names.

Tonight at Grand Army Plaza, Public Advocate Tish James with the Brooklyn Community Pride Center and community leaders from Brooklyn’s diverse communities will come together to join for a unity vigil to remember the lives lost in Orlando and stand together in the face of hatred.

Unity Vigil to Honor the Lives Lost in Orlando
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn NY
7:30 PM, Tonight (June 14)

As we remember and begin to heal, we are learning more about the 49 people – mostly young, LGBTQ, and Latino – killed while dancing and celebrating together. 

We’ve learned a little about Luis Vielma, who worked the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios, whose friend Will called him “by far the best person I knew.”  About Enrique Rios, a Brooklyn native and nursing student at St. Francis College.  About Kimberly Morris, a basketball player and drag king who moved to Orlando this year to help her mother and grandmother.

Let’s commit to say their names, to learn more about their lives, to try to understand who they were, and what they dreamed of being.

And then let’s work to honor them.

By standing with the LGBTQ community. On Saturday, we came together for the 20th “Brooklyn Pride,” a beautiful celebration of our diverse LGBTQ friends, neighbors, loved ones, rabbis, elected officials, co-workers, and so much more. It is truly remarkable how far we have come over the past two decades. But, oh, how far we have to go -- not just to have formal equality, but to end the toxic homophobia and transphobia that poison minds and ended these beautiful lives. We need to recognize the diversity in the LGBTQ community – it matters that the victims in Orlando were largely Puerto Rican, that many were transgender. We so urgently need a world where everyone is safe, where it is not a crime to be who you are, and to love who you love. For now, let’s embrace our LGBTQ neighbors, and make this year’s Pride march (in Manhattan on Sunday, June 26th) the biggest and best ever.

By redoubling our efforts to end America’s gun epidemic. Having urged this so many times, I have to admit it feels hollow. Still, I was outraged again to go through these 18 charts on the “uniquely America problem” of both mass shootings and daily gun violence.  I’d urge you to watch it. Then, join Moms Demand Action, or New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. And then, make plans to work this fall to help make sure we have elected officials – not only in the White House, but also in the Senate and the House – who will ban assault weapons, require background checks and licenses, and hopefully go further than that.

By saying no to Islamophobia and hatred. Yes, the murderer in Orlando pledged allegiance to ISIS, and their vile form of radical jihadist terrorism. But as President Obama has rightly said, "we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam." Here in Brooklyn, we are lucky to have so many Muslim neighbors, who bring their vibrant and diverse cultures to our neighborhoods, who are friends and allies in our work for justice, equality, and peace. This month, during Ramadan, we are inaugurating the new “Avenue C Plaza” in Kensington, near the three mosques at the heart of the Bangladeshi community there, and at the center of a truly diverse community. There are events at the plaza all month long, and we’re exploring adding more, to help our community come together.

By doing all we can to confront violence. Today, at the City Council, we’ll adopt the FY17 budget. I’ll write you about it tomorrow, when we are another day away from this tragedy. For today, I’ll note that we are increasing funding for some of the things I hope will make a difference in confronting violence: for neighborhood-based anti-gun violence programs, for survivors of domestic violence, for summer and year-round youth jobs (so we can hopefully get kids on paths to success and fulfillment rather than alienation), for the new mental-health programs championed by Chirlane McCray. Those are not enough, of course. But they are part of broader work we must do to confront the prevalence of violence in our society.

One excruciatingly painful part of “yet another mass shooting” is where we talk about whether it is “too soon” to be political.

But, as has been said so often it is also at risk of becoming cliché: It is not too soon to be political. It is too late.

As we mourn those 49 unique and beautiful lives, let’s do everything we can to honor their memories.



P.S. This is a highly emotional time for all of us, and if you’d like to speak with someone personally about this tragedy, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center will be open Thursday, June 16th from 12pm to 8pm for anyone who would like to come to the Center to talk about and process this horrible act. If you feel that you need to talk sooner, email Sarah Gauthier, the Center’s social worker and Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Group Leader at tgnc [at] lgbtbrooklyn [dot] org.

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