by Seth Hemmelgarn
Events are planned around the Bay Area to honor the 49 people Omar Mateen fatally shot and the 53 people he wounded after he entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida June 12, 2016 and opened fire.
Mateen, 29, was eventually killed in a shootout with police at the club, but he left behind scores of family members and friends of people who’d been celebrating the club’s Latin night.
A vigil will be held Monday, June 12 in the Castro. Called “Honor Them with Action,” the event takes place from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Castro and 18th streets.
Organizers said there would be no formal program or speakers, but that community members are invited to gather “in remembrance, but also with renewed commitment to take action, both individually and collectively, to help end anti-LGBTQ bias and bigotry in our community, our country, and around the world.”
Also in San Francisco, dozens of artists have found a way to remember the 49 people who died by creating portraits of them.
Drag queen Juanita More! and artist Kirk Maxson invited people to make the images for an exhibit at the Fort Mason General’s Residence, 1 Fort Mason.
The Monday event, which is being promoted as a celebration, will include performances, music, and drinks. (For more, see the story in BARtab.)
“The shooting at Pulse Nightclub hit me hard because I had spent years in the 1990s lip-synching in drag at clubs” in San Francisco, particularly at the former Trannyshack drag show at the Stud bar, Maxson said. “After seeing all the names and faces of the people that passed that night at Pulse” on TV several days later, Maxson added, “I created a 14-foot sculpture made of aluminum flowers that spelled out the word Pulse. I wanted to honor and pay respect to those that were killed in the most disrespectful way. And I was impressed with all the other people who felt the same way and were sharing their art on social media. A year later I wanted to do my part to honor those that had fallen at Pulse and to give the opportunity for other artist to participate.”
The money raised from portrait sales will go to the Q Foundation and the LGBT Asylum Project.
Also Monday in San Francisco, Contigo: A Queer, Latinx Fundraiser in Honor of Pulse Nightclub will be held from 9 p.m. to 2 am. at El Rio, 3158 Mission Street.
There will be a sliding scale of $5 to $25. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. All proceeds will go to a local organization that’s to be determined and QLatinx, an Orlando-based group that’s “dedicated to the advancement and empowerment of Orlando s LGBTQ+ Latinx community,” according to Contigo organizers.
“This night is about celebrating our queerness, our brown and blackness, and the beautiful lives we lost at Pulse nightclub,” organizers said.
The event will include music stylings by Brown Amy, Vin Sol, and others.
In San Jose, gay Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager will be among the speakers at a Pulse anniversary event at the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ Community Center, 938 The Alameda.
“We will also discuss what the county is doing to combat stigma of those who identify as LGBTQ, as well as those who are HIV-positive,” said Yeager in a recent newsletter.
The event runs from 7 to 9 p.m.
Visit www.defrankcenter.org for more information.
Also online, the free LGBT Wellness Summit (http://lgbtwellnesssummit.com) is being offered through June 12. The summit, which started June 5, includes more than 30 speakers including Pulse survivors Terry De Carlo and Angel Colon.
In a news release, summit co-founder Lori Morrison said, “Our experts at this event will provide support and clarity for you, your friends and your family members to create, repair and strengthen the important relationships in your life, including the one you have with yourself.
The online event will provide education on stigma, gender identity, and other topics.
Officials remember victims
As organizers prepare for events in the Bay Area, some of California’s LGBT community leaders shared their thoughts on the Pulse anniversary.
Gay San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, whose District 8 includes the Castro, said in an email, “One year ago, a gunman walked into one of our safe spaces – Pulse nightclub in Orlando – and opened fire on the young people who gathered there. As we remember the victims and support survivors – many of whom were Latinx or trans – we must also recommit to doing everything we can to end senseless gun violence in our communities.”
Rick Zbur, executive director of the LGBT lobbying group Equality California, stated, “One year ago, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history forced our community to confront the fact that the sickeningly repetitive cycle of American gun violence is itself an LGBTQ issue. In response, Equality California launched its #SafeAndEqual initiative to support stricter gun safety laws in California, resulting in the passage of six bills that give our state the nation s strictest gun protections.”
However, Zbur said, “progress has been far slower” nationally.
He pointed to an incident in Orlando Monday in which John Robert Neumann Jr., 45, fatally shot five people before taking his own life.
Gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), who chairs the Legislative LGBT Caucus, said in an email, “The Pulse nightclub shooting was a devastating reminder of the hate and violence our community has endured for decades. Reflecting on the senseless attack one year later, I am struck by the determined resilience, strength and pride among my LGBT brothers and sisters as well as the compassion and support from our allies all across the political spectrum. In the face of hate, we continue to stand tall together and remember to not just be out but speak out.”