The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing in the NBA finals. The Warriors won. It was a night of celebration, but standing at the bar in El Rio, I found myself feeling funny. Did everyone forget? Or is everyone too distracted to remember?
This time last year, Pulse nightclub, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL was hosting a Latin Night during Pride month when an armed shooter attacked and murdered 49 people. It was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, a hate crime that took 49 valuable, queer Black and Brown souls.
June 12, 2017 marks one year since the shooting. It also happens to fall on the same day as the NBA finals. Scrolling through my timelines on my various social media platforms, there was an overwhelming focus on the game. Keeping in perspective I live in the Bay Area, I still retained the hope that because San Francisco has always served as a sanctuary for the marginalized and has been at the forefront of justice, the souls lost in Orlando one year ago would not go forgotten.
Links to donate to LGBTQ organizations, remembrance posts and QTPOC events were shared. Despite the relief to see that, no, not everyone forgot, it was hard not to notice that even in my circle of community organizers and activists, it was my queer, Brown and Black friends that overwhelmingly curated content.
To some, it’s just a social media timeline. They’re just posts. It’s just a basketball game everyone is fixated on. To those people I say, the 49 lives lost weren’t just 49 lives. They were 49 human beings—49 stories worth telling.
They had families and friends, families and friends still grieving their loss. Nearly half of the lives lost were of Puerto Rican descent. Many more were Afro-Latinx, Black, Cuban, Dominican, Ecuadorian, Mexican, Salvadorean, Venezuelan. More than half were under the age of 30. The youngest victim was 18. They were people.
In a world where social media saturates everyday life, my timelines were sobering reminders of the work to be done, the work needed to provide intersectional spaces for intersectional narratives. A reminder that in the wake of tragedy, queer, Black and Brown communities are still fighting to provide the lost lives of community members with the same dignity given to white bodies.
Sitting at the bar in El Rio, with my dear friend Lito sipping on his michelada, as the last quarter of the basketball game finally came to an end, my face lit up when my fellow queer brown friends walked into the bar.
We’re all here for Contigo, a queer Latinx fundraiser honoring the Pulse nightclub hosted by Hard French, the Harvey Milk Democratic Club and community organizers. The cover charge was a $5-$25 sliding scale. No one was turned away for lack of funds and 100 percent of the funds were split between the Orlando-based nonprofit QLatinx and local nonprofit El/La Para Trans Latinas. This is what community looks like—an intersectional safe space, a space where community came together with a purpose.
As the night came to an end, and I said my goodbyes, I left El Rio. As I walked down the street toward home with the cumbia tunes that echo for blocks, keeping me company, I smiled knowing on June 12 we celebrate the resilience of queer Black and Brown people, who despite it all, continue to bloom.
Story by: Gabriela Alemán