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ORLANDO SPECIAL Remembering the Pulse tragedy one year later
by Matt Simonette
2017-06-07

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For Ald. Raymond Lopez ( 15th Ward ), the year since the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, has marked a significant change in the LGBT Latinx community.

"You've seen a growth," Lopez said. "They've become more vocal and more engaged in the year since Pulse, even at the high school level. They're coming out, engaging their communities and schools, trying to let everyone know that they are a fabric of our community."

June 12 is the one-year anniversary of the night that 29-year-old Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 persons, and wounded 53 others, as they celebrated early into the morning at a "Latin Night" party. It was the deadliest single-shooter mass-killing in American history, as well as the deadliest anti-LGBT incident. LGBT Chicagoans, along with LGBT communities around the world were shocked but quickly came together both to honor those who lost their lives and galvanize against hatred. Many individuals were members of Orlando's Puerto Rican community.

View memorial photos of the 49 murder victims of the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub June 12, 2016. The display of photos was created by Brad Delaney from One Million Kids for Equality, Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos. www.windycitymediagroup.com/pdf/PulseOneYear.pdf .

Kenny Martin-Ocasio, vice-president of Association of Latinos( as ) Motivating Action ( ALMA ) said, "One of the things that happened immediately after Pulse was that a lot of Latinx organizations began to galvanize around vigils. It became that one moment where we began to share space. We became very intentional about bringing our support, and our groups, to share our moments of grief."

Martin-Ocasio reflected on one such moment, when, at a memorial where participants each read the name of a victim at the shooting, he became drawn in by the first name of the person he had drawn: Angel. As he waited for his turn, he began to wonder whether he should read the name in English or Spanish.

"When it got to me, I just literally broke down and lost it," Martin-Ocasio recalled. "This was, I guess, the Friday after [the shooting], and I was just so overwhelmed by the weight of it all that I couldn't even bring myself to decide how to pronounce the name. I just wanted to honor this person."

"I think in the face of tragedy, it's important to remember that you need to continue to build community," said Chicago Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Mona Noriega.

Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson noted that the shootings were catalyst for the formation of the TRUST Collective-Chicago, an intersectional group dedicated to building bridges between communities and standing up to targeted hatred and discrimination.

Since the Pulse shootings, Johnson said, "People began to come to grips with the fact the longtime fight for equal rights and full equality still had a long way to go. I have seen, since Pulse, a real tightening-up, a coming-together, in the LGBTQ community."

ALMA will, on June 23, co-host a pre-Pride event with Puerto Rican Arts Alliance ( PRAA ) at PRAA's headquarters at 3000 N. Elbridge Ave. at 6-9:30 p.m. That event includes a remembrance of the Pulse shooting.

"We are going to have a moment to remember and honor the victims of Pulse and use that to sort of springboard into a conversation that asks, 'Where are we as a community? Are we isolated? Are we supported by the larger Latinx community?' We'll take it from there and see where the conversation goes," Martin-Ocasio said.

ALMA members will also participate in a memorial that will take place on the actual anniversary, he added.

Lopez said, "We must continue to move forward, but we must also be aware that there are people willing to drag us back decades."

While many in the community have moved on, he added, "It's easy for us to forget that there are others out there who very much want to do harm to our community—young and old. You saw that this week in London. Terrorism—both domestic and foreign—is very much a real part of the world we live in. We can't become complacent, just because things seem to have died down."

Pulse Special Section

Remembering the Pulse tragedy one year later at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Remembering-the-Pulse-tragedy-one-year-later/59386.html .

Pulse/Orlando events in Chicago at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Pulse-Orlando-events-in-Chicago/59385.html .

Aurora carpenter builds crosses for Pulse victims at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/ORLANDO-SPECIAL-Aurora-carpenter-builds-crosses-for-Pulse-victims/59384.html .

SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT 'Pulse' becomes a choral response at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/SCOTTISH-PLAY-SCOTT-Pulse-becomes-a-choral-response/59381.html .


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