After the Tragedy of Orlando, a United Community Steps Up

 

This July issue of Camp is dedicated to the memory of those killed and injured in the Pulse bar shooting on June 12 in Orlando.

Like so many others, I woke that Sunday morning to the horror of news that there was a mass shooting in “an Orlando nightclub.” Initially, many in the media were hesitant to call it a gay bar. Even President Obama, in his words to the nation, described the shooting as happening in a nightclub “frequented by the LGBT community.”

Soon we learned the numbers: 49 people were massacred and many more injured in the gay nightclub during their Latino Night party. Speculation began about whether the motive of the killer was homophobia or terrorism.

Kansas City media responded quickly. Beginning Sunday morning, I received calls from local reporters seeking quotes from me or names of other people in the local LGBT community they could speak to.

By Monday, I had a phone interview with KMBZ radio and a TV interview. And I was only one of the many that local media were talking to.

Sadly, violence in the gay community is not news to LGBT people, I told the KMBZ radio interviewer. I spoke of the gay bashings that have gone on for years outside gay bars, resulting in injuries and deaths. I told them of the violence, sometimes fatal, that transgender individuals face.

After hearing that interview, a straight woman whom I know professionally emailed me, saying that she was so sorry to hear my words about the violence to gays. She said she never knew it was that bad.

To respond to all who needed to express their grief, Kansas City LGBT organizations created a plan. Vigils were held right away. The first was the evening of June 12 at Barney Allis Plaza, immediately after the Heartland Men’s Chorus concert at the Folly Theater. The Folly is next to Barney Allis Plaza, which made it easy for crowds of theatre-goers to participate. Representatives from the LIKEME Lighthouse, Human Rights Campaign and Heartland Men’s Chorus spoke, as well as other community activists and religious leaders. Mayor Sly James spoke powerfully about the need to end gun violence.

Later that week were more vigils and remembrances at area churches, including a memorial on Sunday, June 19, at Spirit of Hope MCC, where the mayor again spoke.

Our local LGBT community stepped up to the plate. By Monday afternoon, June 13, local gay bars and entertainers had met to create an event for June 25 at Missie B’s called KC Cares. The bars – Bistro 303, Buddies, Hamburger Mary’s, Missie B’s, Sidekicks, Sidestreets and Woody’s – plus Cucina della Ragazza united for one big all-day fundraiser, and each sold signature fundraising cocktails for several days before the event. Hamburger Mary’s organized a Bingo fundraiser for June 26. The Mid-America Freedom Band joined with Classical Revolution KC for a fundraising concert on June 27. The proceeds went to the OneOrlando Fund and the victims and staff of Pulse nightclub.

Lawrence, Kansas-based singer/songwriter Kristie Stremel wrote and recorded the song, “Orlando (Keep Dancing),” within days of the Orlando tragedy.  It is available on ITunes and half of the proceeds will go to the funds benefitting the victims of Orlando.