On Tuesday June 14th, 2016 I went to my first vigil. I joined over 3,000 people on the Newark Street Plaza in Jersey City to show that we are strong, that we remember, and that love is love. We joined together in song to commemorate and remember those whose lives were lost in the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida in the morning hours of Sunday June 12. This event was organized Michael Billy, an active member in the LGBT+ community in Jersey City, with the support of the Jersey City Government and Jersey City Gayborhood. The theme of the night was love: that we must love each other, support each other, and to continue to move forward.
There were a few reasons I went to this vigil:
I found out that 2 people I went to high school knew someone who was killed - 1 had a cousin and the other a best friend.
As a Jewess, it is my duty to remember what happened to those during the holocaust and other events where the Jews have been persecuted and the shared experiences of those that came before me. And not to forget those that were not Jewish who were also persecuted and continue to be.
Because I consider myself part of the LGBT+ community because I have family in this community.
Jersey City is the most diverse city in NJ with the largest LGBT+ community at the Hudson Pride Connection Center. Jonathan Lucas, a board member, said “We stand with each other (now) because if one of us falls, all of us fall.” He was speaking to us as humans that we must support each other. We need to tell our “family and loved ones that we love them and continue to support them… We have to put our actions and mouths where our hearts are and spread the love.”
I have never been to the Jersey City LGBT Pride Festival, but I plan on going to go this year. Paul Mendoza and others founded the festival unfortunately two weeks before 9/11. They “wanted to create a safe space for everyone and it has been every year thanks to the first responders and JCPD… Any one of us can be targets of homophobia, bigotry, and hatred. It did happen and it does happen. People came together to dance salsa and merengue to escape the world outside. Instead they became victims of a senseless crime. Hate can’t stop us. Hate can’t stop me from loving my husband. Hate never wins. Love always wins.”
Love does always win - In the 1999, The Admiral Duncan, a bar in the gay section of London, was bombed, wounding 70 and killing 3. This was part of a 3 part series of bombs by Neo-Nazi David Copeland and while David is still in jail, the bar is still there serving all those who may enter and love is still in the air.
Then Dana Delgardo, a trans-activist, spoke, and I learned a lot from. First we must celebrate our heroes and those who helped in the after math. The man who used his shirt to tie one bullet of a man he found, the man’s shirt to tie another wound, and then kept him awake when he found a 3rd bullet in the man’s back. The mother who shielded her son from the bullets. And the man who went back in and helped those in the club during the aftermath.
Watch a video about some of the heroes here
The AR-15 shoots 20 bullets in 9 seconds that is 2 bullets per second. This gun should not be in the hands of citizens and according to the family of the creator was meant to replace the AK-47. So, Dana you are very correct that elected officials need to listen and listen hard. We are asking for gun reform not taking away the guns that should be used to hunt, shoot skeet, or on a shooting range, but those design to kill in a military outlet.
As Delgrado reminded us all: “I am Jewish. I am Muslim. I am gay. I am straight. I am transgender. I am you. You are me. Love is love is love is love is love is love.”
What hit home to me the most was said by a medical provider of LBGT+ said, “I don’t want to talk about guns. I want to talk about being an empathetic human being.”
How can someone just state the facts that since the government says it is ok to buy this gun that it is actually ok? When did people stop caring about people? When did someone forget about a family member they lost to the Holocaust or was persecuted? When did someone forget about the civil rights? When did someone forget that friend who took their own life because they were bullied? When did someone forget about the atrocities of Syria and the never-ending war in the Middle East. Even if you disagree with how someone lives their life, stand up for LIFE itself.
I stood with over 3,000 people on Tuesday June 14th to remember. To hold up the candles and say things have to change now because they said it was going to change and it hasn’t. It must happen now. I stood with over 3,000 people to show that their lives were not taken in vain. I stood with over 3,000 people to say we will keep dancing merengue and salsa and celebrating who they were.
Love is love is love is love.
I have done a lot of research on gun violence because of this shooting and if you want to learn more about gun violence in the US please go to the sites below. The first shows statistics on 2016 gun violence and to give you a taste on how horribly sick this is – so far in 2016 we’ve had 23,879 incidents of gun violence, 6,122 deaths, and 12,527 injuries. The second website shows mass shootings from 1982 to 2016.
I wanted to share that it was extremely hard to write this article. I started going off on gun violence information and fights I had with people over remembering humanity. I am glad to be able to share this article with all of you.