To mark three years since the Pulse massacre, members of Gays Against Guns NY traveled to Florida to meet with our Orlando chapter to honor the 49 lives lost on June 16th, 2016.
At 2am on the 16th - the time the shooting started - we gathered with others to honor those 49 lives. We met with survivors and those who had lost friends and family members. Later at 7pm there was a remembrance ceremony at Pulse with family members, survivors, and the local community.
We printed out hundreds of small placards, each with the image of one of the 49 their age, and a short few words by a loved one that told us something about that unique person's life. These are the same placards that our Human Beings - our figures veiled in white that honor gun violence victims - carry in procession at many of our actions.
Friends, family members, guests at the ceremony were invited to come and take a placard home with them. We wanted to honor the victims, to keep their memory alive, as individuals, not as numbers. Many family members chose to take home photos of their sons and daughters. Others took photos of their friends. Others took a photo at random, because they wanted someone else to then be carrying a photo of their loved one, a stranger now keeping their memory alive for them.
It was profoundly and deeply moving to be there to honor these beautiful human beings and let their families know that we will never let their loved ones be forgotten. As we left the site later that evening we were so honored to see that people had also chosen to leave some of our placards at the site, among the flowers and candles, and personal messages in Spanish and English written on the wall.
This action was inspired by the work of the late Cuban American queer artist Félix González-Torres who we lost to AIDS in 1996. Félix would often leave tall stacks of printed paper or candies in a gallery, encouraging visitors to take one home. We thought that this inspiration was a beautiful way not only to honor the victims, to honor the Latinx community, to honor those we lose to gun violence every day, and those our community also lost to the AIDS epidemic.
We wanted to draw a clear line between the epidemic of gun violence and the AIDS epidemic, both of which affect queer communities and communities of color disproportionately. Both of which were and are preventable. Both of which were and are allowed to get worse every year while those who have the power to stop the epidemic and save lives sit on their hands and do nothing. Honor them with action.
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