By Tess Sheets
Over 50 people gathered in the Vaughn courtyard today in remembrance of Sunday’s shooting victims at the gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando.
UTampa Pride hosted the event, which included speakers from the group’s adviser and president, along with testimonials from members of Tampa’s LGBT and Latinx community, as well as a reading of the names and profiles of the victims from the tragedy.
“As we discuss what this was, we also need to note what this wasn’t,” said UTampa Pride adviser Caitlyn Jones. “This was a targeted hate crime. This was not an excuse to perpetuate islamophobia, it was not an excuse to demonize our Muslim siblings. So, as our Muslim siblings celebrate Ramadan, we ask you to support them as the media spins this story, putting marginalized groups against one another.”
UTampa Pride president, Cameron Moskol, a junior at UT, named a laundry list of emotions he felt, including shock, pain, grief and powerlessness following the shooting. However, he reverberated a message of unity through tragedy during his speech.“As a community, we do not have to suffer the repercussions of this tragedy alone,” he said.
Two more speakers followed: Dr. Daniel Cruz, a chemistry professor at USF, and Kindell Workman, media specialist at UT. Both gave their personal testimonials on the grief they face over this tragedy as members of the LGBT community.
“Like a considerable amount of the victims on Sunday, I too am a gay, Latino man,” Cruz said. “And because of this I know first-hand the challenges that can arise for daring to be who you are.”
Candles were passed out and lit in honor of the victims and families of loved ones involved in Sunday’s massacre. Jones encouraged the audience to blow out their flame in a commitment to take action on behalf of the marginalized communities that have been affected by the shooting.
“An example of that action would be to give blood,” Jones said. “With that it is important to note that the community that was affected by this, so many members are unable to donate blood. Consider the continued oppression and the continued impact on those trying to give.”
The official FDA recommendation states that a man who has had sex with another man in the past 12 months is not allowed to donate.
There was also a table set up with two posters attached, where people could write words of encouragement to the Orlando victims. Jones noted that the posters will appear again in the fall for students to sign as they return to campus for classes.
Moving forward, UTampa Pride will continue to host events that celebrate the LGBT community and educate students about diversity on campus. Through programs like Safe Zone, students gain opportunities to learn about gender and sexual identity issues. Moskol mentioned that the group is considering hosting another remembrance event in the fall so students can join in honoring and mourning Orlando’s victims.
Senior Jonna Bond described the event as a powerful experience
“I think the most impactful part of it was hearing the names of the deceased followed by a brief glimpse of their lives,” the psychology major said. “It made me feel a plethora of emotions that I’m not sure I can name. I feel a mild sense of closure, that now that I have properly mourned, I can act to help support my own community.”