By Winona Young, Head Staff Writer
On Wednesday, June 12, the SFSS’ Out on Campus and Women’s Centre held a joint memorial for the Pulse Shooting at the Women’s Centre in the Rotunda.
The Pulse Shooting is still the most deadly shooting targeting the LGBTQ+ community in all of U.S. history. On June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, a gunman entered Pulse and opened fire on its patrons. It left 49 injured and 53 dead. “Latin Night” was the theme that Saturday, and many of the victims were of Latinx and Puerto Rican descent.
To commemorate the shooting and honour its victims and survivors, Out on Campus (OOC) coordinator Ashley Brooks and Women’s Centre coordinator Paola Quirós held a memorial program marking its three-year anniversary.
In an interview with The Peak, Brooks spoke to why it was important that the two organizations collaborated on this memorial.
“It’s so hard to disentangle queerness from race, from disability, they’re so closely intertwined, and so that’s kind of [why] collaboration with the Women’s Centre was really important on this one,” he said.
“Pulse is so much more than 49 people killed in a nightclub, it represents a legacy of community trauma.”
The memorial began with opening words from both Brooks and Quirós, addressing the 40+ attendees present, detailing the program for the event. Workers from SFU Health & Counselling Services were on standby for any students in need of private support.
Quirós then introduced the event’s speakers, two Latinx women of the Vancouver LGBTQ2+ community, Nayieli Fuentes Vidal and Beatriz Pimentel. Vidal spoke in Spanish and her statements were translated to English by Quirós. Both Vidal and Pimentel spoke of their individual upbringing, their respective journeys with their sexuality, and what Pulse meant to their community.
Pimentel spoke of how Pulse’s events caused her to see a psychologist because she was so affected, and spoke of how often privileged individuals were not able to understand the trauma faced by other communities.
“You’re a privileged generation, honestly, so please know your power and exercise it,” Pimentel advised.
“Know your history and create a different one — a herstory.”
Following the women’s speeches, both Quirós and Brooks read passages aloud from the poetry anthology, “Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando.” Quirós began with the poem “The night poetry danced with us” by Amal Rana, followed by Brooks reading Julia Leslie Guarch’s “Shh. Shh. Be Quiet.”
After both recitations, Quirós along with SFU students Daniela and Andrea Romon, stood at the OOC’s alter made for the Pulse victims. All three read the names of victims one at a time aloud. Daniela Romon explained why she attended the memorial to The Peak.
“It’s really close to me, to my heart, because I identify as a queer Latina as well [ . . . ] I just wanted to show my respect, and show my support to my community.”
Romon also remarked on the importance of dance to Latinx community, and how remembering the shooting meant not overlooking the victims that were celebrating their identities at Pulse.
“We have to remember the lives with respect and remember how they were celebrating their lives at the moment,” she said.
“Remembering Pulse to me is like remembering how to celebrate life.”
Aerin McRae and Alyssa Delia Malva were two of many students present at the memorial. Both were students in a special topics course on race and sexuality instructed by Sim Badesha, a PhD student, who were present at the memorial.
McRae in particular spoke about her admiration of the speakers.
“I should’ve brought tissues,” she said.
“It’s honestly amazing. Even just the way we speak about grief and loss, but not actually loss, is a really refreshing way too to just think about moving forward but not forgetting.”
After the recitation of the victim’s names, Brooks and Quirós read more poems before ending the event with final words from Vidal and Pimientel.
“It doesn’t matter how many times they kill us. It doesn’t matter if we are not the taste of others, began Vidal.
“What I really surprised about all of you is your silence, learn to speak, learn to say what you feel, learn to be your own selves, we are alive! We are alive [ … ] We will never die, remember that. Yes, bodies are just transformations. We are universal energy. And everybody is life.”