LGBTQ Advisory Board also plans Pride Month town hall.
By Brandon Wolf
“49 Dead in Attack on Orlando Gay Nightclub,” read the headline on June 12, 2016.
News of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, stunned the world and shook the LGBTQ community to its core.
Two weeks later, Mayor Sylvester Turner created the City of Houston’s LGBTQ Advisory Board, appointing 49 members in honor of the 49 people who lost their lives at Pulse.
That LGBTQ Advisory Board is now planning a vigil for the Pulse victims at the Montrose Center on June 12, the one-year anniversary of the massacre. Board member Dennis Beedon is set to travel to Orlando and personally deliver a proclamation signed by Mayor Turner.
“Houston is a resilient community, and we’ve already had to endure a lot this year,” Advisory Board co-chair Melanie Pang said. “As we continue to see breaking news about trans people of color getting killed and our rights repeatedly being put to a vote, I think we are leaning on each other now more than ever.”
Pang said she’s in awe of the LGBTQ community’s ability to simultaneously work toward justice, celebrate Pride, and try to heal from all of the violence it faces. “Taking care of ourselves is also a radical act of resistance,” she said.
Lou Weaver, the Advisory Board’s other co-chair, said he thinks some in the LGBTQ community are still scared a year after the Pulse massacre. But he believes the majority have found a deeper sense of community and are looking to build a more intersectional approach. “We must remain vigilant,” Weaver said. “There are still people out there who do not like the LGBTQ community. We must be present with the most marginalized in our community, and we cannot be satisfied until all of us have full equality.”
Houston’s Advisory Board, which serves as a direct link to the mayor’s office, is designed to reflect the diversity of Houston’s LGBTQ community. The board is made up of 21 non-Hispanic whites,12 African-Americans,13 Hispanics, two Asian-Americans, and one biracial person. Members also represent identities across the LGBTQ spectrum, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender, intersex, and straight allies.
Advisory Board member Ashton Woods is helping to organize a second Pulse vigil sponsored by Black Lives Matter Houston and Turn Texas Blue. The “Stand with Orlando Vigil—One Year Later” is set for June 11 at Hermann Park.
Woods organized the first Pulse vigil in Houston on June 12, 2016, hours after the shooting, with more than 100 people attending. “Our space had been taken away from us, and we needed to reclaim it quickly,” Woods said.
The vigil emphasized that many of the Pulse victims were people of color, and served as a memorable coming-together of Houston’s diverse communities and religious faiths. Woods said the Hermann Park vigil will emphasize that spirit of commonality.
In addition to the vigils, the Advisory Board plans to host a Houston LGBTQ Community Town Hall during Pride Month. Harrison Guy, chair of the board’s communications committee, said the town hall will focus on the board’s activities over the past year. It will also include speakers addressing LGBTQ-related legislation, as well as a question-and-answer session. The Town Hall is set for 6 p.m. on June 20 at the West Gray Multiservice Center, at 1475 W. Gray St.
Further event details will be posted on the Advisory Board’s website as they become available. Visit lgbtqhouston.com for updates.