Hundreds gather in Houston one year after Orlando nightclub massacre.
By Brandon Wolf
Photos by Dalton DeHart
With rainbow Pride flags rippling in the breeze, hundreds of Houstonians gathered in the parking lot of the Montrose Center on Monday night, June 12 to mark one year since the Pulse massacre.
Speakers paid tribute to the 49 people who were murdered on Latin night at the gay Orlando nightclub in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016. They emphasized that attacks continue against transgender women of color; and derided the Texas Legislature’s upcoming special session, where lawmakers will again consider an anti-transgender “bathroom bill.”
Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen presented an “Orlando United” proclamation signed by Mayor Sylvester Turner to Lou Weaver, co-chair of the city’s LGBTQ Advisory Board. Cohen then asked for a moment of silence for the victims.
Fran Watson, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, remembered waking up a year ago and realizing that the LGBTQ community had been ambushed in one of its safe spaces.
“But we are a brilliant community,” Watson said, “and when you attack Orlando, you attack all of us.”
Watson characterized the vigil as a time for LGBTQ people remember, reflect and reaffirm their commitment to assuring justice for everyone in the community.
Members of the Advisory Board took turns reading the names of the 49 victims.
Advisory Board member Dee Dee Waters, a black trans woman, asked people to remember of the tragedy: “I am she, she was me.”
Ashton Woods, founder of Black Lives Matter: Houston, led the crowd in a chant: “What do we do when we’re attacked? We fight back!”
Miguel Gomez, am HRC volunteer, spoke to the audience, first in Spanish, then in English.
“Remember that love trumps hate!” Gomez repeated several times in both languages.
Gospel singer Billy Dorsey delivered an a Capella rendition of his song about the massacre, “Pulse.” The song, which imagines the Pulse shooting through the eyes of one of the victims, ends with the line, “It’s up to 48, and his gun is aiming at me.”
Frances Valdez, an immigration attorney, reminisced about her first months in Houston, when bars were the safe places where lesbians could dance with the women they loved. “A very special thing was violated,” she said.
Valdez ended the hour-long program by leading the crowd in a “Unity Clap,” which originated in the 1960s among striking farm workers led by the late Cesar Chavez. The farm workers spoke different languages, but they Unity Clap was one form of communication that all the participants understood. Valdez also encouraged the audience to attend upcoming protests against Senate Bill 4, Texas’ ban on so-called “sanctuary cities,” at Houston City Hall.
After the program’s end, guests lined up to write personalized messages on large sheets of paper.
More photos from the vigil below.