Houston activists will soon unveil a permanent Pulse Nightclub memorial in the heart of the Montrose gayborhood.
In the wake of the 2016 shooting, a small LGBTQ Pride flag and a sign saying “Orlando” were erected in the median of Montrose Boulevard near Westheimer Road. However, the memorial has been repeatedly vandalized. Now, three people who work at Tony’s Corner Pocket—Joshua Martinez, Miguel Charrié, and Jason Smith—have raised the funds to install a 25-foot-high flag with a concrete base at the site. Lambda NextGen, the group’s partner, will install a Pulse monument beside the flag.
A ceremony for the memorial is set for November 17.
“The current flag at the memorial has been pulled out of the ground, knocked over, and stolen several times since it first went up,” Charrié said. “This is why we decided to create something that couldn’t be vandalized.”
Martinez, a bartender at Tony’s Corner Pocket, saw the Pride flag defaced for the first time in 2017. He asked his coworkers, Charrié, a bartender, and Smith, a drag queen, to help him replace it.
Martinez, Charrié, and Smith raised a new Pride flag in the same spot each time it was stolen or destroyed. In the summer of 2018, the group decided to replace the flag one last time with a permanent structure.
A fundraiser for the project was held at JR’s Bar & Grill on September 1. Martinez, Charrié, and Smith received $2,200 in donations, which the group says will be more than enough to purchase a permit and a 25-foot flagpole. All leftover funds will go to the survivors and families of Pulse Nightclub victims through Texas United Charities.
Lambda NextGen Houston, a social network for young LGBTQ professionals, partnered with Martinez, Charrié, and Smith after seeing the success of their fundraiser. Lambda NextGen has designed a Pulse monument that lists the names of the 49 people who died in the shooting.
Smith designed the new flag for the memorial, which features a Pulse nightclub logo and the words “With Love, Houston.” An American flag will hang above it. Both were donations from Tony Wilkerson, a military veteran and a friend of Tony’s Corner Pocket.
The November 17 flag-raising ceremony will be feature speeches by Martinez, Charrié, Smith, and other community leaders. The flag will be raised by LGBTQ military veterans.
“What happened in Orlando could happen anywhere, to any of us,” Charrié said. “We hope that our flag brings our community together in remembrance of Pulse and shows that Houston stands behind its own LGBT family.”
Martinez, Charrié, Smith’s are still accepting donations, which can be made by mailing a check to Texas United Charities at 4414 Gardendale Drive, Houston, TX 77092; or by calling Melissa Flores at 713-884-6944.