Houston activists are searching for a home for a permanent Pulse nightclub memorial after the city denied their request to install it in a median near Montrose Boulevard and Westheimer Road.
In the wake of the 2016 shooting, a small LGBTQ Pride flag and a sign saying “Orlando” were erected in the median in the heart of Houston’s gayborhood. After the memorial was repeatedly vandalized, three people who work at Tony’s Corner Pocket—Josh Travis, Miguel Charrié, and Jason Smith—raised enough money to install a 25-foot-high flag with a concrete base to replace it. Lambda NextGen, the group’s partner, planned to install a Pulse monument next to the flag.
However, the city of Houston recently denied the group’s request for a permit to install the memorial in the median, and Travis, Charrié, and Smith are currently looking for a new site. A dedication of the memorial scheduled for November 14 has been canceled.
“We reached out to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to get more information on the next steps for the project,” Charrié said. “The department told us that it had regulations on where memorials can be placed, and that the median we chose is not one of those places.”
A representative from the the Parks and Recreation Department told OutSmart that only government memorials can be installed on public property. Charrié said city officials have sent him a list of possible sites for the memorial that are privately owned. Representatives from Mayor Sylvester Turner’s LGBTQ Advisory Board are also assisting with the effort.
“The project is moving forward and we are working with the city to see its completion,” Charrié said.
“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.”
Travis, a bartender at Tony’s Corner Pocket, saw the Pride flag defaced for the first time in 2017. He asked coworkers Charrié, a bartender, and Smith, a drag queen, to help him replace it.
The trio managed to raise a new Pride flag in the same spot each time it was stolen or destroyed. Then 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. Travis, Charrié, and Smith received over $3,000 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 Travis, Charrié, and Smith after seeing the success of their fundraiser. Lambda NextGen has designed a Pulse monument for the flag that lists the names of the 49 people who died in the shooting.
“We are honored to be a part of this initiative,” said James Spear, board member and spokesman of Lambda NextGen. “It was important for Lambda NextGen to join Miguel, Josh, and Jason because one of the key pillars that our group works on is community engagement.”
Travis, Charrié, Smith, and Lambda NetGen are calling their partnership the Friends of Montrose. Charrié says that the group will continue to work on initiatives in Houston that honor LGBTQ people. The Friends of Montrose’s next project, set for spring 2018, will be a plaque in Bagby Park listing the names of LGBTQ Houstonians who’ve died in hate crimes.
Smith designed the flag for the memorial, which features a Pulse nightclub logo and the words “With Love, Houston.” An American flag will hang below it. Both were donations from Tony Wilkerson, a military veteran and a friend of Tony’s Corner Pocket.
“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.”