From grief to power: We are stronger together

Orlando is more than an incident, it exposes a landscape of violence

Our hearts break in two directions.

One heartbreak is the violent deaths and injuries of so many young, Latinx, Puerto Rican, and Black gay, queer, trans, lesbian, and bisexual people who were massacred at the Pulse nightclub’s Latin Night in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016. That heartbreak is bound up in the horror that a place of sanctuary and culture was marred and twisted into a place of fear and death. We mourn as part of the queer community and as part of movements that organize for racial and immigrant justice, movements that organize with Muslim families, movements contending with displacement and colonialism in Puerto Rico, and movements inspired by young people fighting for their lives.

The other heartbreak is because we know, from every crisis we have weathered thus far, that this crisis, this disaster of hate and violence will be manipulated to expand agendas for profit, political power, and deeper oppression during a moment of collective grief and outrage. Rather than making swift moves toward real public safety, healing, or access to care, the political landscape shifts to reinforce violence, economies of scarcity, and global warfare. Specifically, we anticipate that Pride events will be more heavily policed than ever, our people will be profiled, and our grief will be used to justify security expenditures and increased militarization of our communities.

The heartbreak of this moment exists because we know Orlando is not an isolated tragedy. In order to rise in strength from this pain, we must understand the political and social terrain.  The terrible reality and aftermath of this massacre was a direct result of an economy based on surveillance, security, and militarized violence; a heightened social hostility and aggression; and a fifteen-year War on Terror that ushered in a permanent state of racist militarization and preemptive prosecution.

More telling than any ambiguous ties the shooter had to ISIS, he was employed by G4S, one of the largest private security firms and largest employers in the world. With 600,000 employees worldwide, G4S runs youth detention facilities, border patrols and deportation operations, and armed security for corporations, governments, and gated communities. The shooter was trained by this privatized global security conglomerate and located in Florida, the state with the most registered guns of any state in the country. We seek to understand the broader landscape and terrain to build the strongest collective response.

Let us take the time for careful reflection and foster a clear understanding of the terrain, forecast the next power moves, and name what is at stake for all of our communities. Let us also build from our strengths. Investigate and support the existing sanctuary spaces in your own location and community. Create spaces for engagement and dialogue that allow people opportunities to be in alignment, beyond allyship. Let us participate in organized work to initiate the development of a new landscape.

As organizations that are part of the Southern Movement Assembly, we recognize that our communities are the source of our strength in times of crisis.  We are proud to be part of movements that refuse to be divided, movements that are lifting up the voices of LGBTQ Muslims, movements that refuse to scapegoat Muslim and Arab immigrants and refuse to ignore that the people who were killed were predominantly Latinx, part of a larger Puerto Rican diaspora, Black people, and people of color. We are proud to be part of movements that recognize the strength and resistance of LGBTQ communities. Our hearts begin to heal from the outpouring of love and solidarity in a time of grief.