Nikki López used to spend evenings at Pulse Nightcub while growing up in Florida.
The executive director of GALAEI, a queer Latinx social-justice organization, said she has struggled to process the events of the June 12, 2016, shooting at the Orlando LGBT club, which was hosting Latin Night.
“For me, it was a space where everyone was welcome into the club and you saw your community reflected,” López said of her experiences. “It was one of those spaces where it didn’t matter how you identified. For it to be tragically ripped away sort of leaves you with the feeling of, ‘Wow, so what spaces are there [now] that value my existence [as a queer Latinx person]?”
Exactly one year after the shooting, GALAEI will host a free community barbecue to honor the 49 people who died. López said the event will include food, refreshments, a moment of silence and opportunities for people to speak.
“For many folks, they haven’t had the opportunity to actually have a space to process in community,” López said, noting how healing has mostly been done individually.
“I feel — especially with the Latinx community of Philadelphia — there hasn’t been a space that has been driven by community members,” López added. “Even with some of the fundraisers or memorials that have taken place, it has always been done by folks outside the Latinx community. This is really an opportunity for the community’s voices to be uplifted.”
López said the event will center on people of color.
“GALAEI is simply here serving as a safe space for folks to come but really we are having it driven by black and brown queer folks,” Lopez said.
She added that people of color will lead aspects such as the moment of silence. Additionally, she said the barbecue’s location near GALAEI’s North Philadelphia offices was intentional, due to many people of color residing in that area.
“I think ‘community’ is one of those words — just like the word ‘diversity’ — [that] gets thrown out a lot but there isn’t that sort of intentional engagement with community,” Lopez said. “This event is driven by the community.”
She added the barbecue will give others the opportunity to “receive support from other people that they didn’t think they could receive support from.”
“It’s important to pay homage to the 49 lives that were lost but to also celebrate the space that queer black and brown folks are in and to also see and get to know what this community looks like, and talk with the community themselves,” López said.
“Remembering Pulse: One-Year Anniversary Community BBQ” will be held 4-8 p.m. June 12 at GALAEI, 149 W. Susquehanna Ave. Visit http://bit.ly/2svOuA1 for more information.