Greensboro holds vigil for LGBTQ lives murdered in Orlando

Nobody expected that on Sunday night that they’d mourn the loss of 50 lives, but still many people attended Greensboro’s vigil for the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.

People of all faiths, races and gender identity gathered in Greensboro’s Governmental Plaza. Speakers included government figures such as Mayor Nancy Vaughan. Many others spoke from faith centered organizations such as Rabbis Andy Koren and Fred Guttman from Temple Emanuel and Wasif Qureshi from the Islamic Center.

Guttman hit upon the topic of gun control, pointing out that the United States has the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, with at least 30 victims murdered by firearms each day and about 200 injured.

“These facts are so sad and quite frankly in my opinion, because of the failure to reinstitute the assault weapons ban, the gun lobby is directly responsible for this insanity,” Guttman said.

Many Islamic leaders were present at the Vigil such as Wasif Qureshi, former president of the Greensboro Islamic Center and organizer of the 2015 Peace Festival. Andy Koren stood with Qureshi as a friend and said, “The groups that people think never should get along, do get along.”

Guttman added, “All of us condemn any sort of terror but we will not demonize, and we will not discriminate against the vast majority of Muslims in the world including those who’ve spoken today, including those who live in North Carolina and Greensboro and the Triad, those Muslims are peace loving and peace seeking, no discrimination and demonization of them, that’s not who we are.”

Qureshi shared that last year in September, both the LGBT community and Muslim community marched together. They came together when their organizations celebrated a Pride Festival and a Peace Festival on the same day.

“Last year both the LGBT community and Muslim community marched together around this very block on September 19 holding balloons and ribbons that very eloquently described peace. This is our story as a city.”

While still fighting over the bathroom bill, a transgender woman cried while telling the audience that she fears for her safety. Many discussed how an event like Orlando could have easily been in Greensboro.

“The hateful rhetoric and the hateful legislation such as HB2 only increase the chance of terror and violence that can occur here and elsewhere,” Guttman said. “Tonight here in Greensboro, we are Orlando and we are all gay.”

Another speaker, Irving Jimenez, identified as a gay and undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Reflecting on his emotions, Jimenez said he easily could’ve seen himself as one of the victims in the nightclub shooting.

“Nightclubs are one of the few places I could be me,” he said.

The Queer People of Color Collective both spoke and sang. With them was April Parker who shared that nightclubs like Pulse were a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community dating back to when they had nowhere else to feel safe.

“We don’t have to be the same to be safe,” she said.

In the crowd of candles, some Pride and American flags were held. One small boy held a sign that read “50 people not okay? Don’t abuse them cause they’re gay.” Others embraced in the midst of emotional breakdowns over the fears and lives lost.

Everyone resolved to hug their loved ones a little tighter tonight. !