TR Express: Impact of Orlando on Central Brooklyn

The LGBTQ community in Brooklyn woke up to a nightmare on Sunday. Reports of the deadly shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida filled Brooklyn and the rest of the world with horror. In this edition of Third Rail Express, local LGBTQ community members share their stories while attending healing events throughout the city.

“My reaction was of horror but—I hate to say it—almost not surprised,” says Julieta Salgado, a native Brooklynite and queer activist.

The shooting, which occurred early Sunday morning, took place during Pulse’s Latin Night, where it’s reported that two trans women were headlining.

“I think what’s important is to name what has happened,” says Salgado. “We need to name the fact that this is transmisogyny. We need to name the fact that this is racialized. We need to name the fact that we live in a country that is unique in its mass shootings.”

Cara Page, executive director of the Audre Lorde Project identifies as a Black Queer woman, community organizer and cultural worker in Central Brooklyn. This weekend was Brooklyn Pride where the Audre Lorde Project marched with other local community organizations to celebrate and chant against police brutality and for liberation for queer and trans folks of color.

“Then we come home and run into this sadness,” Page said of her experience finding out about the massacre at the Orlando gay nightclub that left 49 dead, and 53 injured.

Currently living in Crown Heights, Page previously lived in the South for seventeen years. Upon hearing the news of the shooting, Page immediately reached out to folks who might have been directly affected by the violence. Her next thought was to sure her Muslim friends were okay.

“The immediate islamaphobic retaliation that came was so obviously indicative of this country and where the global standards are of fear of Muslim communities,” she says.

Tasha Amezcua and Z Bell
Tasha Amezcua, SOS Program Coordinator, Audre Lorde Project (R) & Z Bell, Membership organizer, Brooklyn Movement Center (L)

Tasha Amezcua, coordinator of the Audre Lorde Project’s Safe Outside the System anti-violence program, described instances of islamaphobia she encountered as the community was in mourning.

At one point, she received an email from an elected official that referred to the Orlando Massacre as a terrorist attack and losing Enrique Rios Jr. during the attacks. Enrique Rios Jr. was from Bed-Stuy which has a significant Muslim population.

“Referring to it as a terrorist attack and not a homophobic attack really was not looking out for our siblings and community,” Amezcua says. “I think there is a huge risk and danger of a new homonationalism that is white supremacist and islamophobic.”

At a Bric hosted town hall on LGBTQ Civil Rights on Tuesday night, Professor Katherine Franke, the Director of Columbia University Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, made a similar point regarding use of the word “terrorist.”

“I resist using the words “terror” and “terrorism,” Franke said at the event, citing that the words took on a new meaning after September 11th.

“I think [these words] are necessarily infused with islamophobia in this country,” Franke says.

Amezcua described a moment on the way to the Audre Lorde Project’s vigil for Orlando at a local Botanica. When she told the person at the counter what the candles were for, she received a double-edged response.

alp vigil“She was an elder black woman and she said ‘I wish I could be there with you all, I can’t believe this happened’” Amezcua describes.

“We all kind of lit up in that moment and [we] were really grateful,” Amezcua said. But then, according to Amezcua, the woman said, “You know, now that they let everyone over here, what do you expect to happen.”

“Those of us that have been organizing on the ground for racial justice understand the intersectionality of Christian supremacy, White supremacy, and a level of war and genocide that completely obliterates the rights to have religious, faith, spiritual practice connected to our racial, gender, and sexual identities,” Page says.

Page ultimately believes that addressing militarization of police is as important as addressing gun violence as a whole. She and other long-time activists have come out against the impulse to reach out to police and state protections for safety against future violence. “Pulse could never secure our safety as a club, but police will never secure our safety either.”

“In the coming days you will see expanded police presence,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference Sunday. “Many key sites around the city, again particularly at sites of importance to the LGBT community.”

Grieving the dead, healing the community and processing this tragedy are the next steps Page believe need to be taken.

“We have to go deeper and look at their root causes that even allow this kind of gun violence,” Page says.

“Not an anti-gun policy or law but a demilitarization of policing and really understanding war and genocide as, to quote Angela Davis ‘an economy of violence’ that we are all a part of. Whether or not we are harmed by it or perpetuate it, we are participating and if we are not looking at the root causes that build it through capitalism and white supremacy, then we will not shut this down,” she says.

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