After Orlando: Community Memorials

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“Doors of Love” – 80 panels in the shape of a question mark at Portland Pride, a memorial to Orlando (Oregonian photo)

Google “public response to Orlando shooting” and you’ll get a long list of hits about Trump’s offensive response to the massacre at the gay nightclub and the quagmire of gun legislation. But my Facebook feed was full of the ways that heartbroken communities came together – queer youth of color who identified most closely with the 49 killed that night, and their allies.

Thousands of impromptu and planned gatherings of protest and mourning spanned the globe. View some of the moving photos from around the world published by National Geographic, along with portraits of Orlando mourners dubbed Orlando Strong: A Community United After a Massacre.

When news hit of Orlando, I was in a rugged, remote spot on the Northern California coast with scant internet access. I sought to make sense of this tragedy in the regenerative powers of the redwood trees, with us since the time of the dinosaurs; in the return of the salmon, known in the local Yurok language, itself nearly extinguished and now being revived, as “That Which Is Eaten”; in the sorrow-soaked resilience of the Yurok themselves, California’s largest surviving tribe, whose elders’ grandparents lived the old ways before the near-annihilation brought by the Gold Rush.

Back in my hometown, attendance at Portland’s LGBT Pride the next weekend was reportedly three times greater than normal. Portland Latino Gay Pride organized Una Ofrenda para Orlando, where each name was spoken and a communal altar was built. On Portland’s waterfront, a giant installation came together overnight. Doors of Love, in the shape of a question mark, provided a space for community messages of pain, anger, hope, and – most of all – love.

 

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