Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 49 / 7 December 2017
 

Orlando memorial planned for SF Pride parade

The memorial at 18th and Castro streets for victims of the Orlando, Florida massacre. (Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn)

The memorial at 18th and Castro streets for victims of the Orlando, Florida massacre. (Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn)

A walking memorial to victims of Orlando, Florida’s Pulse nightclub massacre will be one of the first groups people see in San Francisco LGBT Pride parade Sunday, June 26.

Organizers plan to have 49 people carrying enlarged photos of those who were fatally shot June 12 at the gay club’s Latin night after Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire around 2 a.m. Besides the 49 people he killed, he also left 53 injured. Mateen himself was killed by police. His motives haven’t been determined.

The photos will show each victim “in a happier time,” along with their name and age, said organizer Richard Sizemore, 29, of San Francisco.

The memorial will be the fourth group in the parade, and the first that’s marching. They’ll be behind the Dykes on Bikes motorcycle club and two other groups that will be on scooters and bicycles, Sizemore said (because of safety precautions, nobody’s supposed to walk in the parade in front of anything that rolls).

For Sizemore, who identifies as queer, the shooting “struck close to home.”

He’s originally from Melbourne, Florida, which is about an hour away from Orlando, and he used to go to Pulse on Saturday nights. The bar was especially attractive for him because it was an 18 and up bar, and he wasn’t yet 21.

“It was always just so vibrant and fun,” Sizemore said, recalling the club’s dance floor, drag shows, and bar where it was possible to lean and have a conversation. “It was like a really big neighborhood bar.”

He said he’d met one of the victims, but only “in passing.”

“It’s still very jarring,” he said. “Those were my formative years,” when one is “just coming out into the world, feeling yourself out, feeling the community out, and making friends.”

Sizemore said he got the idea for the memorial when he saw on Facebook that friends of his were posting updates about people who’d been at the club.

“It was so hard,” he said, because he thought, “I can’t do anything for my friends. There’s nothing I can do to comfort them.”

But then, “It dawned on me that in two weeks we have our Pride parade,” Sizemore said.

He decided people could “stand in solidarity” with the victims and their loved ones at the event “and reach out and say, ‘We’re here. We love you. We’re thinking about you.”

Sizemore also wants to “remind people why we have Pride still. Stuff like this, even today, is still happening. … We still have so far to go. We’ve lost these children in the prime of their lives.”

Putting together the memorial and seeing the time and other contributions that people are making “has been really uplifting,” he said.

PS Prints is providing the images of the victims for free.

“It would have cost us $2,000 otherwise,” he said.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have also been supporting the gathering.

Sister Agnes Dei’Afta Tamara said the message she hopes to send is “United we stand, divided we fall.”

“As a queer community, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, we know that few others will,” she said.

When Sizemore brought his idea to the Sisters just three days after the Orlando attack, she added, “I don’t think there was a person in the room who wasn’t firmly behind what he wanted to get accomplished. … I think we are still very affected by this as a community and as individuals, so we were very interested in helping” with the parade memorial.

Sister Roma said, “It’s important because we want our LGBT brothers and sisters in Orlando” to know that the local community stands with them, and to show that “The LGBT community is strong in numbers and in fortitude. We’re brave, and we will not be silenced. We will not hide. We are marching, and we are celebrating Pride with extra pride this year.”

People who want to participate in the memorial should contact Sizemore by Friday evening at richbrvd1987@gmail.com.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, June 23, 2016 @ 5:43 pm PST
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