Reflections from Aba Taylor, Executive Director

Aba TaylorFor many in the LGBTQI community, the word “family” has been used as code to recognize others in that community. The word “family” substitutes a particular identity, often times veiled or not always evident, with that of a general membership and therefore acceptance. The word family thus becomes a synonym for a welcoming invitation for being fully belonging, connected and loved.

Family Dead
On Sunday morning, just hours before I was to venture out with my daughter to a neighborhood block party celebrating the revelry that is June Pride, I heard that 49 of my family members had been killed in Orlando. 49 people, many of them young and of color, who were also reveling in the celebration of love, had their lives cut short, because of hate. With the gravity of this tragedy weighing heavily on me, I sat at my kitchen table, staring at my toddler daughter. I looked at her, devastated at the world we live in, and fearful at the world she is growing up in, rife with so much injustice. Concerned about her immediate safety, I wondered if we should still dare to go out to the block party, to celebrate with others, just as 49 of my family members had done in Orlando just hours before. I heard there’d been another planned attack on the LGBTQI community in California that same day, which had fortunately been thwarted. I thought about all the places it might be risky to take my daughter, like churches and movie theaters and elementary schools, recalling the sadly familiar shock of learning about mass killings in places that are otherwise supposed to be safe, joyous and full of life. My lips curled as I thought about how this week will be the one-year anniversary of the Charleston church massacre, where more of my people, my family, were again targeted and killed in one of the most sacred of havens.
Walking Target
I lovingly watched my daughter sitting in her high chair, and lamented at how, in spite of her charming innocence, her adorable dimples, so many people do and might hate her because of who she is or who she may become; because of whatever identities she currently has or will grow into. I realized that one day she may, like me and so many others who navigate society, be a walking target. For many of us, simple daily activities like stepping into a supermarket, a coffee shop, a clothing store, require subtle or overt negotiations of our personal safety as we are perceived as threats or targets because of our identities. Even those places where we seek refuge from the day-to-day negotiations for safety — for our bodies, our families, our lives — even those spaces no longer feel safe. So much discourse in today’s political and general climate not only endorse prejudice and intolerance of particular bodies of people, targeting masses of bodies and identities, but further enable hatred and acts of violence. Common seeds of intolerance become germinated through systems of oppressions sponsored by individual and institutional bias and discrimination. In today’s climate the disease of hate permeates our society from within, never mind from outside, our borders.
I ultimately decided to collect myself, and take my daughter to join “family” at the Pride block party Sunday afternoon. If there is one thing that history has shown us over and over and over, it is that people who face serious oppression are extraordinarily resilient. I am inspired at how LGBTQI leaders and communities, Muslim leaders and communities, how allies, have all come together to condemn this act of hate. Anti-LGBTQI attitudes, which manifest from individual beliefs, to institutional oppression, should never be justified and have no place in any religion, in society, in politics, nor anywhere else for that matter. I work hard every day to do my part in advocating that sentiments or acts of intolerance and hate towards any group of people have no place in this society, and in my daughter’s future. Here in Winchester, we can unite as a community to continue disavowing intolerance and hatred and instead promote acceptance, respect and peace. We at the Winchester Multicultural Network will continue celebrating diversity, this month and every month. We will continue to stand against the tide of violence on all levels and we will continue to advocate for justice— for everyone.
At some point on Sunday afternoon, the clouds broke and a rainbow—a real rainbow—rose up in the sky. My friend snapped a beautiful picture of it, with an arch of rainbow-colored balloons juxtaposed in the foreground. Although the sky had greyed, and the weather had cooled off, it was all too evident that we continue to rise, we continue to celebrate, as an act of survival, as an act of defiance, as an act of love. All ways. 
How to Help
In times of tragedy, one of the hardest questions to answer is “how can I help?” Sometimes a tragedy feels like too big of an issue to tackle, but there are some ways that everybody can help in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre.

• Donate to the Pulse Victims’ Fund

• Support organizations that work to promote and uplift LGBTQ rights, such as GLAAD, Lambda Legal, BAGLY, Inc., and the Anti-Violence Project, among many others.

• Donate blood, but wait: blood has a shelf life and many blood banks in Orlando are currently at capacity. To find a center near you, visit One Blood.

• Use social media to do safety check-ins or to post materials in solidarity of the LGBTQ, Latin@, and Latinx communities.

For more information and ways to help, visit We Are Orlando and Equality Florida Action, Inc.