On Sunday, June 12, I started the morning organizing hundreds of volunteers to march with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. I soon read that 20 people were shot in a Florida gay nightclub in Florida on Latino night. The death count soared to 49—most of the victims Latino, like me.
My first thought? That could have been me.
I remember my first Latino night at No Parking in Washington Heights, a relatively small bar with a big personality. I know exactly how it feels when you enter a gay club on Latino night. For one night, you’re not a minority. You’re a part of the majority in a space that welcomes all of who you are. Pulse was that sacred space in Orlando destroyed by a mentally disturbed man, falsely killing in the name of Islam.
I thought about my best friend at City Hall. Only in New York City can a gay Dominican from the Bronx be best friends with an African Muslim from Staten Island. Together, we had worked with African communities in the Bronx, many of them Muslim, to frame the city's response to the international Ebola epidemic. Together—true to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s commitment to one New York City— we organized the first city agency LGBT resource fair with the Pride Center of Staten Island.
The day after the Pulse shooting, New Yorkers at a vigil outside the Stonewall Inn voiced frustration with our city’s police force. Days later, I witnessed progress at a meeting with LGBT and NYPD leaders that I helped organize. We discussed how the city can secure LGBT Pride events without overbearing our community. And a few days later, the police commissioner and mayor visited 13th Street’s LGBT Center to highlight our commitment to protecting all New Yorkers at the NYC Pride March.
My pride and my service to our city felt more connected than ever when I saw gay cops and queer Muslims march alongside Mayor de Blasio and over 1.6 million people chanting to the beat of our collective humanity. Because out of many, #WeAreOrlando, we are one people and we must work harder than ever to create a safer, fairer and just society.
Elvin García is the Bronx Borough Director of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit.