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Grad Center event discusses Pulse aftermath


June 12, 2017 marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic shootin3g at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The shooting resulted in the death of 49 people and is the deadliest mass shooting in the United States. In an effort to reflect and address some of the issues that ensued, CUNY’s Graduate Center, in coordination with the NYC Commission of Human Rights and CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies, organized a panel entitled “One Year Since the Orlando Pulse Shooting: Combating Homophobia, Racism, and Islamophobia.”

Hosted exactly a year following the shooting, the panel featured four professionals and activists, all of whom were affected personally and professionally by the Pulse shooting.

Hosted exactly a year following the shooting, the panel featured four professionals and activists, all of whom were affected personally and professionally by the Pulse shooting.

The goals of the panel were to initiate a conversation, provide a space to heal and reflect and voice important solutions for problems plaguing queer communities.

The panel was moderated by Mathew Rodriguez, a queer Latino journalist and staff writer at Mic.com. Panelists included Eman Abdelhadi, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the New York University and a queer Muslim activist; Cecilia Gentili, the director of policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis and community organizer for Translatina Network; Carmelyn Malalis, the chair and commissioner of the NYC Commission on Humans Rights; and Kevin Nadal, a Graduate Center professor and the executive director of CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies.

The event started with a moment of silence, paying homage to those who were killed in the shooting. As the panel opened up, Rodriguez and the four panelists started with their opening remarks, briefly talking about where they had been a year ago when the shooting happened, and what their reactions were in terms of their respective communities and their professions.

The panel then explored topics and questions pertaining to the safety of LGBTQ communities, the problems in the discussions and spaces that were being fostered directly after the attack and the overall response from both communities and governments that were involved in trying to make the next step forward a positive one.

Abdelhedi started off the panel and spoke at length of her identity and its complicated intersectionality in the LGBTQ community. She detailed where she was when she learned of the shooting and what her immediate reactions were. “I remember getting the notification about Pulse through the New York Times … My reaction was what I imagine the reaction of thousands of Muslims [were], which was to open the story and immediately search for the suspect’s name, kind of thinking ‘please don’t be a Muslim, please don’t be a Muslim, please don’t be a Muslim,’ and—he was. I think that was, for me and my community, a transformative moment because we could see how this was going to play out.”

Abdelhedi imparted an important perspective that was not present in many conversations following the shooting in the Muslim and queer community.

She reminded the audience and other panelists of the conversations that were disparaging to those who exist within not only Muslim communities, but within queer Muslim communities. Following the shooting, Hillary Clinton, among other figures, tried to bolster hope and safety across the nation by encouraging people to return to the “spirit” of September 12, 2001. Abdelhedi pressed, “Now, for those whose houses were raided, whose charities were shut down and mosques were surveilled, this was a horrifying idea. This was not a moment of triumph.”

Gentili's voice on the panel was also important in providing a grim perspective on which many failed to touch. When she first heard of what had happened, her initial reaction was to feel the same thing she had been feeling far before the shooting. She said, “I experienced Orlando through the whole year in weekly or monthly episodes when a trans woman of color is murdered.”

Some of the biggest issues discussed during the event was policing and safety in LGBTQ communities. When tragedies like the Pulse shooting occur, as well as other tragedies across other communities, police presence typically becomes heightened in an attempt to make people safer. In communities that have a negative relationship with law enforcement, however, people begin to feel more threatened than safe.

“Nobody takes the time to find [out] what makes you feel protected, what it is that makes you feel comfortable in a space,” Gentili said.

Malalis also noted the rising trend of communities that are beginning to try and depend less on police and more on each other for safety, as was the case with Ozone Park last year following the shooting of an imam. While there is no framework for it, it reigns as a creative way for communities that have a complicated relationship with law enforcement to feel more secure and to support each other.

Nadal spoke more in-depth about the intersectionality that was repeatedly erased from the dialogue following the reports immediately after the shooting. He later pressed on about the importance of the responsibility that falls on those who are able to shape a narrative, whether they are the media or educators. All panelists touched on the initial erasure or underreporting of the gay and Latino narrative, with many media organizations failing to address both.

Like Abdelhedi briefly mentioned, while people were attempting to engage in a national discussion to try and create healthy dialogue, many who were occupying and amplifying these spaces were not the people who were being directly affected by the problem. This, ultimately, made it difficult to grieve and feel safe.

“Let’s be intentional of what we are speaking of and honor all those intersectionalities, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable or excluded because we have privileged identities that might not be a part of what we’re speaking of,” Nadal encouraged.

Baruch graduate earns prestigious scholarship

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