By: CJ Dablo
Two survivors of the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida will be honored guests at the Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival & Parade (LBLGP) this weekend.
The LBLGP announced in a statement that the victims of the Orlando shooting, known as the Orlando 49, will be remembered at the event on May 21 starting at 9:30am. Brian Reagan, a manager of the nightclub, and Milan D’Marco, a dancer and entertainer from the club, will be among those honored. The parade event will take place near the grandstand at corner of Ocean Boulevard and Junipero Avenue.
Reagan recently posted a simple message on his Facebook page.
“Looking forward to sharing the message of love at Long Beach Pride,” Reagan wrote. “I’ll be in Cali May 19th – 22nd hope to see you guys.”
Last year’s tragedy is noted to be the worst mass shooting in the US as well as the deadliest against the LGBTQ community in the nation’s history. Media outlets reported that on June 12, 2016, 49 people died and dozens of others were injured after a gunman opened fire on attendees at the popular gay dance club.
The tragedy was deeply felt in Long Beach, home to one of the largest gay communities in Southern California.
Porter Gilberg, executive director for The LGBTQ Center (also known as The Center) in Long Beach, remembered when he heard the news a year ago. Many of the staff and volunteers were already preparing for a Pride event in Los Angeles. The leadership quickly coordinated a separate group to handle crisis counseling in The Center’s hometown in Long Beach.
Gilberg acknowledges that it was a difficult day for everyone.
“That experience stays with you,” Gilberg said in a phone interview. “And knowing that you are a member of the community that is targeted for such hateful violence is something that you live with, and many people walk through the world knowing every single day.”
The executive director described how things have changed for the community of people at The Center. On a practical level, they updated their security protocols. On a more personal level, the leadership at The Center began to ponder how to support the “entire diversity” of the LGBT community, including religious minorities and immigrant groups.
“And we began engaging in stronger conversations about what we can do to work to reduce hate violence in our community,” Gilberg said. “So, you know, Orlando didn’t happen in a vacuum…Orlando happened…at the same time as the United States was engaging– and continues to engage, quite honestly– in very hateful conversations about marginalized communities.”
Gilberg described how his staff started to think more about healing, about not only creating a safe space for those in the LGBTQ community experiencing trauma so that they can process mental-health distress, but how to communicate that “hate is not normal” and that “hate is not something we will legitimize here in Long Beach in our community.”
The Signal Tribune asked Gilberg if The Center would be marking the first anniversary of the Pulse tragedy in any other way. He said that LGBTQ leaders in Orlando told him to remember and honor the survivors through action.
Gilberg noted that this year at the Pride Festival, they will be working to support other marginalized communities by supporting justice causes that cover racial, economic and environmental issues.
“We are marking in the Pride parade this weekend the message that our resistance will be intersectional,” Gilberg said, “acknowledging that for many people the experiences of racism […] poverty, homophobia and transphobia, combined very often creates a very hostile world for people.”