Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Are Gay Suicides “Collateral Damage”? Gay Man Hanged From A Tree in Atlanta

Michael George Smith Jr., aka London Jermaine, found hanged in Atlanta's Piedmont Park.

Michael George Smith Jr., aka London Jermaine, found hanged in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.

Atlanta, Georgia – Trapped between anguish over family disapproval of his sexual orientation and nationwide protests over the police killings of black men, a young man climbed a tree in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park and hanged himself. Police discovered the body of 22-year-old London Jermaine, aka Michael George Smith Jr., hanged by the neck near the Charles Allen entrance to the popular urban park early on July 7. Smith, a resident of Midtown and computer science student, had migrated from Hackensack, New Jersey to take up a new life in Atlanta. While there is no evidence of foul play reported by Project Q Atlanta, Smith’s death is a casebook of reasons why the suicides of young gay men may be “murder by suicide,” in which the victims are driven by despair to take their own lives after anti-gay shaming.

Because of his large social media footprint, we are able to trace the pressure that drove him to seek a way to stop the hurt he felt. On June 13, Smith posted a complaint and cry for help: “Being Gay in America is Hard. Being Black in America is Hard. Imagine being both #NoH8.” Family played a large part in browbeating Smith because of their extreme negative attitudes toward gays. On June 17, he posted a screen capture of a text message from a brother, and a sharp reaction to the disapproval of his mother: “God doesn’t born gay people. You make yourself gay.” Smith added this status to the duplicated message: “My mother is teaching my siblings to dispise Gays.. I’m done with Life. I’m Hurt To The Core.” According to posts on his Facebook page, he was also facing health issues.

Just minutes before his drop from the tree in Piedmont Park, Smith left this despairing message on Facebook: “I’ll see y’all in the next Life…Deadass [followed by emoticons] Father forgive me” 

Bossip.com reports the storm of criticism Atlanta Police and Mayor Kasim Reed faced following the discovery of Smith’s body. Widespread speculation about a possible “modern lynching” dogged the investigation, and put bulletins to the public on the fast track. With the nation aflame with anger and confusion over the apparently unjustifiable shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota, Atlanta officials feared that the public hanging of a young black man could cause an outbreak of violence in their city. The APD reported finding a tall rolling trash receptacle beside the scene of Smith’s death with a footprint on its top corresponding to his shoe. They also found pollen on his clothing indicating he climbed the tree to the limb where the rope that asphyxiated him was tied. There were no signs of struggle, the police reported.

"London Jermaine" via Instagram

“London Jermaine” via Instagram

The FBI were called in to carry out an investigation separate from the APD, and spokesperson Special Agent Stephen Emmett issued this statement to Project Q confirming the conclusion that Smith carried out his own death: “A review of the findings of the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s report by both APD and the FBI failed to indicate any signs of foul play or other evidence that would support going forward with a federal hate crime based investigation.”

Young gay men are under severe pressure due to the tension over advances in LGBTQ rights in the U.S., especially young gay men who are African American. Michael George Smith Jr. faced an almost perfect storm of difficulties from family, the culmination of too many deaths of young black men at the hands of unaccountable police officers, and questions about his own health. Too many young men, both those of color and white alike, have succumbed to despair, underlining the epidemic numbers of suicides in the LGBTQ community, compared with the rate of suicide for the dominant ethnic population. The Trevor Project, the nation’s leading anti-suicide hotline, details the grim suicide statistics for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. While suicide is the greatest cause of death in the U.S. for young people from 10 to 24, gay youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and gay youth from highly disapproving families are 8.4 times more likely to attempt to take their own lives than children of families that are accepting.

The degree of hostility towards LGBTQ Americans, especially young gay men of color, is exacting a terrifying cost from the ranks of the nation’s youth. Whether from opposition rooted in conservative religious traditions, ignorance, or backlash against newly minted rights for the LGBTQ community, the loss of young lives like Michael George Smith Jr.’s is not simply tragic. It is a national health emergency.

July 18, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crimes, Atlanta Police Department, FBI, Georgia, GLBTQ, Hanging, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, suicide, Trevor Project | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LGBT Community Protests Extremist Hate Speech After Orlando

I AM DONE protestors stand against religious bigotry and hate speech on June 26 to declare that "Love Beats Hate." I AM DONE Facebook photo.

I AM DONE protestors stand against religious bigotry and hate speech on June 26 to declare that “Love Beats Hate.” I AM DONE Facebook photo.

Samsom Park, Texas – A fundamentalist pastor west of Fort Worth carried hate speech and religious intolerance of LGBTQ people to a new low in the wake of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Massacre. Donnie Romero, leader of Stedfast Baptist Church, a small, independent, exceedingly angry group, stirred opposition by declaring that the cold blooded murder of LGBT people in Orlando, Florida on June 12 was God’s judgment upon the victims.

In starkly bigoted language, Romero went on to declare that his only regret about the massacre was that no one had finished what the shooter had started. Anticipating that members of the LGBTQ community might picket his small storefront church, Romero publicly declared that since members of his church were Texans who had weapon permits, protestors just might get shot.

The Rapid Response group, I AM DONE, organized a protest of Romero’s religious bigotry and carried out the direct action across the highway from Stedfast Baptist Church on Sunday morning, June 26. An estimated 50 protestors from across North Texas, protected by police from four local municipalities including Sansom Park, where the church is physically located, Lake View, Lake Worth, and Fort Worth, sang, chanted call-and-response, waved signs proclaiming Love, and read the names of the Orlando victims through a bullhorn during the church hour. The Texas heat was oppressive, but the protest was deemed successful since Romero’s hate speech had been answered forcefully but peacefully.

The following are the remarks Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School delivered at the protest, entitled: “Lament, Discover, and Repair.”

The Orlando massacre has forced America to stare into the abyss of our broken society. We have recoiled from what we have seen: not only the brutality of fear and loathing that took so many lives at the Pulse nightclub that night, but also the sickening complicity of a national culture that has set up the conditions for the slaughter of our people for generations.

Our feelings of remorse and loss are real and sharply painful; our burning anger is hot and real, as well.

But we cannot allow the abyss of race hatred, misogyny and heterosexist privilege to paralyze us with fear or anger — not again!

If others must continue the endless finger-pointing, let them. Not us, not again, not now!

We have a gaping hole in the American character to fix, and it will take all of us to do it, queer folk of faith, faith-free queer folk and allies alike. The spiritual resources that belong to American LGBTQ people are at hand, and we must discover how to use them to heal our broken hearts, our troubled minds, and to repair the ruins that yawn up at us from the abyss that bears so many names:

Orlando
Mother Emanuel A.M.E.
Sandy Hook Elementary
The Upstairs Lounge Inferno
Wisconsin Sikh Temple
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
Aurora, Colorado, and
Virginia Tech, and more.

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, flanked by other ministers, ended the protest with prayer. Other ministers attending included Chaplain Aaron Burk, the Rev. Mark Weathers of University Christian Church, the Rev. Heather Dunham of Universal Life Church, and the Rev. Russell Dalton with Brite Divinity School. Tammye Nash, Dallas Voice photo.

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, flanked by other ministers, ended the protest with prayer. Other ministers attending included Chaplain Aaron Burk, the Rev. Mark Weathers of University Christian Church, the Rev. Heather Dunham of Universal Life Church, and the Rev. Russell Dalton with Brite Divinity School. Tammye Nash, Dallas Voice photo.

We must act according to the sources of our power, no matter what makes us afraid. The practice of lament clears the spiritual space that makes effective action possible.

Sadness can empower our souls as well as dis-empower them. We can erect shrines that tie us to the past, or we can discover the power to lament as a people until hope takes the place of despair.

Phyllis Trible, the ground-breaking author of Texts of Terror who told the stories of the wrong done to biblical women, has said that mourning alone changes little. But true change comes from insight, a change that can inspire individuals and even a whole generation to repentance.

She writes: “In other words, sad stories may yield new beginnings.”

God knows, we have sad stories, and plenty of them. What we must find is the courage to cry out in public acts of lament that change despair into hope.

Rabbi Denise Eger, lesbian and president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, shows us how to turn sorrow into a new kind of power for good:

“Sister that I never held near,
Brother that I never embraced, our memory is almost lost:
The one we don’t talk about.
The loving one who never married.
The one for whom no Kaddish was said.
Your loneliness calls out to me:
I know of your struggles, we are not strangers,
And if my path is easier, I will not forget who walked it first.
We call you to mind, but did you not sometimes think of us,
Your children, lovers across the years,
Those who would follow and would think of you and bless your memory
And call you to mind?
With David and Jonathan, we will not forget you,
With Ruth and Naomi, we will not forget you,
In the name of God you are our sisters and our brothers, and we ask that you be remembered for peace.”

When we cry out to God from the depths of our collective sorrow, as my friend, Dean Joretta Marshall, of Brite Divinity School says, we begin to discover new possibilities for memory, compassion, empathy, and vision.

As we collaborate publicly in acts of lament when we are overwhelmed, we discover new ways to collaborate together in “life-giving hope.”

Protests are important, but they do not capture the spiritual power of crying out together so that our despair may turn into hope, and inspiration gives our activism fresh ideas to address the venom the LGBTQ community faces, much of it inflicted in the name of religion.

Sorrow is not a destination. We need movements, not monuments or shrines, movements of “life-giving hope.” So, together, before all the world, with our enemies included, we cry out until despair begins to transform into something new.

We remember before God the tens of thousands of our LGBTQ family martyred in years gone by. We remember those who died in the Inquisition, the Middle Passage, the Witch Craze, the Holocaust, and the struggle for civil rights.

We refuse to forget those, driven to despair by a world that hated them and who they loved, who took their own lives rather than face any longer the intolerable.

And we cannot forget those who lived out their days lonely, repressed, and afraid to reach out for affection and comfort, too hurt to give or receive the love they craved.

To us, in the memories we share in our seasons of lament, they have all become the martyrs of God, signs that we must make the world better than they found it. In the name of love, we pray, “O God, remember the sacrifices of these martyrs, and help us to bring and end to hate and oppression of every kind!”

We say and we believe that “Love Wins!” But in the struggle to repair the world, we have learned that love must be ferocious to win the new world we seek for ourselves, our children, and for everyone.

The story of the struggle for our human rights has lessons to teach, and one of the undeniable lessons of our history is that LGBTQ people have never been “given” anything. The heterosexist society in which we live never surrenders its power willingly. Our freedom has had to be won.

If our great theme is LOVE, from the right to love the one we choose, or the love of country that inspired us to defy Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to the love of human life itself because we are a people who are represented everywhere — in every group and race, and in every known social demographic from the beginning of recorded history — then we know from our own collective experience that love must be fierce in order for it to survive.

There is something divine in love like that, a divine imperative that will not be forestalled any longer, or postponed, or sidetracked. From the days of our forebears in the 19th century, we began to network across the boundaries of nations, to count the ever growing number of ourselves, and to realize that we were a powerful people united by a new sense of the possibilities of love.

Today, we are strengthened by amazing allies from every walk of life who understand that their future and ours are bound up with us in a contest to determine whether diversity and pluralism will prevail in our world, or whether patriarchal fear of immigrants, gender non-conformity, non-Caucasian people, and non-Judeo-Christian faiths — fears intensified by the rejection of the leadership gifts of women — will drag us backward.

Our most powerful ally in LGBTQ history, President Barack Obama, has shown us what a love with real backbone looks like. Like many of our allies, the president had to evolve in this thinking about what justice and equality for LGBTQ people called him to do. Once he got there, to the place of true equality and justice, he became our full-throated advocate.

His spiritual mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., taught him to face challenges with “the fierce urgency of now.” We LGBTQ people found that vision to resonate powerfully with our experiences of struggle beyond any counted cost, and, inspired by President Obama, we have recast Dr. King’s idea in our own way. We serve a vision inspired by “the fierce urgency of love.”

“The fierce urgency of love”:

Love that refuses to be anemic in the face of hard times.
Love that has a spine, and bows before no opponent.
Love that will not back down, and will not back up.
Love that knows how and when to get loud and be proud.
A love where Everybody is Somebody, and nobody is a nobody.

Our activism at its best is motivated by the fierce urgency of a love that will not permit churches, synagogues, and mosques to remain silent on the sidelines of the struggle for justice, for silence in the face of injustice is its own form of spiritual violence.

The fierce urgency of love compels us to give no free passes when religious leaders of any stripe breathe out venom and hatred toward marginalized people. That is why we oppose religious intolerance to the same degree we oppose political and economic harms done to LGBTQ people in North Texas and anywhere else.

We have learned the lessons of ferocious love: that hate speech from any pulpit or from any rostrum in a governmental chamber is the ammunition that kills and maims real people, as surely as any bullet. We cannot permit any leader to hijack religion and force it into the service of oppression of any kind any longer without our calling out such an outrage.

As Rev. Dr. Cody J. Sanders, the pastor of Old Cambridge Baptist Church near Harvard Yard, a proud gay man says:

“For LGBTQ people, the mechanisms of oppression have nearly always been waged first against our souls. But it never ends there. This spiritual violence has led to innumerable suicides, hate crime violence beyond what we know through the collected statistics, and the marginalization of LGBTQ people in the very institutions they should feel most at home: their families, their churches, and their communities.”

Sanders calls for spiritual reparations for the harm done to the souls of LGBTQ people, a fierce love of God and neighbor that seeks to heal the hurt and repair the broken world. Like Sanders, in the name of love, we must fiercely call for real and practical actions:

For LGBTQ homeless youth in our cities,
For effective ways to prevent LGBTQ suicides,
For funding for LGBTQ seminarians so that they can become faith leaders throughout America,
For the recruitment of qualified LGBTQ candidates to run for public office,
For literacy in LGBTQ life and history, and engagement between established cisgender and straight clergy with queer leaders in their communities, and especially
For churches and religion-based non-profits to stand up to their denominations and parent organizations when they participate in anti-LGBTQ discrimination by thought, deed, or silence.

Sanders concludes with the forthright demand of a community that knows how to stand tall and true, and has the courage to repair a broken world even in the face of spiritual opposition:

“Churches owe LGBTQ people a spiritual debt,” he says, “for the decades upon decades of violence against our souls. It’s time to start paying up.”

The Hebrew prophets sounded like that, didn’t they? That is an important dimension of the spiritual heritage of the LGBTQ human rights movement that was first born and nurtured in churches and synagogues in the pre-Stonewall era, and right up until this very day.

I work alongside lesbian, gay, and straight colleagues of courage at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, who like Cody Sanders, want to transform the world in which we live. So, with the whole Cloud of Witnesses, from the time of the Hebrew Prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Prophet Muhammad, to the millions of LGBTQ people and our allies right here and right now, together with the Prophet Isaiah, we say:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Our greatest asset as a Queer/LGBT community, you see, lies in far more than our numbers, our economic strength, and our political allies. It lies in our spirituality of collaborating hope, hope forged in the furnace of our tests and trials, made powerful by the vision of a better world than we have ever known.

Our enemies are real. Their guns and their words spit fire and death. They misunderstand, sometimes with lethal consequences, who we are and what we contribute to the common world in which we all dwell.

But we know wherein our power truly lies, for as our Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde, taught us, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

Rise up, then!

We LGBTQ people were never meant to settle into paralysis, depression and despair on the far side of the pit our adversaries dug for us. It is time to build a bridge across the abyss that swallowed up our Orlando sisters and brothers. Bring your energies, your tools, and your resolve. We have at hand the resources of a rich spirituality, and a fierce, divine love.

There is a world to repair.

July 2, 2016 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Anti-LGBT hate crimes, Brite Divinity School, Donnie Romero, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Florida, GLBTQ, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, I AM DONE, LGBTQ, LGBTQ clergy, Mass shooting, Orlando, Protests and Demonstrations, Pulse Nightclub, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Stedfast Baptist Church, Texas, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on LGBT Community Protests Extremist Hate Speech After Orlando

Names of Deceased Pulse Nightclub Patrons Slowly Being Released

Aggregate photo by Huffington Post, with our thanks.

Aggregate photo by Huffington Post, with our thanks.

Orlando, Florida – The names of the deceased in the worst mass shooting is U.S. history are slowly being released to the public. 50 died in the initial homophobic attack on the Pulse Nightclub, and 53 were hospitalized. Printed here are the 49 names assembled by Huffington Post by 7 p.m., June 13. All but one of the victims has been identified, and authorities are notifying next of kin. The effort to inform those many more who loved them also is ongoing, as well. We publish them here with their ages at the time of their deaths. All those who were gunned down by unreasoning hatred of who they were have names…lives…loves…. Everyone one, those named here and those remaining to be named, was someone’s child, sister, brother, friend, lover, co-worker, team member. All are our Rainbow Family, and we shall not forget them. May they have found rest, and may their deaths, heinous as the crime was that took away their lives, usher in a better world than they ever knew. One where Everybody is Somebody, and nobody is nobody.

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 

Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26 

Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25 

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 

Cory James Connell, 21 

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

Stanley Almodovar III, 23

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20

Luis S. Vielma, 22

Kimberly Morris, 37

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25

Amanda Alvear, 25

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49

Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28

Frank Hernandez, 27

Paul Terrell Henry, 41

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24

Akyra Monet Murray, 18

Antonio Brown, 29

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 25

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31

June 13, 2016 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Anti-LGBT hate crimes, Florida, Gay Bars, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, In Memoriam, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbians, LGBTQ, Mass shootings, Orlando, Pulse Nightclub, Remembrances, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Names of Deceased Pulse Nightclub Patrons Slowly Being Released

Dallas LGBT Community to Orlando: “We Are With You!”

 

Hundreds of LGBT Dallasites and allies rally in solidarity with Orlando despite the rain.

Hundreds of LGBT Dallasites and allies rally in solidarity with Orlando despite the rain. Dallas Morning News photo, Teng Shen, photographer.

Dallas, Texas – Hundreds gathered in the pouring rain outside the newly opened headquarters of the Resource Center in the heart of the Dallas LGBT community to demonstrate their solidarity with the people of Orlando, and especially with the Orange County LGBT community in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Undaunted by the rain, gays, lesbians, bisexual people, and transgender people, augmented by a multitude of allies, listened, wept, cheered and contributed as a score or more of speakers representing all major faith communities, the humanist community, and members of racial/ethnic minority groups vowed to stand firm in the struggle for justice and equality. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Police Chief Brown were also in attendance at the rally, showing the unity of the city and its law enforcement agencies with the LGBT community during this challenging time.

The host of the solidarity rally, Resource Center, led by Executive Director Cece Cox, is one of the largest of the better than 200 LGBT service centers in the nation, and a focal point of outreach and support for marginalized people throughout North Texas. The new, $8.9 million facility that houses the Center, open less than eleven days, is a testament to the vigor and muscle of the Dallas queer community. After listening to the speakers, the participants boarded buses or walked the 1.9 mile route down Cedar Springs Road to the symbolic crossroads of the Dallas LGBT “Gayborhood,” the Legacy of Love Monument at the junction of Cedar Springs Road and Oak Lawn Avenue. There the rally concluded after laying flowers and other signs of affection at the foot of the monument as signs of hundreds of wishes for comfort and healing for the city of Orlando and the Pulse Nightclub where the shooting took the lives of 50 people, and left 53 others wounded.

Dallas is home to one of the largest and most vibrant LGBT communities in the nation, and celebrates diversity through its many open and affirming and LGBT predominant faith communities, civic and recreational groups, charities, and health support services. The Dallas Gayborhood has been plagued since late September by better than 20 attacks on young gay men both along the fabled Strip where nightclubs, restaurants, and merchants that cater to the LGBT community are found, and beyond it in nearby neighborhoods. While community and police efforts have improved lighting and installed surveillance cameras along the Strip, leaders and citizens alike are concerned that no arrests have been made in any of the cases, many of which are clear instances of anti-gay hate crime.

The show of support for Orlando last night foretells renewed local efforts in concert with the Dallas Police Department to bring a halt to the rash of brutal attacks, none of which to date have proved fatal. Dallas is no stranger to anti-LGBT violence in all its forms, and that has made the emotional bond between “Big D” and Orlando all the stronger.

June 13, 2016 Posted by | Dallas, Dallas Police Department, GLBTQ, gun violence, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Mass shootings, Orlando, Pulse Nightclub, Resource Center, transphobia, Vigil | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dallas LGBT Community to Orlando: “We Are With You!”

We who believe in Justice cannot rest until it comes: In memoriam.

“Eastward and westward storms are breaking,--great, ugly whirlwinds of hatred and blood and cruelty. I will not believe them inevitable.”  ― W.E.B. Du Bois, The Wisdom of W.E.B. DuBois

“Eastward and westward storms are breaking,–great, ugly whirlwinds of hatred and blood and cruelty. I will not believe them inevitable.”
― W.E.B. Du Bois, The Wisdom of W.E.B. DuBois

June 12, 2016 Posted by | In Memoriam, LGBTQ | , , , , | Comments Off on We who believe in Justice cannot rest until it comes: In memoriam.

Brite Divinity School Calls North Texas to Vigil for the People of Orlando

Joretta L. Marshall, Dean of Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas.

Joretta L. Marshall, Dean of Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas.

From the Dean of Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth:
Once again, the world is confronted with the reality of gun violence and a mass shooting. Brite stands with, and prayers for this world, particularly for those families and friends most closely affected by the killing of human lives in such an outrageous moment. We are mindful, as well, of the way in which violence in the LBGTQ community has a deep impact on those who already feel vulnerable in the world, and in our churches and faith communities.
Remember that Brite’s meditation chapel is always open (on the second floor of the Moore building). Monday at noon, the Dean will host a prayer service on the plaza outside of Harrison for anyone who would like to gather to remember, to grieve the loss of life, to speak to the fear instilled through such violence, and to invite others to stand in solidarity in the midst of such tremendous pain.
I invite any of you, your friends, or others in the community to join me at the Plaza outside of the Bass Conference center at noon tomorrow [Monday, June 13] for an opportunity to lament, to grieve, to speak truth about fear, to stand with one another, and to stand with those in Orlando.
I send this with the many mixed feelings that this day brings,
Joretta L. Marshall
Dean

June 12, 2016 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crimes, Brite Divinity School, Mass shootings, Orlando | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brite Divinity School Calls North Texas to Vigil for the People of Orlando

Orlando Massacre Shooter Was Licensed Security Officer

ormar_mateenOrlando, Florida – Investigators have learned that the Orlando Massacre shooter who killed at least 50 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub early Sunday was a licensed security officer. Omar Mateen, a resident of Fort Pierce, Florida, who worked since 2007 as a security officer at a firm named G4S, legally purchased the weapons he used to slaughter his victims, a pistol and a military-grade assault rifle, as ABC News reports. He held two firearms licenses, both of which expire in September 2017. According to NBC News, Mateen appears to have been “self-radicalized.” There was no indication beforehand that he intended to attack the club. The assault was apparently well planned, however, since he had to travel over 100 miles from his apartment in Fort Pierce to carry out the hit.

Further reports establish that during or immediately before his attack on Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Mateen called 911 to claim allegiance to Al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, and the claim solidarity with the Boston Marathon bombers. His father, Mir Seddique, who immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan, told reporters that his son had been outrage two months before the attack by seeing a gay couple kiss in public while he and his family were in Miami. His ex-wife, who divorced Mateen in 2011, told reporters that he was disturbed mentally and prone to violence. Family members report that Mateen, 29, has a 3-year-old son.

Mateen, 29.

Mateen, 29, in a MySpace photo.

Some commentators are making comparisons of Mateen with the Charleston, SC killer, Dylann Roof, a loner, who became radicalized from the internet and acted on his impulses to murder black Christians at a prayer meeting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church. Roof had no direct ties with the KKK or white supremacy groups. Likewise, Mateen appears to have had no direct ties to ISIS or Al-Baghdadi. Mir Seddique, his father, disclaimed any relationship between his son’s actions and religion, saying instead that anger over a gay public display of affection might have been the precipitating motive for his attack.

Muslim Americans are denouncing the act, and claiming solidarity with the LGBT community. NBC News reports that Council on American-Islamic Relations Orlando Regional Coordinator Rasha Mubarak said, “We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence.”

The death count is expected to rise as hospital staffs struggle to treat the dozens of victims of the attack, which is now established as the worst, most deadly mass shooting in United States history.

June 12, 2016 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Florida, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Omar Mateen, Orlando | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Orlando Massacre Shooter Was Licensed Security Officer

President Obama Claims Solidarity with LGBT Community Against Terror Attack

President Obama speaks to the nation from the White House today.

President Obama speaks to the nation from the White House today.

“Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama declared to the nation today that “in the face of hatred, we will love one another,” claiming solidarity with the people of Orlando and especially the LGBT community.

The President, speaking from the White House Press Room, said, in part:

“This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.” 

The President also alluded to the type of firearms used by the attacker, Omar Mateen, whom the President called “a person filled with hatred.”  With the mass shootings of Sandy Hook, Aurora, Colorado, and a Sikh Temple in the background of his remarks, he said:

“Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”

Further, the President pledged the full power and authority of the United States government as this investigation proceeds. He ordered that flags be flown at half-staff in honor of the dead in Orlando, and as an act of national mourning.

 

 

June 12, 2016 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Florida, LGBTQ, LGBTQ Community, Orlando, President Barack Obama, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , | Comments Off on President Obama Claims Solidarity with LGBT Community Against Terror Attack

Mass Shooting at Gay Club in Orlando: “Worst in U.S. History”

Worst mass shooting in U.S. History in Orlando at Pulse Gay Club. AP photo by M. Ebenhack.

Worst mass shooting in U.S. History in Orlando at Pulse Gay Club. AP photo by M. Ebenhack.

Orlando, Florida – A lone, heavily armed gunman has attacked a gay nightclub at 2 a.m. June  12 in what NBC News describes as “the worst mass shooting in American history.” Fifty are dead, fifty-three are wounded and in area hospitals. The gunman, who took at least one hostage, was killed in a shootout with SWAT Team members. One police officer was wounded in the gun battle.

Pulse Nightclub billed as “the hottest gay nightclub in Orlando” erupted in gunfire as approximately 320 patrons were enjoying Latin night.  The carnage was horrific. Officials are still clearing the building of bodies and meticulously sweeping for evidence. Survivors describe barely escaping with their lives. Family members and loved ones are seeking their relatives, lovers and friends. Authorities are trying to reach the families of the victims, and HIPPA restrictions have been waived so that loved ones can be given information on the wounded and deceased.

The gunman is identified as Omar Mateen, born 1986, but living in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. He was married, with a three year old child. His father, contacted by NBC News, said that there was no religious motivation behind the attack. His son was outraged, he said, after seeing two gay men kissing in Miami recently in view of his wife and child. The anti-gay motive has yet to be confirmed by officials. He was armed with an automatic rifle and a hand gun. Police report that he was wearing body armor.

The siege lasted for three hours before Mateen was killed by law enforcement. Apparently he was named on a watch list of persons of interest by the FBI, but was not considered seriously, and his name was dismissed over three years ago. Mateen is reported to have an Associates degree in criminology. He may have had a security job.  Officials have much more yet to reveal about him, but are not yet ready to reveal what they know and what they suspect.

A state of emergency has been declared for Orlando and Orange County. Blood donations are being called for by health authorities. Counseling is being provided for the gay community at the GLBT Community Center on Mills Avenue.

The Orlando LGBT community is in shock in the wake of this unfolding terror attack. Whatever the motivation, this attack is one of a long list of other hate driven acts of violence against gays, lesbians, bisexual people, and transgender persons. In terms of mass attacks driven by homophobia and heterosexism, this is the most serious in the nation’s history. It calls to mind the horror of the UpStairs Lounge arson in New Orleans in 1973. Gay and lesbian nightclubs across the nation will be on alert, as will Pride Month celebrations and observances.

Unfinished Lives expresses our sincere heartbreak at this awful, senseless loss of life. Coverage and analysis will continue.

June 12, 2016 Posted by | FBI, Florida, Gay Bars, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Mass shooting | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mass Shooting at Gay Club in Orlando: “Worst in U.S. History”

Suspected Murderer of Gay Texan Arrested in Indiana

David James Brown Jr., 22, suspect in the brutal murder of a Texas gay man

David James Brown Jr., 22, suspect in the brutal murder of a Texas gay man

Delphi, Indiana – A prime suspect in the murder of a gay Texan whose body was found near his burned out truck last weekend has been arrested, and awaits extradition back to Texas. Click2Houston.com reports that 22-year-old David James Brown Jr. of Conroe was apprehended and taken into custody on November 17 without resistance by authorities. The Dallas Voice adds that the arrest was made in a CVS Pharmacy parking lot. Brown has been charged with capital murder.

Marc Pourner, 28, was found dead from blunt force trauma to the head in a stand of trees in Montgomery County, Texas on Saturday night. Evidence suggests that Pourner was gagged and bound prior to being bludgeoned to death. His truck was completely burned out near where his body was found. Many, including his father, Mark Pourner, suspected that the crime was motivated by anti-gay bias, and now that an arrest has been made, Mr. Pourner is sticking to his earlier suggestion that his son’s death may indeed have been associated with Marc’s sexual orientation. The Dallas Voice adds that the proximity of young Pourner’s murder to the recent vote in Houston defeating the HERO Ordinance thanks to a heated, heterosexist and transphobic media campaign contributed credence to the anti-gay hate crime speculation on the case.

Marc Pourner's body found in Montgomery County, Texas on Saturday night

Marc Pourner’s body was found in Montgomery County, Texas on Saturday night

Mr. Pourner told Click2Houston, “I’m ecstatic there’s an arrest made. Now I want to be attending a trial and shortly after that I want to be attending an execution.” He went on to say that Brown and his son were only acquaintances, but that he would make no more statements about a motive in the case as long as the investigation was proceeding,  other than his feeling that sexual orientation bias may have played a part in the killing. The family have announced their intention to begin a scholarship benefiting LGBT students in memory of Marc.

Friends, family, and some Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department deputies attended a Wednesday night vigil to share memories of Marc, and to underline their concern for his family and the LGBT community in the Houston metro area, which is currently on alert because of the crime.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, Brown was best friends with Marc Pourner’s boyfriend. Authorities are saying that it is still too early to make a hate crime determination.

 

November 23, 2015 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bludgeoning, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Houston HERO ordinance, Indiana, LGBTQ, Texas, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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