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Join us tomorrow, Wednesday June 15th from 5PM to 7PM as Bronx Academy of Art and Dance (BAAD) hosts a vigil, ‘The Bronx to Orlando With Love’, on the steps of The Bronx County Courthouse in memory of the victims of the LGBTQ massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in the early hours of this past Sunday.

My heart aches for the victims, their families, friends, and our LGBTQ community.

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The LGBTQ community is a big small one where the degrees of separation between individuals is small but for those of us that are well-known and travel in wide circles, it becomes miniscule and inevitably when a tragedy strikes, we either know the individual or have friends to do. This makes Orlando even more personal for me, watching my friends suffering.

For over 3,000 years since the time of antiquity, our communities have been persecuted and victims of violence.

Since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, life for self-identified LGBTQ has progressively gotten better through the fights and sacrifice of our fearless queer leaders but sadly, everyday we are reminded that we have such a long way to go.

The Orlando massacre on Sunday is a terrible reminder of just that.

The deaths of these innocents are the end result of hate propagated by religion and religious leaders whether Christian, Islamic, Jewish, or any that singles out our community as a sinful one.

Their hands are bloodied along with other hate groups including our Republican party in the United States that has an all-out campaign against the LGBTQ residents of our country.

The NRA and fanaticism for firearms and the 2nd Amendment along with their lobbiests and elected officials who allow such weapons to be purchased easier than buying cigarettes or alcohol and even automobiles are responsible for the tragedy on Sunday.

America is supposed to be a beacon and haven of freedom but it is apparent that if you don’t belong to the status quo, you have to fight for those rights whether you’re Black, Latino, Asian, women, or any person of color, and if you are a member of the LGBTQ community and any of the aforementioned, you face an even steeper hill to climb are more difficult battles to fight.

When we look back upon our history, our country has been built upon violence and oppression of others. From slavery, to the the theft of Native American lands and their slaughter, lynching of Mexicans, Chinese, and Italians.

Remember Matthew Shepard or the many other LGBTQ victims of lynching? I do. How about all our transgender victims of violence and murder? I do.

Between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 African-American men, women, and children were lynched in twelve Southern states along with 1,297 whites who supported their rights and freedoms.

Let’s not forget the Tuskegee Study where 600 African American men were used by our government to study untreated syphilis, or the one-third of Puerto Rican women on the island sterilized by our government in the early 20th century.

So many acts of hatred in our nation.

Is it a wonder that so many are rising up against the presidential campaign of Donald Trump which is inciting violence and is a campaign of intolerance and xenophobia?

It is incumbent upon us to stand against hate in whatever form it takes, it is our responsibility to stand up to our leaders who attempt to restrict and criminalize our lives. If you don’t stand up, your silence makes you an accomplice in the ensuing hatred and violence.

Your silence makes you complicit in these persecutions.

Your silence against hate is deadly.

Your intolerance is killing us.

Join us tomorrow against hate, against the powers that be that allow such easy access to firearms that make it so easy to commit such heinous acts as the Orlando massacre.

We must force change and act up for justice and liberty for all.

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