By Kyeland Jackson —
After the deadly Orlando shooting which left 49 dead and dozens injured, U of L’s LGBT community has rallied to show its support.
Once news of the shooting at the gay nightclub spread, the city and the University of Louisville responded with letters of sympathy and action to show their support. A vigil in Louisville drew a crowd of 5,000 to honor the deceased.
University support was swift, as Interim Provost Neville Pinto sent a campus-wide email Sunday evening:
“We are a stronger campus because of the contributions of our LGBT students, faculty and staff, and we have been proud to be recognized as a leader for inclusion and support,” Pinto said in the email. “When any member of our family suffers, we all do.”
More support came Monday morning, when Buford arrived to the center to see messages of support chalked around the entrance.
“The LGBT center was vandalized in March with a hate message,” Buford said. “And in the exact same place where that hate message was, someone now has covered it with a message that says, ‘We are not afraid.’ That is so powerful.”
U of L’s LGBT Center remained open Monday, providing drinks and art supplies to console those grieving.
“It hits you in a way that you might not have anticipated, even if you don’t feel like you are directly connected to that area,” Katy Garrison, program coordinator senior at the center said. “You have a right to feel sad. That’s your community.”
Director Brian Buford said it was a busy day filled with hugs and tears.
“For the most part, it has been just sadness and grief. People still sort of trying to wrap their heads around it,” Buford said. “The blessing in the middle of all of that, is that here at U of L, we have a commitment to diversity and to inclusion.”
In the wake of tragedy, Garrison and Buford advise reaching out to the Muslim community to show solidarity and inclusiveness.
“This is a terrible thing that has happened but it doesn’t justify racism,” Garrison said. “It doesn’t justify any kind of lash back against the Muslim community here in Louisville. We need time to heal, we need time to process, but there are good things that can come out of this.”
To show support, Buford and the center invite the campus community to gather for the Kentuckiana Pride Parade lasting from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on June 17. The parade is part of the 15th annual Kentuckiana Pride Festival.
“I think it would be really powerful if you haven’t come before and walked in that parade, whether your gay or straight, cis (cisgender) or trans, to come out and really feel the power of the community,” Buford said. “I think sometimes our tendency is to let fear hold us back and to say, ‘I’m afraid of what might happen.’ But it’s so powerful when you stand up in the face of fear.”
Those interested in the parade can RSVP here or look for the LGBT center’s mark at the corner of Floyd and Market Street at 6 p.m.
The LGBT center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday this summer. Support from the center can be reached at (502)852-0696 or via Buford’s office number at (502)852-0227.
“Anyone can call anytime – we’re available,” Buford said. “We’re going to be here everyday for anybody who needs us.”