Over 70 members of the UTD community gathered on Wednesday evening for a vigil to honor the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.
The event, which was hosted by Pride at UTD and Rainbow Guard, featured short speeches from campus leaders, a candlelight ceremony and prayers from students from different religious backgrounds.
“I wanted to do something so we could process the event together,” said Zack Gentry, a literary studies junior and president of Pride at UTD. “A lot of (LGBT) people felt safe and this was a very sobering realization that violence (against LGBT people) is still very much a problem.”
After campus leaders gave their speeches, members of the crowd were invited to step forward and share their thoughts. Speakers recounted experiences of discrimination as members of the LGBT community. Others shared their struggles of coming to terms with their sexual orientations.
“This is probably the first time … LGBT Muslims have been in the spotlight,” said Noor Pervez, an EMAC senior. “Something felt important about giving a voice to the fact that there are people living at the intersections of multiple marginalized communities.”
For ATEC senior Macaire Ament, the shooting hit particularly close to home.
“I worked in Orlando at Walt Disney World and got to witness a thriving, loving and happy LGBT community,” Ament said. “Lots of (LGBT) people move back and stay in (Orlando) because they feel welcome there. I just wanted a place to be in solidarity with LGBT people and with those who lost loved ones in Orlando.”
Shortly after, the group was led in Jewish, Muslim and Christian prayers. The event concluded with a song and a moment of silence.
“Seeing the outpour of support from all parts of campus is wonderful,” said Adam Richards, former president of Rainbow Guard and current president of Wesley at UTD. “It means a lot that people really do care about LGBT people. For some of the people here, it might be the first time ever they’ve felt cared for.”