Below are remarks from UF Professor Paul Ortiz from the Pulse Commemoration and United Ceremony held at UF on June 28. The event was organized to mourn and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community after the mass shooting in Orlando earlier in June.
Tonight, we honor the victims and the survivors of one of the most terrible massacres in American history.
We send our thoughts and our prayers to the LGBT community in Orlando and we also send our apologies.
Yes, our apologies. For we must recognize that all of us play a role in a society where violence and hatred have too often become standard operating procedure. In Florida, we have too often elected or anointed leaders who spout hatred against Trans People, the LGBT community, against immigrants, against people of color.
We say “¡Basta Ya!”, No more. We must take steps to ensure that these horrific acts of violence are relegated to the dustbin of history.
Tonight we mourn, but we also organize. We organize against hatred. We organize against any and all attacks on LGBT people. We organize against the hatred of Latinos, African Americans, and people who practice the Muslim faith.
We apologize for allowing these hatreds to fester and for allowing leaders and media personalities in recent years to inflame the hatreds and self-hatreds that have caused the lives of so many to be lost as well as destroyed. In Orlando, in Sandy Hook, in Blacksburg, in Charleston, in Aurora, Colorado, and in so many other places.
Tonight, we mourn but we also organize against the idea of violence as a solution to domestic problems and we organize against the idea of violence as a foreign policy. And I say this We speak out against the war at home against the poor, against immigrants, and against people of color and we recognize that the majority of the victims and survivors of the Pulse massacre came from these groups.
And we also speak out against US militarism abroad, because violence overseas is just as corrosive to the spirit of humanity as violence at home. The endless war on terror is no more effective than the endless Cold War was. The great majority of the victims of the violence of both endless wars live in the communities and the countries where the victims and the survivors of the Pulse Massacre came from. And I say this as a military veteran who served in US Special Forces in Central America. We must pledge to stop this violence, both at home and abroad.
On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared the following story in a speech he delivered on the Vietnam War. The story described a scene where Dr. King was urging urban youth to follow a non-violent path in solving the social problems that plagued their lives. In response, these young men, according to Dr. King said:
“– what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”
The title of this eloquent speech was “Beyond Vietnam,”
But how could we move closer to becoming the beloved community that Dr. King envisioned? He told us that day in 1967, that [quote]
“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.”
Tonight we answer bitter hatred with the rainbow lights of humanity and nonviolence.
Tonight, we kindle the fire of memory; we remember the victims and survivors of the Pulse Massacre. We love them because of their identities, We love them because of their dreams, and we love them because of who they wanted to become. We remember their families, their loved ones.
We go forth tonight with a pledge to struggle to build that society where no one is attacked because of who they are.
Where all are welcome at what the great poet Aimé Cesaire called, “The rendezvous of victory.”