The Black LGBTQ community in Orlando, Fla. is a small segment of the gay community in that city, relegated to themed club nights, pride events and social gatherings. However, their small size isn’t stopping them from being part of the movement to keep their community safe.
The recent mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub continues to ignite outrage throughout the LGBTQ community. Black members of the gay community are also showing support and speaking out.
Sunday, Omar Mateen fatally shot 49 people and injured 53 in what is being called the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. The shooting took place at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando.
A majority of those killed were Latino because of the theme night at the club Sunday that featured salsa and bachata music catering to Orlando’s Dominican and Puerto Rican gay community.
New York-based gay actor and comedian Chris Reed lived in Orlando for 25 years and said that although Florida has a large gay scene, the Black gay community is small in Orlando. He lost a friend on the night of the shooting at Pulse.
“People are just shocked and horrified,” he said. “It’s just been a real sad experience and kind of surreal. Now is not the time to hide and let people know we are not going anywhere. Now is the time to stand up as opposed to hiding.”
Trichia Duncan, president of Orlando Black Pride, said that Pulse is one of the few gay nightclubs in Orlando and even has a Black night where hip-hop music is played. She said she’s still in shock over what happened.
“The first word that comes to mind is speechless,” she said. “I’m still kind of in a daze that we are even discussing this as a terrorist attack. Even though Orlando is a midsized major city, our community is very tiny. We only have three to five clubs and bars. There are few places where we can feel comfortable and be ourselves.”
Gay clubs in Orlando, including Pulse, often have hip-hop nights that bring out Black gay people, mostly between the ages of 18 to 24.
Just a week before the mass shooting at Pulse, OBP held its annual event that took place over six days that brings out Orlando’s Black LGBT residents, as well as those from other areas.
Duncan said OBP is helping out by spreading the word about happenings in Orlando and helping people find loved ones. The organization is also planning to donate.
Tony Brown of New Jersey is the cofounder of Big Boy Pride. The social organization caters to Black gay men of size and hosts an annual event at Orlando’s LGBT Parliament House Resort. He said the shooting has not deterred him from having the event but plans to beef up security in the future.
“The reality is it can happen anywhere, but you never think it’s going to happen so close to home,” he said. “We will have a strong presence of security at Big Boy Pride. Because of what has happened in Orlando, we will have beefed up security at next year’s event.