Au­gusta church joins 49 Bells project

GA Voice - - Front Page -

At­lanta, like cities across the world, was deeply af­fected by last June’s shoot­ing at Or­lando LGBT night­club Pulse that left 49 dead. Many in the com­mu­nity gath­ered at vig­ils across the city, first in the Ans­ley Square park­ing lot and the in­ter­sec­tion of 10th and Pied­mont the day of the shoot­ing, and later at vig­ils at the Cen­ter for Civil and Hu­man Rights and Ebenezer Bap­tist Church.

The city will come to­gether again as the first an­niver­sary of the June 12 shoot­ing rolls around, and a num­ber of dif­fer­ent events will take place.

First up on Satur­day, June 10 is an art show and fundraiser put on by lo­cal Lat­inx art col­lec­tive So­mos Sur at Eye­drum Art & Mu­sic Gallery in Down­town At­lanta. The ground­work for the event was laid soon af­ter the shoot­ing, when event or­ga­niz­ers and At­lanta res­i­dents Josephine Figueroa and her cousin Ken­neth started hav­ing more con­ver­sa­tions about cre­at­ing safe spa­ces for Lat­inx and queer peo­ple.

“I feel like when ev­ery­thing was com­ing out and peo­ple were talk­ing about [the shoot­ing], a lot of peo­ple were fail­ing to men­tion that this was an at­tack on the queer Lat­inx com­mu­nity,” Figueroa told Ge­or­gia Voice. “For it to be so close to home – queer and Lat­inx – that’s re­ally in­tense.”

They knew the an­niver­sary was com­ing, and with it would come vig­ils, but that’s not how they wanted to ap­proach the com­mem­o­ra­tion.

“Per­son­ally, I feel like when it comes to marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties, we’re looked at in a sort of pity­ing way, and I didn’t want this fundraiser to be a vigil with mourn­ing, but rather a cel­e­bra­tion of the com­mu­nity that has been built in honor of the lives lost, be­cause to me the only way to have a flour­ish­ing com­mu­nity is with love,” Figueroa said.

So, the event will in­clude read­ings and a show­case of art by sev­eral lo­cal LGBT Lat­inx artists, plus mu­sic from queer At­lanta Lat­inx-led band Bit­ter and DJ Esme. The event is free, but a $5 do­na­tion is sug­gested, with pro­ceeds go­ing to queer lib­er­a­tion group South­ern­ers On New Ground.

The fes­tiv­i­ties shift to East At­lanta gay bar Mary’s for an af­ter-party and fundraiser for Pos­i­tive Im­pact Health Cen­ters.

‘It could have been any of us’

The enor­mity and sig­nif­i­cance of the Pulse shoot­ing was not lost on Beth Larocca-Pitts, pas­tor at Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Mid­town At­lanta.

“I think this is one of those things that will con­tinue to res­onate for a long time. The fact that the largest mass shoot­ing in Amer­ica hap­pened at a gay night­club, it hap­pened in a com­mu­nity in Or­lando that had found safety and com­mu­nity there,” she told Ge­or­gia Voice.

So when civic re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tion Faith In Pub­lic Life and anti-gun vi­o­lence faith group Out­cry Ge­or­gia ap­proached her about hold­ing a vigil at Saint Mark on the an­niver­sary, she was quickly on board.

“It just seems re­ally close to home for a lot of our con­gre­ga­tion,” she said. “It’s one of those things that makes you stop and think that it was Or­lando, but it could have been any of us.”

Along with Larocca-Pitts, speak­ers in­clude Rev. Clau­dia Aguilar Rubal­cava of Vir­ginia-High­land Church, Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Con­gre­ga­tion Bet Haverim and Rev. Caro­line Magee of St Bede’s Epis­co­pal Church. A bell will also be rung 49 times for each of the vic­tims of the shoot­ing. Pulse Memo­rial & Prayer Vigil Mon­day, June 12 at 12 p.m. Saint Mark United Methodist Church­­mas­sacre-memo­rial-ga

In a sim­i­lar vein, the One Or­lando Al­liance, a coali­tion of LGBT or­ga­ni­za­tions in Cen­tral Florida, is ask­ing con­gre­ga­tions and re­li­gious lead­ers around the world – in­clud­ing Pope Fran­cis – to take part in the 49 Bells com­mem­o­ra­tion. All par­tic­i­pat­ing churches will ring their bells 49 times at noon on the an­niver­sary of the shoot­ing. Faith com­mu­ni­ties that wor­ship in a build­ing with­out a bell can par­tic­i­pate in the project by post­ing the num­ber 49 on their out­door sig­nage.

“Bells are sa­cred. We toll them for death and we ring them for cel­e­bra­tion,” said Maria Wright, mother of Pulse vic­tim Jerry Wright, in a press re­lease. “Many faith tra­di­tions use bells as they re­sound within our in­ner­most be­ing.”

Mayra Alvear, mother of Pulse vic­tim Amanda Alvear, added, “As par­ents, we don’t want our chil­dren to be for­got­ten, and most im­por­tantly, we would love the sup­port of spread­ing love, not hate, as a mes­sage for hu­mankind.”

The One Or­lando Al­liance said only one church from Ge­or­gia has signed up for the 49 Bells com­mem­o­ra­tion – Uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ist Church of Au­gusta. Con­gre­ga­tions wish­ing to join can go to­or­lan­doal­ for more in­for­ma­tion.

June 9, 2017

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