Groups form in the wake of Pulse to better explain, correct our problem with mass violence

By : Billy Manes
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There have been numerous efforts to make sense – and sociological advancement – following the attack at Pulse Orlando on June 12.

Look around you. There are murals everywhere, scenes of righteous indignations, ribbon-makers delivering rainbows to celebrities, candlelight tributes, attempts to curb the seeming necessity to take those out with whom you do not agree. Orlando is America’s tipping point on both the LGBTQ and gun-violence fronts, and many of those who are most affected are seeking change to make things better. You can say “intersectionality” in terms of protest all you want, but here, now, it is manifest. These are but a few of the bright spots to come from that dark night. Orlando is coming together; you can help.

One Orlando Alliance

In the wake of the June 12 tragedy, numerous organizations sought means of cooperation in moving toward the greater good. Starting as the LGBTQ+ Alliance – later shortened to just “The Alliance” – the group bridged service organizations in a manner the local LGBTQ community had yet to see.

“The One Orlando Alliance was created, over a nine-plus month process-driven strategy, out of a fundamental need to strengthen our community and those organizations who serve the LGBTQ+ population here in Central Florida. The formation process has been deliberate, inclusive, and mindful of the strengths and weaknesses in our community, with an emphasis on capacity building and bridging gaps to those not yet represented or served,” the group – to which Watermark is a member – says on its website.

“The beauty of this collaboration is that our LGBTQ+ community service organizations are communicating and collaborating at unprecedented levels,” it continues. “All the while, each individual organization continues to provide their respective programs/services while ‘staying in their lanes’ with the assurance that they could call upon fellow Alliance members, as needed. We’re also, collectively, addressing and bridging gaps in other aspects of the Central Florida community that are necessary if we are to truly thrive as a community.”


Born of a necessity none of us were predicting, but likewise out of necessity considering that Central Florida is clearly the melting pot that much of the nation purports to be, the group QLatinX speaks bluntly toward the issues of the LGBTQ community and the strong presence of Latino and Latina individuals living within it.

“We honor the memory of the 49, nearly half were of Puerto Rican descent; while many more were Cuban, Dominican, Ecuadorian, Mexican, Salvadoran, Venezuelan, Afro-Latinx, and from other Latinx communities,“ the group’s website reads. “Some were Black. Some were undocumented. Over half were under the age of 30, the youngest victims having just turned 18 years old.”

Proyecto Somos Orlando ( has regularly partnered with the group in order to raise the impact of the Hispanic community – and its visual presence – via the Hispanic Federation. Given that the incident at Pulse was at a Latin Night, Somos and QLatinX were equally quick to push for recognition of generally ignored population: LGBTQ people of color.

The Contigo Fund

The Contigo Fund – “contigo” is interpreted as “with you” in English – is another outgrowth of the Pulse massacre, one that, according to its founder is quintessential to moving forward.

“We believe supporting efforts of those working to uplift the most marginalized and oppressed brings our full community closer to justice and liberation,” said Marco Antonio Quiroga, program director for the Contigo Fund, which focuses on the LGBT and Latino communities most impacted by the massacre, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “We are creating a sanctuary where all are safe, welcomed and affirmed. These organizations demonstrate resilience and a relentless drive for justice.”

Among those receiving assistance from a $1.4 million savings, according to a Sentinel story in March, are: the Equality Florida Institute; Freedom Ride; the Holocaust Museum Resource & Education Center of Florida; the CommUnity Hope Center in Apopka; the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity; Proyecto Somos Orlando; QLatinx; Two Spirit Health Services; and the Zebra Coalition.

“No matter the color of their skin, the language they speak, the faith they practice, or the person they love,” founder Marco Antonio Quiroga told Watermark last year. “The Contigo Fund is committed to supporting the resilience of those living at the intersection of these marginalized identities and building on their power. And I believe we will win because we are on the right side of history,”

The Dru Project

Christopher Andrew Leinonen and his partner Juan Lemon Guerrero were among the 49 who lost their lives on June 12. Mother Christine Leinonen became the face of the tragedy in many ways – from the moment we saw her hope on television that her son was alive to that in which her composure was deflated for the world to watch as news of her son’s death became public.

But Christine Leionen has been no shrinking violet in this process, vowing instead to fight for the dignity of her son and for the rights of people to be protected from gun violence.

“The Dru Project is an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization on a mission to spread love across the nation and promote gay straight alliances,” the Dru Project website reads. Christopher was only 32. “We are doing this by creating a curriculum for high school [Gay-Straight Alliances] to use, should they wish to adopt our program. We are also offering scholarships to students who truly exemplify Drew’s spirit for inclusion and unity.

The initial scholarship will be awarded this summer.

Pride Fund to End Gun Violence

D.C. resident Jason Lindsay was repulsed enough by what happened on June 12 to launch a political action committee to take on the gun lobby that allows free use of weapons in many public places and continues to fight to allow guns in more locales. Pride Fund’s focus is on governmental change – unlike those of more organizer-driven groups like Gays Against Guns – endorsing and donating to candidates who make who intend to alter the nation’s bloodlust.

“The LGBTQ community suffers more hate crimes than any other protected group, which makes our voice critical in the fight to disarm hate,” the Pride Fund website reads. “When a hate-filled individual can easily purchase a weapon of war without a background check, we are not safe. In order to disarm hate, Pride Fund is building on our community’s battle-after-battle wins for equality and turning our focus on the gun lobby by supporting candidates who are not afraid to reform our gun laws. Pride Fund is turning the frustration and anger of our community into action by focusing on achieving sensible gun reforms to make America safer for all.”

Pulse of Orlando

In the immediate aftermath of the Pulse tragedy, concerned citizens grappled with concerns about where money would make the most difference – there were people dying – and how they could change the culture that produced the worst gun massacre on American soil in modern times. Pulse of Orlando – which now distributes its donations from and (after giving out $325,000 in its infancy) was the first to the scene, the first to make it known that Orlando would not suffer hate lightly. Though the organization has now moved its duties to ancillary orgs, Pulse of Orlando was there when the city needed it most.

Its mission was “to recover” and “to rebuild.” Both of which seem to be on track as we move past the one-year anniversary.

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