Check out the photo gallery for more photos from the June 14 vigil. Joyce Elliott gave a powerful talk, and we have included her remarks here:
Remarks at Saratoga Pride Vigil to Remember Orlando
Joyce E. Elliott, Ph.D.
July 14, 2016
My name is Joyce Elliott. I am a member of Saratoga Pride, a former academic administrator and mentor at Empire State College, and Chair of the Board of Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson.
Thank you all so much for being here this evening.
In the face of the unspeakable, we must gently hold and comfort one another. We must grieve. We must join together. We must sit alone in stillness. We must tear our clothes and wail out loud.
In the face of the unspeakable, we must speak. We must bear witness to our anguish and our anger, to our despair and our strength and our determination.
The poet Audre Lorde wrote:
…when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
And when we speak, we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive
A Litany for survival, The Black Unicorn, 1978
In such a time as this, we must turn toward and embrace all those who, too, have survived the unspeakable. We must claim our common humanity and solidarity with the Orlando LGBTQ community and with our black, Latina, Asian, Muslim, poor, undocumented, sex-trafficked, homeless, war-ravaged, displaced, fierce sisters and brothers. We must stand with the black people of Flint, Michigan and the white people of Hoosick Falls, New York.
We must call out the hypocrisy of those who offer thoughts and prayers today and hatred yesterday.
We must call out those who say “How could this happen, I just can’t believe this has happened.” The people who say this every single time, as if each time this happens it is something new. We must say to that: “Believe it. Of course this has happened. This is not new. It has happened before and it will happen again.” We must wake up and name our histories and the systems and cultural values that hurt us.
We must call out those who have been bought by the NRA and those who refuse to support reasonable gun control and safety laws.
In the face of the unspeakable, we must act. We must fight for the lives and wellbeing of our youth.
We must finally act on gun control and safety:§ By requiring training and licensing for all gun owners, as we do for car owners.
§ By requiring all gun owners to carry insurance against what are called “accidents,” as we do for car owners.
§ By holding gun owners accountable for negligence.
§ By banning the manufacture, sale and ownership of all assault weapons.
§ By requiring child safety devices on all guns.
§ By making the fact-based connections that mean we must ban gun ownership by those who commit animal abuse and domestic violence – the most home-grown of all “domestic terrorists.”
In the face of the unspeakable, we must act to prevent the unthinkable. We must act to ensure that a blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, climate-change-denying, fascist hater does not become the leader of this country. We must ensure that the Supreme Court of the United States can see the vulnerable among us and protect our rights and our lives. We must change the composition of the U.S. Senate. And we must stop the state-by-state dismantling of LGBTQ rights and women’s constitutional right to reproductive health care.
The poet Adrienne Rich wrote:
What would it mean to live
In a city whose people were changing
each other’s despair into hope? –
You yourself must change it. –
What would it feel like to know
your country was changing? –
You yourself must change it. –
Though your life felt arduous
new and unmapped and strange
what would it mean to stand on the first
page of the end of despair?
Dreams before Waking, Your Native Land, Your Life, 1986
Together – the LGBTQ community, our families and friends and allies – we must own our grief, speak out loud, and act – in ferocious and loving pride.
In ferocious and loving pride.