hands reaching out to each other in solidarity

A Reflection on the Orlando Tragedy

Members of Teach For America’s staff came together to reflect on the recent mass shooting in Orlando and assess how the intersectionality of the tragedy impacts members across our communities.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016

As we reflect on the horrific act of violence that occurred in Orlando this weekend, our hearts are heavy as we think about the communities and families impacted by this tragedy. The fact that this tragedy occurred during Pride Month, a time for celebration, in what was believed to be a safe and empowering space for LGBTQ communities, only amplifies the need for honest, open conversations about biases, hate, and resiliency.

We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ, Latinx, and other communities of color, who were specifically targeted in this attack. These communities are oftentimes systematically marginalized and denied opportunities and protections that others enjoy. LGBTQ youth, especially LGBTQ youth of color face bias and discrimination; this incident further highlights the need for all of us to embrace and uplift the unique identities of the students, families, and communities we serve. We encourage LGBTQ members of our community to remain resilient in fighting for equity, and we will continue to fight alongside you.

We stand in solidarity with our Orlando and Florida communities, who were shaken to the core by this violence. We’ve seen the support and tenacity of residents of this loving community, who immediately helped victims, donated blood and food, and who have provided continuous support during these toughest of times. Many of us live, work, and play in the great state of Florida. Fear and violence tried to reign in our communities this past weekend, but Floridians are strong, resilient, and unwavering. The hate and violence that took lives from us on Sunday cannot take away the way of life that so many of us work with such deep love and conviction to make a reality. We will not give in to hate, but instead choose to honor those who were killed and wounded by filling our community with love.

We also stand in solidarity with our Muslim community. We must commit to ensuring that this tragedy doesn’t spawn more terrible acts, and to be diligent in guarding against Islamophobia and xenophobia in the aftermath. We cannot allow our society to paint the Muslim community in broad strokes; we’ve seen the outpouring of support and solidarity from the Muslim community, some of whom are also members of the LGBTQ and/or Latinx communities. We must embrace and support our Muslim community by acting in allyship; speaking against hateful and harmful rhetoric.

This post cannot begin to encapsulate the wave of emotions we feel and are processing. We are hurt. Some of us may be sad; others may be angry and confused, but more than anything we mourn for the families, friends, and loved ones impacted by this act of hate.

We still have so much work to do as a country. Each of us has a role to play in making sure that everyone feels love and respect and isn’t afraid to be themselves. We must continue to push for safety, fairness, and dignity for all, across the fabric of our diverse nation. In these tough times, we encourage everyone to be diligent and accountable in proactively checking homophobia, transphobia, and other instances of hate and oppression that are too often ignored. Instead of using this tragic event to further divide our country, we choose to stand in solidarity across diverse communities to embrace differences and to elevate peace and understanding. Together, we can ensure that all members of our community feel the freedom to be open, and that our students face a future without hate.

In support and solidarity,

Lauren Chianese
Executive Director, Teach For America-Orlando

Samantha Hoare
Executive Director, Teach For America-Miami-Dade

Saffiyah Madraswala
Managing Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness Capacity Building

Tim’m West
Senior Managing Director, LGBTQ Community Initiative

Darryl Willie
Executive Director, Teach For America-Jacksonville

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