Gay, straight, young, old, Latino and non-Latino voices lifted up together to sing Holly Near’s “We are a gentle, angry people” at a candlelight vigil for the Orlando massacre victims on June 15. The crowd, which included people from all walks of life, filled the plaza beneath Weber State University’s bell tower to listen to messages of hope, love and courage.
WSU President Charles Wight opened the vigil with a call for people to not only use love to show sympathy but to also combat fear with love — a message that resonated with many speakers and audience members throughout the night.
“At moments like this — moments of sadness, moments of pain, moments of sorrow — we often find ourselves at a complete loss for words,” Wight said. “After this ceremony is over, we must all find our words again. We must find our words to express support for the friends and families of those who perished. We must find words of love and compassion for our friends and allies in the LGBT community. We must find the words to fight hate and prejudice and oppression and violence.”
Although bullets tore through Pulse, a popular gay nightclub on the other side of the country, the impact of the crime hit close to home for members of the Ogden Latino and LGBTQ communities.
Steven Sanchez, Weber State University student, addressed the discrimination queer Latinos face, including the Orlando victims who were part of that community.
“We’re not just mourning these people who left us last Sunday. We’re mourning those who exhibited the courage to love and express themselves and come to die because of it,” Sanchez said.
Once more, audience members were encouraged to lift up their voices to replace fear with love. Among those who spoke were a few leaders of different faiths.
“I was afraid, but now I am not,” Pastor Gage Church of the Congregational United Church of Christ in Ogden said. “I encourage you to go forth and be brave, to fear not, to face the gun culture, the homophobic culture, the anti-Muslim culture, to hold your heads high, to speak your truth, to fight for change and to dance like those souls at the Pulse gay club in Orlando. Dance and party and love the person you love with pride, with all your heart, with courage.”
Once the assigned speakers finished, the microphone was open for anyone who wished to address the congregation. A steady stream of people went up on stage and shared their personal stories and thoughts, invoking applause, laughter and tears from fellow attendees.
As the night drew to a close, the audience moved toward the stage, held up their candles and lifted their voices in unity once more to drown out fear with love.
“Our greatest strength is in each other,” Kestin Page, one of the organizers of the event and president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, said. “When we can come together and support each other, we can overcome almost any adversity. We lost 49 people Sunday night, and it was horrible. But from those deaths, so much love has flowered.”