(June 14, 2016)—My nephew and his girlfriend were visiting Saturday, so my husband, Roger, and I joined them for a rare late night on the town. We took in a 10 o’clock show at a Los Angeles comedy club. Rog and I were the oldest folks in the place by far, but the energy was great — “We should go out more!” I thought to myself. On the streets, the city was abuzz, rainbow flags were flying and celebrations were underway for Sunday’s Pride parade. I made it home well past my bedtime, but aglow from a fun night out with loved ones.
Then, like millions of other Americans, I woke up Sunday to the horrific news that gun violence had again destroyed innocent lives and shattered a community’s sense of safety. Just as I was enjoying my Saturday night out, a mass shooting — the largest in modern U.S. history — was taking place in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub, where members of the LGBTQ and Latino communities were enjoying a night out. I couldn’t help but recall how I felt less than a year ago when nine people who had gathered for a Wednesday night Bible study at an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, were gunned down. At moments like these, saying #Enough! just doesn’t feel like enough.
The California Wellness Foundation has long worked to prevent gun violence and promote safety as a critical factor in the health and wellness of communities — especially for underserved populations such as people of color and members of the LGBTQ community — who are too often marginalized and disproportionately victimized by violence. This work is personal to me and my colleagues. Many of us come from these communities we serve.
I know many of you — our partners, our grantees and those of you who follow our work — share this commitment to the health and safety of all Californians and all people. We encourage you to raise your voice and take action. Help build the groundswell of support that will stop the spread of gun violence and honor the lives lost in Orlando.
Here are three things you can do:
- Get smart. Learn the facts and spread the word in your social networks and in your conversations to let people know what gun violence is doing to our country. For example, people in the LGBTQ community, especially people of color, experience more violence than other Americans. And in one night, the Orlando shooting more than doubled the number of hate-violence homicides ever recorded in a single year in the U.S.
- Get involved. Volunteer, make a donation, raise your voice online — whatever you do, don’t let this moment pass without taking some kind of productive action. Whether you’re straight or gay, a responsible gun owner or an anti-gun advocate, raise your voice against senseless violence and engage to help keep our communities safe. If you’re looking for ways you can make a difference, consider supporting organizations like The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence or the Transgender Law Center. Funders for LGBTQ Issues has also put together a collection of links for those who want to help.
- Take care. The trauma we experience around events like the Orlando shooting is real. Even as we focus our attention and support on those most severely impacted — the victims at the Pulse nightclub and their families — we also need to take care of ourselves and those around us. I know from personal experience how the trauma of gun violence can have lasting impact on our sense of safety and well-being. If you feel as though your own emotional or psychological health is suffering, reach out and connect with someone. Access resources at school, at work or your place of worship. And pay attention to those around you who may be suffering and encourage them to seek help.
Losses like we experienced Sunday make us feel vulnerable. But we are not alone in our grief and our outrage, and we all can take action to make a positive difference. Our hearts go out to the victims in Orlando and their families. Let’s stand up for them and for ourselves to say #Enough! Let’s continue to work together to stop gun violence.