Italy Study Abroad: Standing Together – #OnePulse

As I started to craft my blog following our trip to southern Italy the news broke regarding the tragic shooting deaths at the gay nightclub on Latin Night in Orlando. It was surreal because we actually ended up knowing the breaking news as it was happening in the early morning hours when most of the U.S. was still asleep.

We had just arrived to Pompei to start our tour when the first news alert came. Of course as the day wore on the news got worse and worse. I waited to tell the students until after our tour in Pompei. The bus was quiet and somber as I shared what we knew. This was all as people on the east coast were likely just getting up for the day and one time that a six hour time difference became frustrating.

I will save my review of Sorrento, Capri, and Pompei for another day, so that I can pay my respects to the lives lost. Words cannot describe the sadness that I, along with many others, am feeling right now. As a member of the LGBTQ community, yesterday’s tragedy in Orlando is a stark reminder that hatred takes many forms and targets those that are marginalized. On Sunday June 12, 2016 that hatred took the form of an extreme act of violence. It is meant to divide and instill fear. We cannot let that happen.

It will be easy to pass judgment regarding this person’s assumed religious beliefs. To draw conclusions because of his name, his background, and his alleged ties to hate organizations. It is important to remember, this is presumed to be one person who made the conscious decision to commit what is now the deadliest shooting attack in U.S. history. Giving him or others power and control, serves no purpose. It does not bring back the lives lost. So, we must be their voice and fight for justice in their names.

Many of you who know me are aware I served for six years on the board of directors for the LGBT Center of Raleigh. It was truly a rewarding and humbling experience to serve the LGBTQ community. The Center is that safe place, the nucleus for the community. This spring I started as a board member for The Lighthouse Project, a local non profit in the Triangle area working to reclaim the Muslim American narrative through awareness, advocacy, service, and education.

When Our Three Winners – Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha –  were murdered a year ago in a senseless act of hatred, it hit home for me. It impacted me in a way I cannot fully describe and I was called to do more in regard to service in support of the Muslim community. As a member of the LGBTQ community I know first hand what it is like to feel marginalized, so it made perfect sense to stand and intentionally fight Islamophobia, along with homophobia and transphobia.

In February of 2015 a person committed a heinous act of hatred targeting three Muslim individuals. Today was an attack targeting the LGBTQ community, but really on all of America and the world over, without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, or religious beliefs. The LGBTQ community was simply the target this time of extreme hatred in a horrific act of violence.

We need to stand together as one pulse, much like the Orlando nightclub, in solidarity during this time of need. Regardless of the cowardly gunman’s assumed religious beliefs or ethnic background, we cannot fall victim to blaming our Muslim brothers and sisters. This needs to be about standing up to senseless acts of hatred and violence that is an affront to all of humanity. On June 12th it was the LGBTQ community at the epicenter, but we all grieve together AND will heal together.


This photo is of our students, many of which could have been in a nightclub dancing and having a good time. It is what humanity and life should be about. The thought of losing people in such a tragic way is hard to wrap your head around, because we all want to know why.  So for me, I take some solace in knowing we will be a stronger community as a result of this tragedy and live on in their memory #PackAbroad #OrlandoStrong.

In peace,


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