10 Alternatives to an On-Site Pulse Memorial and Museum
There is not universal support behind the OnePulse Foundation or its plan to build a memorial and museum on the site of one of the largest mass shootings in America. Recently, new information has been made public about the amount of money being raised by the non-profit, how that money is being spent, and how that money will be spent in the future—raising more eyebrows about what is going on with Pulse. I do not suggest that a universal consensus about how to best spend donated funds is necessary or even achievable. However, now that three years have passed since the shooting and we have access to this new information, it is perhaps time to reevaluate the plan and reconsider what is to be done with the millions of dollars raised for victims, survivors, and the LGBTQ+ community.
If a goal is to create a local LGBTQ+ museum, let’s not start from scratch. Instead, let’s make significant investments in the LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida—a not-for-profit organization that is run completely by committed volunteers and that began in 2005. This organization has a proven track record of researching, archiving, digitizing, and exhibiting local queer histories.
Also, let’s invest more in the Orange County Regional History Center’s efforts to archive materials collected from memorials throughout the city, and the staff who are committed to this endeavor. They already have 10,000 items, an exhibit, and are working on ways to help cultural institutions in other cities respond to traumatic events.
If a goal is to educate, let’s invest in creating an open-source LGBTQ+ K-12 curriculum and then let’s invest in organizing to make this curriculum mandatory for all Florida public schools. There has already been a public discussion about the need to update Florida’s sex education classes. Meanwhile, states like Colorado, New Jersey, and California have already mandated the recognition of the contributions of LGBTQ people in history and social studies curricula. Let’s aim to educate all children, not just those who visit Orlando.
Furthermore, let’s invest in efforts to educate the public-at-large about issues affecting local LGBTQ+ people, including sponsoring guided reading groups at local libraries, workshops, a speaker series, conferences, and digital talks given by local leaders. Scholarships are great, but we can also do more to make educational opportunities accessible to everyone using our already existing, free public institutions.
If a goal is to provide support to survivors, let’s invest more money into the Orlando United Assistance Center, which has been one of the main organizations to provide a wide range of services to shooting survivors. Their services have not been limited to mental-health counseling, but have also included personalized case management, legal services, and emergency basic needs, such as housing, food, and utilities. Their federal grant money is due to run out in a couple of months, but survivors and first responders still need help, even with paying for ongoing medical costs. Let’s secure decades of expansive care for survivors using an organization that has been dedicated to the task since the days following the shooting.
If a goal is to memorialize the victims of the shooting, let’s invest in the revitalization of an existing public park or buy private land to create a new one. Family members of some victims, survivors, and Orlando residents have suggested a park with a reflection pond that provides a quiet place to mourn and remember, along with a “dignified” memorial that consists of a marker that lists the names of those killed. No one said a memorial has to be on-site, and as it remains to be private property—this may not even be the best option.
If a goal is to honor those killed by helping future generations of LGBTQ people, particularly from Latinx, Black, Muslim, and immigrant communities, let’s invest more money into supporting grassroots organizing and youth empowerment within these specific populations. Organizations like the Contigo Fund, Proyecto Somos Orlando, the Zebra Coalition, and The Center.
If a goal is to celebrate the lives of those lost through art, let’s commission local queer artists to create a sculpture dedicated to Pulse victims, families, survivors, and first responders that can be publicly housed at Lake Eola park alongside existing art, like the bronze busts of revolutionaries that can be found in the International Plaza. A sculpture could even be crafted using the guns surrendered by former gun owners as a medium—showing the willingness and personal sacrifice necessary to fight gun violence, while simultaneously reducing the number of privately-owned firearms.
If a goal is to showcase Orlando’s solidarity, let’s fund local artists to paint more murals and create an expansive network of public art that will brighten up the city with even more messages of remembrance, activism, togetherness, and compassion.
If a goal is to show our collective strength, let’s tear down Pulse Nightclub and build a bigger and better dance hall. Many messages left at the nightclub in the wake of the shooting were calls to “Keep Dancing” and this would honor those calls for resiliency. Other institutions that have suffered from mass shootings, like Sandy Hook Elementary, have followed the path to raze and rebuild. If Pulse wants to function as a community institution that cares about its employees and does not want to appear to capitalize off of the trauma of the shooting, then let’s re-open the nightclub as a worker-owned business that can serve as a model for future gay bars and businesses across the country. That way, the memory of Pulse not only stays intact, but its purpose is expanded as it gains the potential to revolutionize gay culture in America.