Reimagining a Public Pulse Memorial
Last month's pride events silenced the MANY voices critical of the OnePulse Foundation, the future of the Pulse Nightclub, and the building of a new memorial/museum. What we heard instead was about the thousands of people who celebrated Gay Days at Disney, the news outlets that descended upon Pulse's annual remembrance ceremony, and the voices of local "progressive" politicians who clamored for more money for the nonprofit by declaring the Pulse Nightclub (which remains a private property) a National Memorial Site. I wrote this brief Op-Ed for the Orlando Sentinel in an effort to bring to the surface the critical discourse that is happening among survivors, victim's families, and LGBTQ+ residents—and to (hopefully) spur some action.
Following the shooting, the owner of the Pulse Nightclub started the OnePulse Foundation to turn the nightclub into a memorial and museum. Last year, commissioners approved $10 million of taxpayer dollars for the OnePulse Foundation to be taken from hotel/tourism taxes for the project. Tourism, of course, forms the basis of the economy of Orlando—and Florida at-large—which the proposed museum will inevitably contribute to. Since then, more and more money has been raised/donated to the nonprofit (some notable donors include the Walt Disney Corporation, Lance Bass, etc.). Not to fault individual donors. Many people rushed to do something (anything) in response to the shooting and the city has entrusted the OnePulse Foundation to transform the site into a memorial that represents the desires of the LGBTQ+/Latinx community, Pulse survivors, and victim's families. So if you've wanted to give anything, this organization has been propped up as the one to donate to (after all, they own the property itself, which remains private property). Smaller non-profits that helped assist with the distribution of funds have stopped their work to make room for the OnePulse Foundation to be the central organization.
However, the making of a macabre museum and the appearance (at best) of profiting off of the shooting has justifiably pissed people off. Just in the past few days, the OnePulse Foundation set up a kiosk on-site ---- not far away from a donation stand --- where you can buy Pulse t-shirts (in addition to their online storefront). They also proposed a gift shop as part of the future attraction.
Had I written for a more academic audience (I am in the process of doing just that), I would have talked about the role of the non-profit-industrial-complex in the larger social-political-economy; a new business-to-nonprofit pipeline made possible by anti-gay violence; neoliberalism and mourning; gore tourism; the aesthetics and discourse of Orlando's new, post-Pulse urban politics; and an active, largely silenced resistance. Until then... let’s get people talking, thinking, and doing differently.
Below is a visual timeline of the transformation of the Pulse Memorial from 2016 to 2019: