KPU students hold vigil for LGBT community

Over 80 students, faculty, gather to pay respects for those lost in Sunday’s nightclub shooting in Orlando.

From left to right: Natasha Lopes, Kimberly McMartin and Lekeyten (Tristan Johnston)

KPU students gathered, Thursday, to pay respects to the 49 dead and 53 injured in at LGBT-friendly nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida.

Pride Kwantlen in association with the Kwantlen Student Association had organized the vigil in the Cedar courtyard, where many students and faculty had gathered in solidarity.

“We remember the terrible things that go on in the world. There is no country that is immune from terrorism,” said Lekeyten, Elder-in-Resident of KPU, in a fifteen minute speech to the crowd. “We’re here for a very short time. What happens in the United States will always affect Canadians. What happens in Canada, will always affect all the countries that surround Canada, and the world.”

“We must learn how to always treat people with a lot of respect. No matter where we go, what country we walk in, what country we hear about, your grandfather’s breath will always be there to bless the day.”

“Let this day never, ever be forgotten,” Lekeyten said as he began smudging, as part of the memorial.

Over 80 students and faculty gathered in the Cedar courtyard to pay their respects (Tristan Johnston)

Kimberly McMartin, board organizer of Kwantlen Public Interest Research Group (KPIRG), gave a brief summary of Sunday’s events, and notified the crowd that peer support, KSA representation and campus security was available for anyone who needed it.

“As June is pride month, in this month, and continuing into every month, and with every year that passes, we must remember Orlando. We must remember all the lives lost,” said Natasha Lopes, VP Student Life with the KSA, to mourners. “This hate crime does not define the LGBT community, or any community. This hate crime will not get us down. Our fire and resilience will not be extinguished. The solidarity shown today across the world proves that hate will never win.”

As the statements came to a close, mourners were offered flowers and candles to lay along the memorial garden as Lopes read aloud the names of all who were killed in Sunday’s attack.

After playing part of “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift, Ryot “R” Jey, Queer Students Representative with the KSA, made a statement regarding the effect the attack was having on Muslims, and KPU.

“Personally, I feel like I kinda forced the university and student association to do this and to be in solidarity with us, because I publicly shamed them on social media for not doing something on their own, and not taking the initiative to be like, ‘hey, we’re here in solidarity with our faculty, staff and student who’re impacted by this.”

While “R” acknowledged that KPU president Alan Davis has walked with KPU students in the Vancouver Pride Parade in 2014 and 2015, “R” said that “as a queer and trans student of colour, when I came to [KPU] you know, it was hard to be here and be out,” he said. “Are you really an ally if I had to go and out you on social media on your poor allyship?”

“R” further elaborated that he had been feeling extensive anxiety after Sunday’s attack, and expressed solidarity with the Muslim community, who are experiencing racism in the wake of the attack.

Mourners take flowers, candles to lay before Cedar memorial (Tristan Johnston)

When asked for comment, The Runner was provided with a statement from Dr. Alan Davis via email:

“We were in communication with faculty, staff and students on Monday and Tuesday regarding an appropriate response to the shootings in Orlando. I salute the KSA and Pride Kwantlen for their initiative in responding to the tragedy and for organizing the vigil. KPU is highly visible in the community in its support of LGBTQ rights and inclusion, and will continue to be so.”

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