On June 12th, 2016, America witnessed one of the deadliest hate crimes and mass shootings in it's history. A total of 49 lives were cut short that evening in Orlando, leaving LGBT+ communities across the nation shaken and heartbroken.
In the wake of this violence, Catland heard the call of the community to create to safe space. On the evening of June 13th, we invited our LGBTQ+ family to gather with us to honor & elevate our fallen family, and to stand in solidarity against a culture of violence and oppression. Together, participants erected an altar to both honor the lost lives of the Orlando victims, and to generate a strength of community to help pull us all out of this tragedy.
This altar stood for one full week at Catland, existing as a symbol of solidarity and courage. It stood fast as New York City and the nation rattled with Pride celebrations, protests from Stonewall to Times Square, and the murmer of 49 names being read over and over again. It saved a sacred place for those caught in the midst of all this churning turmoil.
On Wednesday, June 22nd, members of the community gathered around this altar for the last time. Participants spent the evening chanting and praying along with Andy Eye, Dakota Hendrix, and Catland Co-Owner Fred Jennings as ancestors were elevated, the dead were honored, and love and healing were offered in abundance.
The ritual invited participants of all faiths, practices, and background to "gather for ritual and solidarity, for mutual care and grieving, for queer worship and magic... [to] gather to pray in our various ways for our family members whose lives have been cut short by hate and bigotry, by queerphobia, transmisogyny, white supremacy, and islamophobia, and specifically to offer our love, honor, and healing to our fallen family in Orlando."
As Sarah Lyons, one of the participants in the event, says, "the past week has been so filled with it's anger, and mourning, and discussion, and all of that is good, but it leaves very little room for the spiritual. It felt good to feed that part of ourselves together." She went on to say, of elevating the spirits of the victims in Orlando, "In rituals like these, there is a real sense that we take on that duty to be stewards to the dead, and give them the comfort that they need."
After the ritual, a bonfire and safe space was held at Catland until the early hours of the morning. With gratitude, love, and renewed strength, participants emerged back onto the streets of Brooklyn, empowered to call forth a future of peace for our LGBTQ+ family across America, and across the globe.
Hail, fem(me)s, giants in your heels, offering us your shoulders,
Hail, queens, embodiment of every goddess throughout the ages,
Mothers like willow trees, Grandmothers with jewels between their lips,
and hail to the Maidens, uncountable crowns of them, fingers interlaced,
as beatiful as a flame - hail to your pain and your preached throats
and hail to the way you laughed.
ail to the bois and the boys and the butches and the brothers and the
strength we may find in holding and bearing up.
Loves, the world is dry and desirous of tearing us up.
It wants to drain us and then drag
until the muscles that hold our arms around you part like brittle leaves and
your lips on our foreheads become no more than a whisper. It wants
to crush our power and I swear to you-
for you, family, we will resist.
For you, mothers and sisters, we will smash the dams and let the water swallow the barriers between us.
or you, fathers and brothers, we will make our arms strong enough to hold tight.
or you, parents and siblings and beloveds, we will build something new -
a world that would not have killed you.
A world that may not kill us. A world that will not kill our children. With one hand in yours
and one hand in theirs, shoulder to shoulder, sideways through time,
we stand with you. We honor you.
We honor your fear and your joy-
We honor the moments when you knew so truly that it bled
that this rusty world was not made for any of us.
Hail to the palms of your hands and the futures you imagined.
Hail to your fists and your teeth and your open eyes in the mirror.
Hail to the Mother of All, who gathers her aching children into the circle of her arms
and offers them water, warmth, and rest."