This evening I attended the We Are Orlando Vigil at the Affirmations community center in Ferndale. I'm delighted to say I rode with my pastor and his family. He called me yesterday and said he was going and invited me to join him. Yes, Pastor Jeff is cool!
Along the way he commented that 800 people had responded with an RSVP on the Affirmations Facebook page. And then there were people like me who didn't respond. With that number I figured the street would be closed and we would be outside. But Pastor Jeff said the announcement was for indoors. As we entered the center 45 minutes early I saw the sign that said maximum occupancy is 325. One woman at the door handed out programs and another clicked her counter. Not all 800 people were going to get inside.
That was true. I could see the back door was open and people singing and applauding at different times than us inside. I heard later there were perhaps 200 out there and the held their own program.
I didn't take notes while various people spoke, so I'll mostly just list them. It was a wonderfully diverse roster.
Susan Erspamer, Executive Director of Affirmations
Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow, Senior Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit (which is located in Ferndale)
Deacon Angela Marie Lippard, Christ the Good Shepherd (alternative Catholic), Ferndale
Detroit Together Men's Chorus
Reflections from Religious Leaders
Dr. Yahya Basha, Beaumont Health System
Rabbi Jeffrey Falick, Congregation for Humanistic Judaism. He had quite the barn-burner speech. Go ahead and pray, but prayer alone is not going to fix this.
Nour E. Sulaiman from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Michigan. She strongly condemned violence done in the name of Islam. She added we proudly stand with you. We also understand discrimination, especially those who are both LGBT and Arab.
Reflections from Community Leaders
Stephanie White, Executive Director of Equality Michigan. Yes, we are equal citizens. The rhetoric claiming we are not contributed to this attack. It is shameful that Michigan law does not yet treat us as equal citizens.
Jay Kaplan, LGBT Legal Project Attorney for ACLU Michigan
Lilianna Angel Reyes, Youth Program Manager, Affirmations. She is transgender. She spoke about the importance of community and how we are forming community at Affirmations and other places.
Rev. Juan Garcia, Saints Teresa and John Episcopal Church (translated from Spanish)
Rev. Stringfellow had some closing words, which included reading the names of those who had died. Then the chorus sang again.
I was directly in front of the podium (and as time passed more people squeezed between me and it), but I could not see the length of the room. I took only 3 pictures and this is the best of them. The woman facing me served as ASL translator. The banner behind her said "We are Orlando."