Imam Yama Niazi, from the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara speaks, to those gathered at De la Guerra Plaza
Paul Wellman

In the wake of yet another mass shooting, more than 100 Santa Barbarans gathered Sunday in a show of solidarity for the victims of the Pulse nightclub murders. Mayor Helene Schneider spoke to the crowd, as well as Executive Director of Pacific Pride Colette Schabram; Imam Yama Niazi, religious director at the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara; and Christina Pizarro with the Coalition Against Gun Violence. “We are resisting a reaction of fear, instead coming together as a community to loudly proclaim that we will not let hate win,” said Schabram. “We are here tonight because prejudice and discrimination are not past-tense realities for the LGBTQ community.”

On Monday, Independent Assistant Editor Richie DeMaria wrote this commentary in reaction to the Orlando tragedy:

I am an individual blessed with a spirit that is both masculine and feminine, and I am attracted to men and women both. I’ve always been this way. I’m wearing pink tights and a skirt to work today and am proud to exist the way I am.

People like me have been murdered, exiled, prohibited, judged, and hated for thousands of years by our fellow human beings, with whom we are equal. There are countries in the world today where we are still considered illegal. This is nothing new. It has always been this way, in one shape or other, to us and to other people who have been needlessly enslaved, belittled, and invalidated for the supposed crime of being themselves, for bearing qualities over which they had no control.

To whoever belongs to a community that has been the historical recipient of others’ anger or misperception, who has been hated or harmed for the beautiful qualities they are born with or the beliefs they hold ​— ​do not be afraid. You are never alone. There are millions of us, and millions more who support us. We are here to lift each other up. Because we exist. We are a beautiful part of nature’s garden, more divine than any frightened idiot’s limited conception of a god, and more powerful.

The LGBTQ+ community has always been a living example and necessary proof that love can survive and endure under any prejudice, duress, oppression, or legal system. So be the light, be the rainbow, be the smiling spectrum for the world to see. In times of darkness, we should not be merely sad; we should feel grateful and blessed that we who are living can be beacons, to say to all oppressors that no matter how many times you kill us, no matter how many times you claim us illegal or nonexistent, we are a part of the universe and a beautiful aspect of the world. We exist, you fuckers, always have, and always will.


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