Many people greeted each other with hugs. They held one another for extended periods and didn’t let go until they received words of comfort. Linn Park in downtown Birmingham filled on Monday with hundreds of people and dozens of rainbow colored flags, the symbol of the LGBTQ community. One flag hung in the front of Birmingham City Hall. People walked quietly towards the Jefferson County Courthouse where another 11 rainbow flags flapped above the Steel City Men’s Chorus as they sang in memoriam to the 49 people killed in Orlando.
Birmingham held one of the hundreds of vigils around the world for the victims killed June 11 at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando. Alex Smith of Equality Alabama and AIDS Alabama read the names and ages of the victims in Orlando. A few people cried when he listed the number of unnamed victims.
Smith also spoke briefly on the victim in Birmingham, Dennis Stimpson, who was killed by his boyfriend over the weekend.
“Here in Birmingham we had a man who was beaten to death,” Smith said. “He was a beloved teacher. This man was shaping Birmingham’s youth for over 25 years,” “All of the victims must never be forgotten,” Smith said.
“We must continue to say their names each and every day if that’s what it takes,” he said. Smith said he hopes more comes from the tragedy than just thoughts and prayers. “We appreciate those thoughts and prayers [from the politicians], but it can’t stop there, we need action.” Smith said.
Gina Mallisham, LGBTQ Outreach Coordinator for the Sidewalk/SHOUT Film Festival, said violence against the gay community has started a conversation that should have happened a long time ago. “I feel like the conversation finally made its way to (gay) rights, and now it has made its way to protection for us,” Mallisham said. “It just moved the conversation to something a lot more serious.”
Mallisham said she is now hearing from family that she had never spoken to. The shooting happened shortly before the Pride Fest Celebration at Sloss Furnace. “I was in the middle of setting up for the Pride Fest at Sloss Furnace when I started getting messages from relatives that no longer really talk to me telling me how much they love me and wanted me to take care of myself,” she said.