Johns Hopkins community grapples with Orlando shootings

LGBTQ Life plans healing session for June 16

A candle in a paper cup at the Baltimore vigil for Orlando

Image caption: Baltimore's candlelight vigil for Orlando

Image credit: Twitter

In response to last weekend's tragedy in Orlando, the LGBTQ community and others at Johns Hopkins have been looking for ways to band together—perhaps not to make sense of the violence, because that could prove impossible, but at least to process it in some way.

Today in the late afternoon, the LGBTQ Life office will host an event it calls a "healing session" at Hopkins Square. There will be conversation, a quiet space, and a variety of craft supplies for making art, according to the Facebook event listing, which invites people to "come join your chosen family in community to do whatever signifies healing for you."

"There's not a lot of things that can be done concretely other than coming together and sharing space," says Demere Woolway, who leads LGBTQ Life at JHU.

One purpose for the art supplies is to create a sign of solidarity that Hopkins community members can carry next month at the Baltimore Pride parade.

Woolway says she's been hearing all week from students and staff, "reaching out to share their sadness and frustration and anger" about the mass-shooting deaths of 49 victims at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando.

On Facebook, she's been inviting people to visit her office if they "need a place to breathe."

The JHU Office of Residential Life has offered the same. "We've opened our office spaces up into being safe space for students to hang out and chat," says director Allison Avolio.

And on Monday evening, students and staff from Hopkins were among the hundreds in Baltimore who took part in a vigil mourning the victims at the Ynot Lot in Station North.

The Residential Life office "helped rally people and bring them down," says Woolway. "That was great to participate among the greater Baltimore community."

Osiris Mancera, a rising Hopkins sophomore who interns with JHU LGBTQ Life, attended the vigil.

"We needed bodies to hug and people to cry with and leaders to hear," Mancera wrote in an email. "There were so many kinds of people, not just from the LGBTQ community. I saw faculty and staff from JHU, the mayor, strangers. I saw children and elderly people, from all walks of life. We were together in this moment of heartbreak."

The mass-shooting at Pulse struck a personal note for Mancera, who grew up in Florida, identifies as queer latinx, and has many queer friends in Orlando. "It was horrifying not knowing what was happening, trying to contact everyone to make sure they were okay," Mancera wrote. "It was hard processing, it still is, because it feels like this community … is constantly hurting and healing from tragedies."

Mancera also interns for FreeState Legal, an advocacy organization that works with Maryland LGBTQ residents and helped coordinate the Baltimore vigil.

On the heels of the massive community event, Woolway says, "We didn't need to plan another a vigil, but we needed time to share thoughts and feelings."

Today's healing session takes place at 3003 N. Charles St, Suite 100, from 4 to 6 p.m.