I wasn’t going to march in the Pride Parade.
However, my church mate Darryl texted me Saturday, the day before the parade.”Hey. I’m going to march in the Parade in honor of the 49 victims of the Orlando shooting. I’d like to encourage you to do the same.”
I leaned towards not marching. After all, like the Boston Marathon, a Gay Pride Parade march would be the perfect scene for a terrorist attack.
On Sunday at Middle Collegiate Church, everyone was getting into the spirit of the March. I felt it too. So, I bought a $20 purple t-shirt with the Church slogan emblazoned across the chest: “Love. Period.”
I decided to march prompted by reasons that some knew: the increasing gun violence. People knew that a shooter opened fire at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12 – leaving 49 people dead and 50 others injured. Authorities says Dylan Roof fatally shot nine black churchgoers in June 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. People also knew that in 2013, terrorists detonated bombs during the Boston Marathon. Six people lost their lives following that bombing. Nearly 300 people suffered injuries, many life-threatening. People knew that in 2012, Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and fatally shot 26 people, mostly children.
I decided to march for a reason many others didn’t know. People didn’t know that the previous week, my maternal Aunt had passed away. For years she suffered from Scleroderma that made her fingers stiff and puffy and gave her skin a shiny appearance. The advanced scleroderma led to kidney issues that required dialysis three times a week. She also suffered from Congestive Heart Failure. Although doctors had given Aunt Dell five years to live about six years ago, her death at 81 years of age seemed sudden.
Aunt Dell was one of eight children in my mother’s family born and raised on a large expanse of land in southeastern North Carolina, near the South Carolina border. The family referred to the homestead as Corner Branch. One aunt and one uncle moved roughly a mile away from the homestead, still within the community. Other Aunts had moved northward during the Great Migration to Virginia, Philadelphia and Chicago. Aunt Dell was the only sibling of my mother who remained at Corner Branch her entire life.
Corner Branch served as the focal point for family members who returned to North Carolina to reunite with their loved ones for Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays and formal family reunions. I learned the family history in Aunt Dell’s living room. I watched Cousin Jackie dance to Boogie Oogie Oogie. I watched Cousin Knovell Anthony skin squirrels he shot while hunting. I learned how to speak about geographical locations with pinpoint accuracy in an area that didn’t have street signs. Cousin Little Bit lived “across the swamp”. Cousin so-and-so lived down the road a piece.
I wasn’t able to journey to North Carolina to attend Aunt Dell’s funeral on Sunday due to short notice, rapidly made funeral arrangements and my work schedule. The day of her funeral coincided with Pride Sunday. If I couldn’t be with my extended family in North Carolina, I would have to make Sunday matter in some way In New York City.
Aunt Dell’s transition reminded me that life is shot. While Aunt Dell was being laid to rest in North Carolina due to her death. Back in the land of the living, I decided to march — honoring the victims of the Orlando shooting massacre, honoring Aunt Dell’s life and celebrating life in New York City with my church colleagues and those who support equality for everyone!
And that’s just what I did.
That’s the Lowdown.