Today I attended a vigil for the people murdered in Orlando, Florida in a gay nightclub this week. For the most part, it looked wonderful while I was on a bus stuck in traffic. This is the nature of city centres in urban conurbations on a Saturday afternoon.
It was held on a subway roundabout, with a giant rainbow flag stuck to a Chinese pagoda. Rainbow choirs sang, solo violinists played, elegies were said over a loud speaker. Most people stood silently listening, breaking the silence with applause. Leaflets were offered to attend discussions to end hatred and Islamophobia. Fifty-one white balloons were released for the people murdered by a solo gun person who had issues. Fifty-one white roses were laid outside the Birmingham LGBT Centre. We tried to light candles of all colours, but the wind had other plans.
People leaned on each other. Strangers hugged strangers who were overcome with emotion. None of us knew who the victims in America were. None of us knew the people standing next to us in contemplation, in their rainbow sashes and dyed hair. But we were all human, and we all wanted to be ourselves, without fear of self-expression. This was a safe space. Everywhere is meant to be a safe space.
I walked through the Chinese quarter to the rag market, where most of the stall holders are Indian in ancestry. Black and white college students asked the price of fabric. It’s one of the few places left where people are looking around them rather than at their smart phones. It was a normal Saturday, with families queuing out the door of the Disney Store in the shopping centre. Life goes on.