Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez
"Jimmy," as he was known to his friends, at only fifty years old, the oldest person killed in the Pulse nightclub massacre was still so young with so much life left to live. Jimmy was a professional dancer, specializing in Jibaro, a style of folk dance unique to his native Puerto Rico. The dance holds great significance in Puerto Rico as it is emblematic of strength and endurance of the pioneers to the island. Interestingly, "Jibaro" once held negative connotations, but Puerto Ricans took the term back for themselves and embraced and their roots as a source of power.
I started this project because it seemed like just a day after the bloodshed our nation was already being nudged to move on. Another unspeakable tragedy, in the same town no less, took the spotlight when a small child was drowned by an alligator. Immediately, the conversation turned to trying to prevent freak accidents from happening in sterilized corporate bubbles rather than focusing on doing literally anything to stop maniacs from spraying death in public places.
I wonder why we were so quick to move on and forget the scope of this nightmare. Is it because we are desensitized to mass shootings? Is it because the majority of people who died were gay men? Is it because the victims were not "American" enough? June 12 was not just the culmination of Pride week, it was also "Latin Night" at the club and the vast majority those killed were Puerto Rican. How do their lives mean less in a country where campaigns are won on the merit of "life is sacred?"
In honor of Jimmy, today I am encouraging others to draw strength from their own heritage to unite in peace. Jimmy embraced his heritage in the most authentic way possible and thrived on the legacy of his ancestors. No matter where we came from or who we love, we are all important. Our stories have meaning - even if they are in written a different language.
The 49 Days Project