Queer, ally organizations remembers Pulse shooting with welcome event

Lisa Dreher

Queer People of Color & Allies hosted its annual BLOQ party Thursday night to welcome students to campus on the East Mall.

The BLOQ party theme this year was “Just Keep Dancin’” to remember those affected by the June shooting at the PULSE Nightclub, which left 49 people dead and others injured in Orlando.

It was also “Latin Night” at the Florida club the night of the shooting, a theme which attracted mainly those of Hispanic background.

“It really breaks my heart because not only was it queer people but also those of the Latino community,” said Alejandrina Guzman, director of Latin Community Affairs for the UT Multicultural Engagement Center.

QPOCA is a student organization aiming to debunk stereotypes against students of color, queer students and their allies as well as support them, according to the center website.

“We work to create a space of self-empowerment for queer people of color and to increase the visibility of people of color,” said Javier Rivera, QPOCA director of operations. “That’s what we strive for, but our meetings and events are open to everybody.”

QPOCA is one of six agencies within the engagement center and has held BLOQ parties for at least the past five years, Rivera said.

“I think it’s really wonderful because it builds community,” said Jay Wilk, QPOCA member and English senior. “It helps people connect to one another and know there’s support out there for them even in informal ways.”

Students grabbed free pizza, T-shirts with the organization’s logo to tie-dye and brochures about multiple social activism groups.

About a hundred students gathered at the event, where groups like the Queer Students Alliance and Gamma Rho Lambda, an all-inclusive sorority, informed passerbys about further involvement on campus.

Neuroscience freshman Madison Scott said events like the BLOQ party help bring out people wanting to support such groups.

“We need more events like this because it shows you don’t have to be queer to support queer people,” said Scott, who identifies as an ally. “It brings awareness that you can be an ally and still come and support.” 

Turnout was still good despite the move to East Mall due to construction, Rivers said.

“Queer and trans people are targeted all over the country, and when you measure it out, most of the time it happens to people of color,” Rivera said. “It puts things into perspective and makes what [QPOCA] means on this campus.”