Hundreds of Ithacans created a rainbow of shirts in the Commons Thursday, showing their solidarity with victims of the June 12 Pulse nightclub shooting at the inaugural “Ithaca is Love” event.
“This is an initial event that we hope will turn into a pride event next year, or some time in the future,” said organizer Biagio DiSalvo ’14 M.A. ’16. “For me, it shows the community coming together.”
The event attracted even more attention than expected, according to DiSalvo. Organizers said all 400 multicolored “Ithaca is Love” t-shirts —intended to be worn in a community picture — sold out within the first 35 minutes of the event.
Kelly Barclay, a marketing specialist for the Cornell Fingerlakes Credit Union, which provided free “Ithaca is Love” buttons to attendees, said she was surprised by the number of Ithacans who participated in the experience.
“This event is really important to the community, and at CFCU everything that we do revolves around our community, so really knew that we had to be a part of it,” Barclay said. “It’s just a wonderful turnout, to think that in 35 minutes the shirts sold out, it’s absolutely wild. I guess we should have expected it from Ithaca, but it’s great.”
A small team of organizers came together to plan the event with a mutual goal of expressing solidarity with victims of the Orlando shooting, according to Deb Mohlenhoff, director of student activities at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
“We don’t have any official affiliation with one another,” Mohlenhoff said. “We wanted to very specifically focus on the LGBTQI community and the people here who might be feeling not supported.”
Brian Patchcoski, associate dean of students and director of Cornell’s LGBT Resource Center, agreed that the event’s main purpose was providing “visibility” to the LGBT community.
“I don’t think we always have the opportunity to be visible,” Patchcoski said. “Yes, Ithaca has a great history of LGBT inclusion, but I think in terms of visibility and support and recognizing those who have laid a foundation for the growth that we’ve done around equality, we don’t get the time and space to celebrate that.”
Patchcoski added that while Cornell has one of the “oldest LGBT centers in the country,” the area still has “a long way to go.”
“I think being here and showing the community who we are as a collective community, what resources we offer to faculty, staff, students, and how we partner with the community is a really important piece of being here,” he said. “We are here, and we are so excited to be a part of this.”
Ithacans plan to extend formal communications between Ithaca and Orlando’s mayors and business districts, as well as between TC3 and Orlando’s Valencia Community College — which lost seven students in the attack — according to Mohlenhoff.
“We decided that was better than a fundraiser. There wasn’t really and specific need for money of any sort, so we wanted to do this instead,” Mohlenhoff said. “We’re doing very specific communication from entity to entity, but we are also just sort of bringing everyone together in the center of our city, just for love and unity.”
Mohlenhoff added that organizers have not yet determined how they will use a photo of event attendees wearing “Ithaca is Love” shirts — although she said the group has “lots of ideas.”