It’s hard to believe that it’s been four years since the horrific Pulse Nightclub tragedy in Orlando. In a single night, this generation’s queer nightlife scene shifted away from one of celebration towards a heavy-hearted reminder that current progress is not even close to good enough.
After the lives of 49 LGBTQ folks were taken from our community, those who were left behind with the memories and the losses have not stopped taking action. Tonight in Denver, Tracks Nightclub is holding its fourth annual Pulse Benefit to raise funds for One Pulse Foundation and One Colorado and to celebrate those lost as well as the survivors who remember and honor them daily.
The benefit show will hold performances by local talent, and speakers will share their stories and offer insight and hope within a place that can at times feel uncertain and unsafe. For Sara Grossman, digital and social media manager at Tracks and a speaker at tonight’s event, this event is very special to her, as it is a collision of all of her worlds.
“I happen to be very close-knit with the Pulse community,” said Grossman. “I’m a survivor fellow for ‘Every Town for Gun Safety,’ and I lost my best friend at the Pulse shooting, so it’s a pretty meaningful event.”
Hosted by Jessica L’Whor, the benefit will see a roster full of performers who have donated their time and tips, and proceeds for the night will be split evenly between One Pulse and One Colorado.
“Over the last couple of years, I actually have become very close with Barbara Poma, the founder of the One Pulse Foundation and former owner of Pulse Nightclub. Pulse was a place that I went to probably weekly when I lived in Orlando and was in college.”
Though Grossman wasn’t there on the night of the shooting, her friend Drew Leinonen was, and he was among the group of almost 50 that died that night.
“The whole gay nightclub community was affected after the Pulse shooting, we were all really nervous about our safety,” said Grossman. “I did not step foot in a gay club from the time of the shooting until the first weekend that I started working for Tracks three years later.”
Grossman admitted that she initially had a lot of anxiety when it came to working in the nightclub and being in these kind of queer-centered spaces, but the solidarity she has felt from the Denver LGBTQ community towards the Orlando victims and their families has been transformative.
“It was super isolating to be out here and not with my friends from Orlando in the wake of the shooting, so for Tracks Nightclub to continually be honoring the Pulse nightclub shooting and raising money for the memorial is really incredible,” she said.
Doors open at 7 p.m., and there is a suggested $5 donation cover charge, yet the club invites everyone, regardless of ability, to donate. The community at Tracks wants all folks, LGBTQ identified and their allies, to attend and embrace the unique and giving queer community that is thriving in Denver.
“I would like to personally thank Jessica L’Whor for being such an incredible advocate for the entire community,” said Grossman. “For somebody who was super affected by this shooting, and for people who have been super affected by other things within the community, whether it be cancer or a hate crime, time and time again, to really put her neck out there and help her fellow community members. I think that is a really wonderful thing.”