Theresa Flores, a first-year student in the School’s Triangle Distance Education Program, was among those who were devastated with the news back in June following the mass shooting that killed 49 people and injured dozens of others at Pulse nighclub in Orlando, Fla. Flores, who identifies as a Latinx (a gender neutral term) and has roots in Mexico and El Salvador, said she was overwhelmed with how the violence impacted the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities and immediately began to think of ways to help and give back.
“I process and heal through art, so I created a personal journal entry into an art print, which I shared on social media,” said Flores, who graduated from UNC in 2013 with a B.A. in psychology and a double minor in Latina/o studies and social and economic justice. The print, which includes a centered bold message, “Stop the hate, Stop the violence, Love is love,” is surrounded by the rainbow-scripted names and ages of each shooting victim. Near the bottom is the statement “love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love… cannot be killed or swept aside,” a line that Broadway actor Lin-Manuel Miranda delivered as part of a sonnet that he wrote as an acceptance speech for winning best original score for his multi-award winning musical, Hamilton.
After receiving lots of initial positive feedback on her artistic piece, Flores decided to make more and to sell them to help raise money for the employees at the Florida nightclub. She shared the print widely, distributing via social media and email and through friends and colleagues. After two weeks, she had sold more than 30 and collected $360 in donations. She was also inspired and encouraged to open her own site on Etsy. Shortly after its launch, Flores said a staff member of Pulse contacted her, eager to purchase copies for all of the nightclub’s employees. Flores decided to donate copies instead – 52 for staff and one for the business. After receiving her gift, the employees soon sent her one in return- a photo of them all smiling and holding their personal copies of her print.
“Being able to make both donations and to have received such a heartfelt picture truly made it all worth the effort,” she said.