Sandia Pride Alliance Network (SPAN) members and friends mug for the camera before beginning the miles-long march from UNM’s Johnson Field to the New Mexico State Fair Grounds for the city’s 2016 Pride Parade. This is the second year Sandia, in partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, has entered a float in the festivities. (Photo by Christopher Leno)
Sandians celebrate Pride, come together for Orlando
An enthusiastic group of some 40 Sandians, accompanied by friends and family, showed their support for the Sandia Pride Alliance Network, or SPAN, by representing the Labs in the 2016 Albuquerque Pride Parade.
This is the second year Sandia, in partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, has entered a float in the parade. The Labs’ involvement serves as a way to affirm Sandia supports the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and as a recruiting tool to inform people that their sexual preference does not prevent them from obtaining a security clearance.
“The parade was great. Our float coordinated perfectly with the parade’s theme of ‘Bridges’; we constructed three spans of balloon arches over the float. Also our name, SPAN, invokes a bridge, which is part of our organization’s objective — to build bridges across diversity challenges,” says SPAN chair Chris LaFleur (6231).
The day after the parade, in Orlando, Florida, 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub, a gay club. It was the worst mass shooting in US history.
Ten days after the shooting, SPAN hosted the All Hands for Orlando gathering as an opportunity for Sandia to come together to show support and to grieve together.
“We needed to respond to this tragedy by coming together to feel the love and support that will allow us to heal,” Chris says. “Suffering the pain and shock of an event like this is made harder by isolation.”
Chris says the shootings affected her deeply and made her reflect on the role gay bars have played for the LGBT community.
“Beginning with the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969, when it was illegal to be homosexual in America and the police were the ones attacking the gay citizens,” Chris says, “gay bars and nightclubs were our gathering places, where it was safe to be who we are, where we found our security and identity as a community. These were the only places where we could dance, flirt, and even hold hands without worrying about being attacked. That same night [of the Orlando attack] many in Albuquerque had celebrated pride in the gay and gay-friendly bars here. It could have been any of us.”
Although it may have been an isolated incident, the Orlando attack reinforces the need for people to understand and respect one another every day, Chris says.
In a message to all members of the workforce, Sandia President & Laboratories Director Jill Hruby wrote, “This is a good time to remind ourselves how important diversity and inclusion are to our success as a laboratory. We rely on people with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and lifestyles to bring different perspectives to the hardest problems we are asked to solve. As an institution and as individuals, we are united in our commitment to providing the best engineering and science to the nation.”