There’s no one way, no right way to respond to tragedy; when it feels like the world as you know it has been taken from you and from all those with whom you share it, there is no easy answer about how to continue on.
One year ago today, 49 people were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida; this targeted attack on the LGBTQIA community, and specifically its black and brown members (it was Latinx night at Pulse), sent a profound shock wave through that community, one that it’s still trying to come to terms with today. How do you continue in times of despair? How do you move forward when the memories of those left behind will stay with you forever? How do you dance and laugh and love when so many others don’t have that chance anymore? But also: How do you not?
Julia Weldon’s song ”‘Til the Crying Fades” and its accompanying video, directed by Alessandra Lacorazza and premiering here today, addresses both the difficulty and importance of maintaining and strengthening the very communities that hatred and violence seek to tear asunder. In it, Weldon’s voice swells over scenes of LGBTQIA people getting ready to go out at night; their plaintive request to “hold me ’til the crying fades” is juxtaposed with images of men and women decked out and dancing, refusing to be afraid to be who they are, making clear that as long as they are there for each other, as long as they have their “heartbeats lined up,” the dancing doesn’t have to stop; the memories of those lost will live on in the joyful purpose with which the survivors move forward. Both the song and video are a beautiful testimony to resilience and strength and why it’s important to dance in the face of despair.
Below, we spoke with Weldon and Lacorazza about the video, the song, and the importance of having safe spaces for marginalized communities.
This song and video both speak to the need of finding safe spaces; why is it so essential that othered groups find places where they can be free to be themselves?
Julia Weldon: I think you’ve pinpointed exactly what we wanted to show in the video—the need to be free, especially with our bodies. As a queer and genderqueer person, I seek out spaces that I can truly just be comfortable or as comfortable as possible in my skin. This is something we wanted to explore in the video: queer folks’ relationships to our bodies, in private as well as queer spaces. And I think the reason these safe(r) and free(r) spaces are incredibly important for marginalized groups is because of the lack of safety and freedom in so many other spaces we have to exist—at work, the subway, the street, and even in our own homes. When Alessandra and I met to discuss the concept, it didn’t take much explaining because we both implicitly understand how deeply essential these queer spaces are. As you can see in the video, we wanted to honor the lives lost at Pulse while also showing how vibrant, alive, celebratory, and stunning this space can be.
Alessandra Lacorazza: All groups that face systematic oppression have a need to find community with shared experiences, so we can let our guard down and relax even if just for a moment. Often our queer bodies are under attack, through violence, institutional discrimination, homelessness, self-hatred, and suicide. It is the queer bar scene where I have learned to be comfortable in my own skin and where I have found my chosen family. But, these spaces are particularly important for trans, black, and brown folks. From the beginning, it was important to us to not only create work but to contribute to organizations that are actively benefiting our community. This is why we partnered with the Ali Forney Center for the video release. The group serves more than 1,400 queer youths each year to find homes and stability and build their own safe spaces.
Do you feel like, in the year since the horrific massacre in Orlando, things have changed, for better or worse?
JW: I think we are living in some extremely hard times, waking up to horrific news every day. It’s a very scary and disorienting time, and I honestly have difficulty gauging where we are. I do know that the Pulse Orlando attack has hopefully unified people to support the LGBTQ community because it was so terrible. It was definitely a wake-up call to say... homophobia is alive and well, and queer spaces and our community need to be protected. I think, under this administration, it is so important for all of our community to stand up for the people who are more vulnerable to violence. I am hoping this is a time where we all stand up for brown and black queer people, disabled queer people, undocumented queer people. [There’s] no safety for any of us until there is safety for all of us.
AL: While the attack on Pulse deeply affected the whole LGBTQIA community, it disproportionately affected the Latinx community, as most of the victims were Latinx. Black and brown bodies have always been more likely to encounter hate and violence, both institutional and individual. With the election of the current administration, I don’t think things have improved, but there is an increased sense of solidarity, and white people, in particular, are waking up to the issues that have always affect black, brown, and immigrant communities. Black and brown people continue to lead the resistance, as they always have, like Stonewall riots trans activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
What was the experience of making the video? Where did you find the people who appear in it?
JL: Making the video was by far one of the most rewarding, creative experiences I’ve ever had. Alessandra and I met at a mutual friend’s wedding that I was performing at a couple days after Trump was elected. Emotions were high, to say the least. It was a queer wedding, and the experience was similar to the video—all of us queer folks were in mourning and fear for what would happen under the future Trump administration, but also channeled that fear into immediate solidarity, long-lasting friendships, and a celebration of our queerness. We actually started talking about the video at the wedding.
After listening to my next album, Comatose Hope, Alessandra decided that ”’Til the Crying Fades” was her song. I told her that I wrote it based on a few experiences, but mostly after being on a float in NYC Pride and witnessing an intense energy and queer solidarity because of Pulse that I’ve never experienced before. She put together a beautiful pitch and treatment for the video, and we started meeting for coffee and speaking practically every day to put the idea into motion. Her vision really made the video come to life in such an amazing way.
We tried to find people close to our queer community—friends, friends of friends, partners of friends, etc.—and we were very committed to casting the main actors to reflect the Orlando community as much as possible. Alessandra and I clicked creatively from beginning to end. And our producer Justine LaViolette and the DP Nicalena Iovino were so amazing as well.
AL: I wanted to do something that focused on the Latinx community, and Julia was very supportive from the very beginning. As an all-queer production, it was a true labor of love. It was an honor and pleasure to work with everyone involved in the project, especially our three main characters who brought so much of themselves and welcomed me into their homes. We found each person by different means, but mostly through reaching out to our community. Honestly, we got lucky in finding them.
What’s next for both of you?
JW: My full album Comatose Hope drops on July 13. I play the NYC record release show with a full band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. I’m hoping this single release is just the beginning of sharing my new music. I have five official music videos for my last album, Light Is a Ghost, but this is my first release of a single which is rad, especially because “Til the Crying Fades” is so much bigger than me. It’s a community project, and I’m so excited for the world to see it.
On Comatose Hope, I worked with a previous producer of Perfume Genius, Drew Morgan. I can’t wait for everyone to hear the new direction of my music and then hopefully set up a national tour.
It’s a meaningful album for me to release because some of it reflects on my experience surviving a coma after a gender-affirming top surgery. I’m super lucky to be here and to be making music again after this life-threatening experience. “Til the Crying Fades” represents some of these intense feelings about life and death, with the victims of Pulse in mind, plus their family, chosen family, and friends.
AL: My work will continue to focus on Latinx, queer, and immigrant issues. I’m developing two films right now. One that focuses on the alienation of being an immigrant in the U.S. and my relationship with my mother and her struggles with mental illness. The other is an exploration of an alternate reality surrounding my father’s death, expanded into an observation on my hometown of Bogota, Colombia, my people, my religion, and the tensions created by Colombia’s long civil war.
Comatose Hope is out on July 13, with the record release party at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC on the same evening, at 8pm. Get tickets for that here.