On June 24, 1973, an arsonist attacked the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana. The space was full of members of the local Metropolitan Community Church gathered to celebrate the last night of Pride Weekend. When the fire broke out, the bars on the windows kept most people from escaping. As onlookers made jokes, MCC Pastor Rev. Bill Larson burned to death hanging out of a small opening screaming, “Oh, God, no!” When the flames subsided, 32 people were dead. No one was ever charged with the massacre.
When viewed in the light of the shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church, the anniversary of the massacre at the Upstairs Lounge reminds us that the path of Jesus passes through both New Orleans and Charleston. As we remember, may we not forget the words of Jesus, “Follow me.”