Barbara Poma was born in 1968 and raised in Coral Springs, Florida. After graduating from the University of Central Florida, she taught writing, debate, and drama for three years before marrying restauranteur Rosario Poma, with whom she has two children and a stepdaughter. Barbara and Rosario built and operated several businesses. Most significantly, they opened Pulse nightclub in 2004 as a tribute to Barbara’s brother John, who had passed away from complications from HIV/AIDS.
Pulse nightclub was embraced by the global LGBTQ+ community for the club’s culture of love, and providing a venue where the LGBTQ+ community and their families could be themselves.
On Sunday, June 12, 2016, Pulse nightclub became the scene of one of America’s worst mass shootings. Along with the rest of the world, Barbara was rocked into a new and unimaginable reality permeated with immeasurable grief and loss.
With Pulse now permanently closed, Barbara shifted her focus to preserving the memory of the 49 lives lost, the survivors, and first responders. With the support of her family, her friends, and the Orlando community, Barbara helped found and now serves as CEO of the onePULSE Foundation, a non-profit organization established to honor and preserve the legacy of all those affected by the Pulse nightclub tragedy. OnePULSE’s mission is to create and support the National Pulse Memorial and Museum: a memorial that opens hearts, a museum that opens minds, educational programs that open eyes, and 49 permanent scholarships that open doors. The project also includes the Orlando Health Survivors Walk, which will trace the three-block journey many victims and responders traveled the night of the tragedy to reach Orlando Regional Medical Center. The memorial, museum, and survivors walk are projected to break ground in 2021.
Barbara has been awarded the 2020 Publisher’s Award from the Orlando Business Journal’s ‘Women Who Mean Business’ Awards, 2019 Business Leader of the Year Award from the MBA Pride Chamber of Commerce, 2019 Summit Award from the Women’s Resource Center, and 2019 Public & Community Service Award from The Atlantic Institute. She was also named one of NBC Universal’s 2018 Change Makers, received the 2018 Point Foundation Leadership award, recognized as Ally Ambassador of the year for the 2018 LGBT Allies Diversity Summit, and 2017 LGBT Champion of Equality at the Harvey Milk Diversity Awards.