Happening Now: Members of the Black queer community of Chicago are disrupting the Chicago Pride Parade. Here is their public statement:
On this day in 1969, Sylvia Rivera, a Boricua trans woman, threw the bottle that sparked the infamous Stonewall Riot. A year later, she and Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman, co-organized the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March in New York City to commemorate the queer upheaval against police violence, which toured the lower east side, ending strategically in front of the New York Women’s House of Detention.
By 1973, only three years after the first march in honor of Stonewall, organization of Pride events around the country were taken over largely by wealthy cisgender gays and lesbians, looking to transform the march that began in New York from political protest to an opportunity for mainstream visibility. That same year—coinciding with homosexuality being removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of Mental Disorders and Conditions—trans and gender non-conforming people saw themselves banned from parades and gatherings around the nation.
The birth of the Gay and Lesbian movement began with the banishing of those members of the queer community still unable to assimilate—the very same people whose direct actions in Compton’s Cafeteria, Cooper’s Donuts and Stonewall had sparked the movement.
We recount this history to remind ourselves not only that the root of our movement as queer people is the militant resistance of state violence in all its forms, but also that the Pride Parade as a tradition is built on the intentional silencing of the members of our community most impacted by that same violence—trans people, women, people with disabilities and mental illness, Black and Brown folk, indigenous people, immigrants, sex workers and street youth.
Today in Chicago, specifically in the Lakeview Neighborhood, young trans and queer people from around the city in search of a safe and affirming space find themselves constantly surveilled by police and local neighborhood watch organizations, profiled by business owners and wealthy residents. Blogs like Crime in Boystown vilify youth for engaging in survival trades, while organizations like the Center on Halsted invite police into their space to arrest, harass and surveil them.
Queer youth experiencing homelessness, and the plight of trans and queer communities of color, is not merely an issue of transphobia and homophobia in Black and Brown communities; It is equally about classism, racism, and gentrification. It is about the draconian measures of austerity that push our people onto the street, refuse us reentrance into real estate and the job market, and the police and prison systems which work together to ensure we stay locked out. Young, Black, Brown, Native, trans, poor, working, immigrant and disabled people are suffering because every system of governance in this country is geared to destroy us.
Today, Black trans and queer people and our allies are purposefully disrupting the Chicago Pride Parade.
We do so to honor our trans, queer, Black, Brown and Native ancestors. We do so because our people are dying at the hands of police, military and state-funded militias around the globe. We do so because we refuse to be tokenized by the same corporations that sponsor state violence, refuse a living wage and profit off our poverty. We do so because young queer people need a better outlet to celebrate themselves than a mire of consumption and sexual violence.
We are blocking the intersection of Addison and Halsted in the heart of Boystown, blocks away from the Center on Halsted, Whole Foods, Wrigley Field and the Addison CPD station. It is an intersection not just of major Chicago streets, but of corporate greed, private exploitation of queer communities, hyper policing, and ground zero for violence perpetrated against trans and queer young people by the city of Chicago.
We are inspired by Boston activists who recently protested the Pride Parade in their city. Acknowledging that we are only a small faction of the Black queer community in Chicago, and an even smaller faction of our Black queer family worldwide, we would like to present our goals in staging this action, and our suggestions for the future demands of our movement in Chicago and beyond:
- End Stop and Frisk—We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and demand the permanent abolition of the racist police state. The queer community must call for an immediate end to racist policies that make trans and queer people of color into the targets of deadly state violence!
- End the Policing of Trans and Queer Youth—It’s time young trans and queer people—especially those that are Black, Brown, undocumented and experiencing homelessness—be recognized as the leaders they are. We demand an end to the criminalizing of youth in our community for doing what they need to do to survive!
- Reopen Schools and Mental Health Clinics—We demand the Emanuel administration be held accountable for the violence it continues to perpetrate against Black, Brown and working communities in the city of Chicago. Reopen all closed schools and mental health clinics—provide real resources to Black, Brown, disabled, mentally ill, homeless, queer and youth communities!
- Trauma Center on the South Side—Until there is a real redistribution of resources in our city, we need support in dealing with the inevitable violence that is the result of poverty. We reject the Obama Presidential Library and call for a trauma center on the South Side now!
- No New Police, No New Jails—As Black queers we stand in solidarity with all communities targeted by state violence, especially queer immigrant and undocumented communities. We support the abolition of detention centers, prisons and psych words. End deportations, raids and racist profiling! Stop funding police and jails, and provide our communities with real social services!
- Demilitarize Around the Globe–We recognize that we are caught in a global economy driven at its core by militarism. The growing violence we face in our neighborhoods is the same violence faced by our people in Palestine, Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere US colonialism profits off our blood. Demilitarize the police, divest from weapons manufacturers and prisons, and hands off our 1st Amendment rights!
- End Corporate Exploitation of Our Community—We are tired of corporations using opportunities like Pride to market to us while they continue to thrive off our poverty. We stand in solidarity with the Fight for 15, and demand a living wage and the right to unionize for all poor and working people! We also demand that the largest Lakeview nonprofits—the Howard Brown Health Center and the Center on Halsted—provide the same to their entry level employees and other youth workers at the Broadway Youth Center, the Brown Elephant, and the Crib!
- No More Wage Theft—In the Lakeview neighborhood, Taco Bell, Target and other chains regularly hire young trans and queer people to meet corporate quotas, then fire them within weeks, often without properly paying them. We demand justice in the form of jobs, fair wages, full benefits and the right to unionize!
- Trans and Queer Shelters Now—Spaces like the Crib and the Broadway Youth Center provide important shelter for homeless youth, but they are not enough! Until there is an end to poverty and homelessness in our communities, we demand funding for existing services and investment in new ones, like Project Fierce!
We are vocally rejecting Pride as a desecration of our history of resistance. We call not for its transformation, but reinvestment in our own communities and legacies of struggle.
We cannot celebrate the passage of gay marriage, and predict that the next round of new laws will be about limiting the rights granted by marriage, especially for undocumented, trans, poor and working people. In order for us to be free, reproductive self-determination, citizenship, and relevant health care cannot be tethered to the approval of our relationships by a settler state. As our Black and Native ancestors have long understood, the state will not respect the myriad ways we find to love, grow, support and protect each other from its violence–no matter what papers we possess. It is our own consent, not the false consent of our oppressors, we seek as we move forward.
We do not wish to assimilate, because we cannot trust a social order so comfortable with inequity, so dependent on violence to maintain its own imbalance. Instead, we demand the shifts in power and resources that, though they may be small steps, represent movement in the direction of our own systems, our own spaces, our own visions for liberation.
Black Power. Trans Power. Queer Power. Undocumented Power. Street Youth Power. Sex Worker Power.
All Power to Our People!