BOYSTOWN — Chicago drag performers are rallying the city’s queer nightlife scene for a protest Sunday in support of Black Lives Matter.
Led by Black drag queens, kings and other queer leaders, the Drag March for Change will demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, a Black transgender man who was fatally shot by a Tallahassee Police officer last month.
The protest begins 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the corner of Belmont Avenue and Halsted Street. Marchers will travel north on Halsted to Grace Street, where several community leaders will speak about anti-Black racism.
In addition to calling for the arrest of all officers involved in the deaths of Floyd, Taylor and McDade, the protesters are demanding:
- Classification of violence against transgender people as a federal hate crime.
- An elected Civilian Police Accountability Council to oversee the Chicago Police Department.
- Immediate release of all protesters who have been arrested recently.
- And “acknowledgement that Black lives matter from all levels of government.”
“These are the values that we hold in Chicago’s drag community and we practice them daily,” said protest organizer Joe Lewis, a bartender at Berlin Nightclub who performs in drag as Jo Mama. “We’re marching to show that communities can be self-governed and that we’re an example of how our current systems can be remodeled effectively.”
Lewis will lead the march with fellow Chicago drag performers Lucy Stoole, Lúc Ami and Miss Toto, as well as Chicago residents and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” stars Shea Couleé, The Vixen and Dida Ritz.
Other speakers will include Jazmine Salas, co-chair of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, activist Zola and Tatyana Chante, who organized last week’s Black Lives Matter protest in Boystown.
Lewis conceived of the Drag March for Change after going to Chante’s Black Lives Matter protest in full drag June 1.
“Drag is my armor and protection,” Lewis said. “It’s also an act of civil disobedience, rebelling against gender rules to disrupt the system.”
Lewis said marching through Boystown in their neon-green pantsuit reminded them of Black LGBTQ activists like Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender woman who was an early leader of the gay liberation movement.
“At a time when it’s much-needed, Chicago’s drag community is coming together and following the footsteps of those who came before us,” Lewis said.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Boystown and Lincoln Park for Block Club Chicago.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.