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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

10 Black Women and Queer Activists Working To Change Chicago

These organizers are supporting protesters fighting for Black lives and providing relief to communities impacted by looting and coronavirus.

Page May speaks at the Chicago teachers rally in 2016.
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CHICAGO — Activists are calling on the city to dismantle programs and policies they say are steeped in institutional racism.

As protesters push the city to take bold action like defunding the police, community organizers have stepped up to start building the systems needed to replace the ones that have historically failed Black people.

Black organizers are also building power to support protesters demanding an end to police violence. They are helping area businesses recover from the looting that tore through their neighborhoods. Simultaneously, many are still filling the resource gap that left many families struggling through the coronavirus crisis.

Many of those leading the charge want to ensure this is an intersectional movement informed by Black feminism.

Here are 10 Black women and LGBTQ+ leaders working for change on the ground in Chicago.

Mercedes Pickett

Mercedes and her brother Charles Pickett have organized a series of cleanups to help the West Side recover from the riots. Now their nonprofit, Humboldt Park-based Earth Remedies, is raising money to offer grants to businesses that suffered damage from looting and vandalism.

Donate to their Save The West Side fundraiser on GoFundMe.

Credit: Provided
Siblings Mercedes Pickett, 28, and Charles Pickett, 25, (left) organized neighborhood cleanups after the looting and now they’re launching a grant program to help West Side businesses rebuild.

Kristiana Rae Colón

Kristiana Rae Colón is an Afro-Latina poet, playwrite, educator, and a co-founder of the #LetUsBreathe Collective from Back of the Yards. She organizes through a queer feminist lens that aims to liberate Black people while centering those who are marginalized within the black community.

Her work is currently calling for the release of all who have been incarcerated at the recent protests, and she is also pushing for civilian oversight over police. The #LetUsBreathe Collective is also coordinating care package giveaways to support protesters and others struggling because of the pandemic.

Follow her work on instagram at @kristiana_af and on Twitter at @LetUsBreathe773.

Credit: Provided
Kristiana Rae Colon is a cofounder of the #LetUsBreathe Collective.

McKensie Mack

McKensie Mack

McKensie Mack is the executive director of Affinity Community Services, a social justice organization dedicated to Black LGBTQ+ people. Their work develops and black queer and trans activists on the South Side and also provides emergency relief to people impacted by the current crises.

Mack is leading Affinity in raising $25,000 to fund the expansion of services to support Black LGBTQ+ people so the movement for Black lives does not leave behind black people who are also queer.

Donate to the Black Liberation Fund on GoFundMe and follow Mack on Twitter at @mckensiemack.

Destiny Harris

Harris is a queer woman and poet who organizes to address the systemic issues that have left the West Side disenfranchised for decades.

The Austin resident has been part of the NoCopAcademy movement and also works to address food access on parts of the West Side that are considered food deserts.

 She is an abolitionist whose work aims to defund the police and end mass incarceration. Her recent work has supported the protests against police violence. She has organized cleanups and food drives to support businesses and families that have been impacted by COVID-19 and the riots sparked by the police murder of George Floyd.

Follow Harris on Twitter at @606hoodlum.

Credit: Twitter
Destiny Harris

Gabrielle Darvassy

Darvassy is a black vegan chef and the owner of B’Gabs Vegan Kitchen in Hyde Park.

She has been donating her legendary vegan soul food meals to peaceful protesters participating in demonstrations against police violence. She has also been coordinating produce giveaways for families impacted by the COVID crisis.

Follow B’Gabs Vegan Kitchen on Facebook.

Gabrielle Darvassy, chef and owner of B’Gabs Goodies in Hyde Park.

Tamar Manasseh

Tamar Manasseh founded Mothers Against Senseless Killings to help amplify the voices of moms in Englewood and surrounding communities who bear the burden of gun violence.

Through MASK, Manasseh is organizing against police brutality, white supremacy and other kinds of violence that create trauma in Black communities. Their work is currently focused on addressing food insecurity, housing needs, and violence prevention.

Follow MASK on Twiter at @MASKchicago.

Credit: Facebook
Tamar Manasseh

Amara Enyia

Enyia, who ran for mayor last election, is building up the block club infrastructure on the West and South Sides to help residents keep their neighborhood safe without relying on police. The Austin resident has organized a block-by-block network of watch groups to monitor local businesses to protect them from looting.

She is also coordinating food and supply drives to help meet people’s basic needs through the pandemic and the movement for black lives.

Follow Eniya on Twitter at @AmaraEnyia.

Credit: Lee Edwards/Block Club Chicago
Amara Enyia addresses a crowd of more than 100 people on the corner of 63rd & Cottage Grove Ave.

Page May

Page May is a prison abolitionist from Washington Park who founded Assata’s Daughters, a group created to support women, nonbinary and femme black activists.

Her work has focused on the criminalization of blackness by the police and the epidemic of police violence in black communities.

Follow May on Twitter at @may20p.

Credit: DNAinfo/Ted Cox
Page May speaks at the Chicago teachers rally in 2016.

LaSaia Wade

LaSaia Wade is an Afro-Puerto Rican indigenous trans activist from Hyde Park who leads the Brave Space Alliance.

Credit: Brave Space Alliance
LaSaia Wade

The LGBTQ center has been supporting the movement for Black lives by offering free food, water, first aid and training for activists participating in the demonstrations against police violence.

Her work pushes for a more inclusive movement that does not erase or sideline the experiences of Black people who are also queer. Wade’s activism emphasizes that the Black Lives Matter movement is for all Black people, including Black trans women who disproportionately face many forms of violence including police brutality.

Follow Wade on Twitter at @LaSaiaWade.

Benji Hart

Hart is a writer, artist and educator whose work spans from prison abolition to trans liberation.

Their political education workshops and art have helped to build power in the movement to demilitarize and defund the police in Chicago.

Follow them on Twitter at @radfagg.

Credit: Benji Hart
Benji Hart

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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