BOYSTOWN — A Black Trans Lives Matter protest sponsored by the Northalsted Business Alliance was canceled after Black, transgender activists pulled out of the march claiming they were being tokenized.
The several-mile march was billed as an alternative to the annual Pride Parade that was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to organizers from Activate: Chi, a multicultural coalition of activists seeking nonprofit status.
The group announced late Friday that the march was canceled after organizers from the Brave Space Alliance, who were scheduled to speak at the protest, pulled out of the event, criticizing its ties to “white-owned businesses and institutions in Chicago that have historically upheld anti-Blackness and transphobia in the queer and trans community, and across the city.”
“Furthermore, as planning for the march proceeded, it became clear to Brave Space Alliance that we were being tokenized at the event, and deployed for clout by the organizers,” Brave Space Alliance’s statement continued. “Black trans voices are not sufficiently centered at this event, which purports to be about Black Trans Lives mattering.”
Activate: Chi announced late Friday that the protest was canceled and the group would be donating its resources for the march to an alternative, trans-led “Reclaim Pride” protest also scheduled for Sunday.
“We make a promise to move more intentionally in the future with our actions and statements,” the statement read. “We will continue to commit to making ourselves more accountable and purposeful.”
The alternative protest, billed as a “Pride Without Prejudice / Reclaim Pride” march, will start at noon Sunday outside the Belmont Red Line station.
According to Dom Brown, a spokesperson for Activate: Chi, the Northalsted Business Alliance donated $2,000, its press list and some business contacts to help organize the march. The financial donation will now go directly to the Brave Space Alliance.
“Our partnership with the Northalsted Business Alliance was to hold them accountable to Black and Brown people in the community,” Brown said. “We felt it was important to include them and hold them to their commitment to progress in the community.”
Brown said the group will make an additional donation to Brave Space Alliance from its $25,000 GoFundMe campaign that Activate: Chi launched after a Black Lives Matter protest on the Near West Side earlier this month.
Brown said the rest of the money raised will support paperwork cementing Activate: Chi’s nonprofit status and future initiatives. He clarified that the group aims to tackle a broad range of social injustices, including current inequities faced by Black and transgender people.
“Our intentions weren’t to deter from the Pride Without Prejudice protest, and we thought it was best that we concede and allocate our resources to amplifying their voices,” Brown said. “There’s a lot more work to do, and we’re not going to stop organizing because we’re stronger together.”
The Northalsted Business Alliance organizes Boystown’s annual Pride and Market Days festivals and represents many of the neighborhood’s LGBTQ bar owners, which have recently been criticized for contributing to a culture of racism in the community.
Last Tuesday, members of the Chicago Black Drag Council, a coalition of Black nightlife performers formed after the Drag March For Change Protest, met with general managers and owners of various bars to discuss racism within the LGBTQ community.
Drag queens who were present for the private meeting said it was a “productive discussion” and that the bars present showed a commitment to addressing systemic racism.
Some bars, such as Roscoe’s and Berlin Nightclub, have already begun making changes by firing a prominent queen and show producer accused of discriminating against Black performers.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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