NORTHALSTED — The Drag March for Change, which attracted thousands of protesters last year who demanded racial justice, will return Sunday.
The protest, led by a group of Black drag performers and transgender people, shut down North Halsted Street in June 2020 as protesters demanded justice for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality, as well as racial equality for Black people.
This year’s Drag March will kick off 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the corner of Belmont Avenue and Halsted Street, with an expanded message of equality for people of all races.
“We’re bringing this back because our demands weren’t met,” said organizer Jo MaMa, also known as bartender Joe Lewis, 35. “We’ve also broadened the protest to include speakers from other races to stand up against oppression.”
Speakers will include popular performers from Chicago’s drag scene, such as “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alums Dida Ritz and The Vixen, as well as Lucy Stoole, Prince Nikki, Irregular Girl, Aunty Chan and Abhijeet. It will also feature LaSaia Wade, founder and executive director of the Brave Space Alliance, Chicago’s only Black- and trans-led LGBTQ center, and Cae Monae, a member of Molasses, a collective of Black and trans nightlife artists in Chicago.
The protest’s organizers are demanding the city reduce its police budget by 75 percent and redirect that funding to social services and community programs, such as the Brave Space Alliance. They also want police banned from marching in Pride festivities.
Other demands include justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, which organizers define as “the abolishment of the system that took these lives and that restorative systems grow in their stead.”
“There’s not really justice in any of these cases,” MaMa said. “There’s been some forward movement and progression, but that’s really not justice.”
Last year’s Drag March for Change sparked a neighborhood-wide reckoning within Northalsted — Chicago’s LGBTQ neighborhood formerly known as Boystown — that included the ousting of a top drag producer accused of racism and the formation of the Chicago Black Drag Council, which has partnered with gay bars to improve racial equity within their businesses.
“After last year’s march, there have been steps of progress when it comes to diversifying programming within our nightclubs, but when it comes to equity, we’re still not seeing that,” MaMa said. “We want people of color to have a seat at the table when it comes to these businesses.”
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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