NORTHALSTED — A crew of ballroom performers known as the Angels vogued in front of the Chicago Police Department’s 19th District station on Sunday during a performance paying tribute to all the Black transgender people who have been murdered within recent years.
“We’re going to say their names with pride,” said Deanna Agbalaya, known as Delicious Gucci on the hit HBO Max show “Legendary.”
To the pulsing beat of a ballroom dance track and the applause of 200 or so protesters, Agbalaya chanted the names of the transgender victims of violence, which included from Chicago Tiara Banks, a 24-year-old woman who was killed in April; Tyianna Alexander and Courtney Eshay Key, two friends who were killed within two weeks of each other on the South Side; and Selena Reyes-Hernandez, a 37-year-old woman who was killed in May 2020.
The energetic memorial for the transgender community was part of the second annual “Pride Without Prejudice” protest, also known as the “People’s Pride,” which started last year in the wake of George Floyd’s murder as a way to bring LGBTQ pride back to its protest roots. Large-scale Pride events and parades have been criticized in recent years for their corporate polish and inclusion of police.
“We’re the closest you will get to a Stonewall Rebellion — not Chipotle and CPD floats at Pride,” said Samer Owaida, one of the protest’s organizers.
The protest and march, which kicked off from the Belmont CTA station in Lakeview, paid tribute to the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, in which LGBTQ people fought back against New York City police for raiding their gay bars, by emphasizing the role that Black and Brown transgender leaders have played in fighting for LGBTQ rights.
They evoked trailblazing trans activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who were early leaders in the gay liberation movement, while calling on people to stand by Black and Brown queer leaders of today.
“All of these women are the reason why we’re here today, and it’s not fair for us to continue to be a part of this community [while] forgetting that our history is the reason why we’re able to be out loud and supported by other people,” said activist Ashabi Owagboruaye. “And we also have to understand that Black and Brown people still need that support every single day.”
The protesters marched north on Halsted— in Chicago’s LGBTQ neighborhood formerly known as Boystown — toward the intersection of Halsted, Grace and Broadway. They stopped at the Town Hall police station and called for the defunding of the Chicago Police Department, the decriminalization of sex work and better treatment of the LGBTQ community by police.
“I got arrested here as a youth when I came out to an area where I felt comfortable hanging, and [police] treated me like I was nothing,” Agbalaya said. “I want them to tear [the police station] down and put something for the community here instead.”
“We are here to take back our Pride and make sure we can include every single community and not just the white community up here in Northalsted,” said activist Fredy Roberts Ramirez. “Whose community?”
“Our community!” the crowd shouted in response.
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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