LAKEVIEW — About 100 protesters led by drag queen Jo MaMa and other Black queer people marched through Lakeview Sunday with the goal of re-centering LGBTQ Pride around social justice and radical change.
Organizers demanded action on various topics, ranging from trans equality to abortion rights, gun control and defunding the city’s police department, saying this kind of advocacy is key to bringing Pride back to its radical roots.
“This is what Pride should be about,” MaMa said. “Over the past 20 years or so, a lot more corporations have inched their way into the Pride sphere, and it’s eroded the message. We need to celebrate but also remember and reflect on where the community has come from and what’s still ahead of us.”
Pride started with the 1969 Stonewall Riots, in which LGBTQ people fought back against the police for raiding their gay bars. The uprising lasted several days and marked a turning point in the fight for LGBTQ rights.
“A riot started off the backs of Black and Brown trans women who were sick of police sitting up there, triggering them and attacking them,” said Zahara Bassett, a protest organizer and CEO of Life is Work, a trans-led organization on the West Side. “They threw the first stone and after the riot happened, a white man took everything away and made it a Pride Parade. Why are we celebrating when we are still fighting?”
Bassett said the community can honor the Stonewall Riots by investing back in Black and Brown transgender women.
“Because we need more resources, ” Bassett said. “We need you all to feed into us and help us help ourselves.”
Organizers blasted the city for failing to solve the recent murders of Black trans women in Chicago, including Tatiana Labelle, who was found murdered in a trash can in Chatham in March.
Murders of the transgender community are on the rise across the country, with 2021 marking the deadliest year for transgender people on record, seeing at least 57 transgender or gender non-conforming people killed in the U.S., according to the Human Rights Campaign. At least four of those murdered last year were in the Chicago area, including Tyianna Alexander, Tiara Banks, Disaya Monaee Smith and Briana Hamilton.
At least 14 transgender people have been killed nationally this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
“We need follow up from the city about the trans murders that are happening here in Chicago,” Bassett said. “Justice for all Black and Brown trans women.”
The protest leaders also stressed how the Supreme Court’s pending decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade could set the stage to repeal LGBTQ rights.
Trisha Holloway, trans and gender-nonbinary community health manager for Howard Brown Health, said overturning Roe vs. Wade would threaten a right to privacy that was used to guarantee rights like same-sex marriage or overturn laws criminalizing LGBTQ identities.
“It’s important for us to show support for one another because that will begin to affect us,” Holloway said. “It affects us economically, and it’s going to start reaching over into family planning, gay marriage and other LGBTQ rights.”
Other issues the protesters touched on included demanding the Chicago Pride Parade become a nonprofit entity with a diverse board; implementing national gun control measures; and reducing the Chicago Police Department budget by 75 percent and reinvesting those funds into social services and community programs.
MaMa said they hope the march’s attendees felt empowered to pick up the baton and keep pushing for radical change, especially for Black trans women.
“Black trans women are the most afflicted, affected and underserved in our community, and when you solve the problems of Black trans women, you solve the problems of everyone,” MaMa said.
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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