By LoriKim Alexander
As long as I’ve been out and going to Pride it’s never felt like it was for me. Never. It’s been for gay white men with gym bodies in hot pants and body oil and all the subsets of gay white male culture. How’d that happen, I wonder? I mean, Pride began with a riot against police brutality. Right? But even then, Pride was extra white and they booed our foremothers Marsha P. and Sylvia Rivera when they talked. They ignored Storme because she was nothing but a woman in a nice suit.
So let’s talk real facts right now. In Syracuse, Pride was held on the same day as Juneteenth for years. It was also lacking adequate disability access and folks complained to the CNY Pride board about it for years. We at BlackCuse Pride tried to talk to the board for three years about this, but it fell on deaf ears as excuses were made and racist rhetoric prevailed. With the support of the Vera House Pride Coalition (a group of organizations and individuals dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ Syracuse through the Coalition in ways they cannot by themselves), we were able to get CNY Pride to move the date of pride away from the date of Juneteenth. This should not have taken the amount of labor from us queer Black people that it did. The anti-Blackness that comes with this is inexcusable.
We are holding CNY Pride to this commitment to never again hold Pride on the same date as Juneteeth and remain cautiously optimistic that they will come out on the right side of this. We will remain a constant reminder that our demand for recognition of personhood is not militancy, privilege is not a virtue, and true allyship is never about the ally.
That said we made further demands to hold space within Pride for trans and queer Black Indigenous and People of Color; the Soul of Pride. We called it the Soul of Pride and used the space to educate folks on the history of the Stonewall Uprising, the fact that we Black and Brown trans and queer people have always been the vanguard of movements even though we have never been centered in them… not until the Movement for Black Lives. We had POC vendors who would not have been able to access the festival otherwise; we turned our tent into a day party, lounge and educational space. It was a refuge and a revelation.
The power and magnitude of this year run deeper than the 50 years that have passed since those days in the summer of 1969. This year is the 400th anniversary of the forced migration of African peoples to the European colonies of the west. It is, therefore, the year of return for all African Diasporic people. The blood stirs at the thought of all this magic. I feel my ancestors calling me home.
All of this makes me well up with pride. But, what we celebrate today most often brings the opposite. For QTBIPOC folks Pride means exclusion. For us Black and Brown folks, it means we create our own magic within these commercialized parties that have nothing to do with us. How can we turn this around? How do we find the pride we deserve and become the true legacy of our ancestors? Let’s spell it out…
P is for police involvement. If we want Pride celebrations to be truly celebratory for everyone and have any framework for moving forward in queer liberation we must divest from police involvement at all costs. Police forces routinely cause more harm than good at Pride events. And how can we expect to feel free when we are surrounded by the arm of oppression that routinely murders, brutalizes and harasses us? How will we get free if we do not consistently call attention to the hypocrisy and injustice that comes with allowing police to march with us and having them boxing us in during our events?
R is for riot. The Stonewall Uprising was a full-on RIOT, fam. A riot. Have any of you ever been anywhere near a riot? Think about the energy of a days long riot, during the late sixties, when there are no LGBTQ+ centers, no shelters, no protections for Black people, women, queer people, and absolutely none for trans, two-spirit or gender non-conforming folks. Folks picked up any weapons they could, even if it was just their bodies and voices and hurled them at the cops who week after week, night after night, preyed on them. Think about someone stopping you on the street to check your underwear. They still do that, but now they also ask for ID and it’s all still fully legal. We need to invoke those days because complacency is killing us and the reality of this is lost on the most privileged of us. I’ll be honest and say that R also stands for reparations, and ride… because you cannot keep riding our backs, utilizing us only when you want to perform allyship or when white folks want someone to say something about Blackness, Native ways, and people of color in general so that you can get your grant or kudos from other white folks. For trans and queer people to get truly free, you have to stand up for the most marginalized of us. Black trans women are being killed at an epidemic rate. Where are the riots? I don’t want to see sad faces on facebook, or hashtags on t-shirts and statuses. We need full-on direct action to push social change.
I is for intersectionality. We are lots of identities and those of us who are de-centered often sit at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. The only way Pride can be celebrated is if we honor that there is no homogenous way to be trans or queer and that you cannot talk about our issues without bringing the other daily realities we face into play. Racism within and outside of our LGBTQ+ communities exists, misogyny comes in cis and trans male too. If folks can’t realize that we are an ally to someone somewhere and that we must all work to be with them in struggle and become accomplices then what do we have to be proud of? Not to negate work that’s been done, but to shine a light on the fact that there’s more to do. We cannot keep talking about diversity without recognizing that the word has no meaning without the people it represents. And, please, recognize that we need hard tangible options for embracing our intersections. So, don’t include folks, build your pride around folks and with folks. Don’t invite me to something that you made for you, but I can join in too.
D is for divest from corporate involvement. Corporations do not care about us. They do not. If they did, they wouldn’t just show up at Pride and leave us high and dry the rest of the year. If they cared about us they would seek us out and offer sponsorship and funding for the work we do to sustain our communities. Corporations do not meet the demands we have for living free. They cannot. Pride everywhere around this country should be supporting and supported by queer businesses, entrepreneurs and local mom and pops.
E is for economic justice. You cannot hold Pride and not support folks who are struggling to survive in this world. When it’s time for Pride we make calls for the “community” to come out. What about those who cannot make it, or take 2 buses and don’t eat so they can make it. Will we charge them for entrance? Will we have affordable meals? Are they worthy of being proud too? Again, most often, those of us we hold in words, but not actions, our trans and queer family who’ve been abandoned by theirs, are the ones who won’t be able to make it out because they have to survive. Will you open your boards to them? Will you provide jobs in your non-profits will you plan with them in mind?
I’m not interested in a Pride that I can’t be proud of. And I’m battle weary from fighting. So please, spend this year until next pride season honestly calling in communities you have routinely dismissed.