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Black Lives Matter - A Pride Message From EQAZ

It's June and that means it is Pride month.

During the month of June, we, the LGBTQ+ community, commemorate the landmark event called Stonewall. During the Civil Rights era, the LGBTQ+ community, like so many other communities, organized against police violence, criminalization, and the general oppression of our people. In this tumultuous time, many organizations were formed - from the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis to less formal groups like the Lavender Menace and gatherings of Trans folks, coming together to survive a world that wanted to erase our very existence.

Through riots and refusal to comply with police and unjust laws, there were countless acts of resistance to and rebellion against the criminalization of LGBTQ people, police violence, and the relentless oppression that LGBTQ people faced in everyday life, including organized and collective resistance at places like Compton’s Cafeteria and Cooper’s Donuts. On June 28, 1969, the LGBTQ+ community in New York City openly rebelled against police violence, particularly against the constant criminalization and targeting by police against LGBTQ+ people. This rebellion, originated at the Stonewall Inn after the police raided the bar, harassed, and sought to arrest the LGBTQ bar patrons simply because they were LGBTQ people gathering and being in community. Because these raids and police violence were common, the folks at the Stonewall Inn like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, understood that they were in a fight for their liberty and their lives. So, on June 28, 1969 LGBTQ+ people, led by these trans women of color and those of us most vulnerable to police persecution, rose up and fought back, fighting for their lives. What transpired at Stonewall turned into a full-fledged rebellion through a 6-day riot with LGBTQ people fighting in the streets with everything they had from their fists to bricks to Molotov cocktails.

This 6-days rebellion is what we commemorate every year at LGBTQ Pride parades and festivals. And we commemorate this 6 days riot because it was a turning point in the larger rebellion - a moment that fueled and created the modern day LGBTQ movement, and began to change the culture in this country -from one where LGBTQ people were criminals simply because of who we are, to one where we are a community with allies.

On this 51st anniversary of Stonewall, we won’t be able to celebrate and commemorate this moment of liberation, of fighting back, or rising up in rebellion, like we have for many years. Because of both COVID-19 and the persistent murdering of Black people by police, this year’s Pride may feel and look a lot like those days in 1969 and the years shortly after when it was a very dangerous proposition to walk in a Pride parade, even in a place like New York City.

On this 51st anniversary of Stonewall, it’s our job as a community to once again fight and rise up against police violence. Cell phones and social media have made the daily persecution of Black people by police more present in the public dialogue, but make no mistake, this is not new. Criminalization of people because of who they are (because of race, sexuality, gender) is not new. Experiencing police violence has long been a part of what it means to be Black in this country, to be Latinx in this country, to be Indigenous in this country.

On this 51st anniversary of Stonewall, it’s time for the LGBTQ+ movement to recommit to liberation, justice, and self-determination for all by prioritizing racial justice as also our fight. The following are actions we can take as members of the LGBTQ+ community to fight for racial justice.

LGBTQ+ organizations: This year we won’t be at Pride festivals and parades, distributing rainbow and other branded merchandise and SWAG meant to promote our organizations. A very easy and simple way you can contribute right now is to take the money you had budgeted for those festivals and all of that SWAG and send it to Black, Indigenous, and POC organizations and communities.

Leaders of organizations, groups, collectives, and elected leaders: It’s our job to prioritize racial justice in the work of LGBTQ+ organizations and movement – that means working to end police violence, working for fair and unbiased immigration laws, working to end racial profiling as an acceptable practice, and working daily against the mechanisms of white supremacy that fuel racism and injustice in our state and nation. It also means changing our business practices and policies to be anti-racist and committing to transforming our staff and leadership by recruiting and hiring BIPOC individuals and ensuring they have the institutional power to create change in our organizations that furthers racial justice. June is our time once again to join, in COVID safe ways, the protests, riots, and rebellions against police violence and persecution – as individual leaders and organizational leaders, it is time for us to encourage our community members to do the same.

White LGBTQ+ folks: you may not think the fight against white supremacy and racial injustice is yours, so I want to assure you that it is. This fight may not be yours to lead, but you are being called upon to be accomplices/abolitionists and to follow the lead of people of Color, to be anti-racists, and to work productively within these movements for racial justice. There are countless anti-racist books, workshops, and resources available, and we’ll do our best to post those throughout the month. There are also tons of resources for white folks to work on confronting white supremacy in yourselves and in others. We’ll post those too.

LGBTQ+ folks of Color: It’s high time for all of us to work on becoming Pro-Black and Pro-indigenous. We have to confront the inheritance of a society founded by and steeped in settler colonialism and white supremacy. Our call is to show up for Black and indigenous people and to fight every ounce of anti-blackness and anti-indigeneity in communities of color. We have programming planned for this month and will post resources to further educate ourselves on these critical matters.

All who can afford to share: we must share financial resources so that we may support the work of liberating all from police violence and white supremacy. Today EQAZ was supposed to launch our campaign, Give OUT Month, asking you to donate to EQAZ and support our work. Instead, we’re asking you to support the people on the ground right now fighting the twin pandemics of COVID and police violence. Please give if you can and if you can’t give monetary resources or other resources, please consider volunteering for these organizations, funds, and communities on the frontlines of both pandemics. Here in Arizona some of the groups we are encouraging you to donate to and support are Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro, Mass Liberation Arizona, Black Phoenix Organizing Collective, Phoenix Local Organizing Committee, the People’s Defense Initiative, and ReFrame Youth Center. Nationally we encourage you to donate to and support the Black Futures Lab, the Movement for Black Lives, the National Black Justice Coalition, Trans Justice Funding Project, House of GG, the Okra Project, Youth Breakout, the Black AIDS Institute, Marsha P. Johnson Institute, and Southerners on New Ground. We believe that organizational and personal budgets are moral documents, so where we put our resources is a reflection of what we value. Please value justice and liberation. Put your money in who you value!

Finally, let me close by simply saying that Black Lives Matter. As an LGBTQ+ community and movement, we must know this, believe it, and proclaim it as strongly and as loudly as we believe Love is Love. There is no path forward for our movement, for our community, for justice for our people, without committing ourselves fully to fighting against white supremacy and for racial justice. Black Lives Matter!

Michael Soto

Executive Director

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