BTGNC Collective Statement in Solidarity with the #BlackPride4

On Saturday, June 17, 2017, multiple Black trans and queer folks with a handful of allies staged a silent protest at the Columbus, Ohio Pride Festival, placing themselves in a long history of Pride disruptions. The intent was to disrupt the parade route for seven minutes, symbolic of each shot that murdered Philando Castile in Minnesota–yet another police murder of an unarmed Black person in the US that would go unanswered for by its department.

In addition to protesting the recent acquittal of the officer responsible for Castile’s death, protesters took the street in order to resist the constant lack of safety and respect for Black and Brown folks within the LGBTQIA movement, to resist the silence regarding the murders of Trans Women of Color, and to resist the flagrant violence of Columbus’ police force.

The events that followed proved not only the racism and transphobia of the Columbus Police, but the same among the white community within the larger LGBTQIA struggle.

Within moments of taking the street, Columbus PD moved on the protesters in force, attacking them with bicycles, mace, and eventually throwing multiple people to the ground. Of the protesters attacked, four of the Black people present–now known as the #BlackPride4–were taken into custody. Wriply Bennet, Deandre Miles, Ashley Braxton, and Kendall Denton are currently facing misdemeanors, with Deandre also facing a felony aggravated robbery charge. All this was done to the tune of cheering white people, and a parade route that literally continued on as Black trans and queer folks were met with the opposite of Pride’s intention: The violent presence of state repression within trans and queer spaces.

In many ways, the brutal response to protesters that day proved the need for their presence at the festival in the first place. It showed the reliance of white cis people on police, when faced with the uncomfortable truths that do not apply to them regularly. It showed how far Pride has moved away from its origin, an origin intended to put an end to state power over trans and queer people. It showed the continued erasure of the Black and Brown trans and queer history that has given so many white cis gay people so much comfort, and has inspired the struggles the LGBTQIA community at large seeks to claim for its own.

The BTGNC Collective moves in solidarity with the #BlackPride4, and echoes their story, their strength, and their demands:

  • The charges against each member of the #BlackPride4 must be dropped. Under no circumstances should it ever be considered criminal to advocate for the lives of others. Those charged were targeted for a truth that they had every right to tell.
  • Stonewall Columbus needs to hold themselves accountable. As an organization that bears the title of a trans and queer riot against police violence, the complacency of Stonewall Columbus in the aggression towards Black trans and queer people in the act of protest is a contradiction. Stonewall Columbus should take this time to support the #BlackPride4 in all future resistance to state suppression, and ensure that police no longer play a role in Columbus pride.
  • There needs to be an internal affairs investigation of the Columbus Police Department for the excessive force used against the protesters and the #BlackPride4. The videos of the attack on the protesters show that the Columbus PD made choices to endanger the safety of folks it claims to protect. This act of needless aggression needs to be answered for by the department itself, as well the officers who were present that day.

It is important that the LGBTQIA community as a whole move away from the idea that police at pride make it a safe place to be–especially for Black and Brown folk who attend. The preservation of the lives and truths of marginalized people deserves to be discussed and fought for, openly, unapologetically, and without retaliation from the state. It is for these reasons, and others, that we as the BTGNC Collective of Chicago are in solidarity with the #BlackPride4.

Those inside and outside of our community who wish to learn more and support further can do so here.

#BlackPride4 #NoJusticeNoPride #BlackOutPride



We Must Keep Fighting for Kiwi Herring

On August 22, 2017 Kiwi Herring, a Black, trans woman, was killed by the St. Louis police, after they were called to the scene of a dispute, in a neighborhood in which her friends and family confirm she had been experiencing transphobic harassment. Both Kiwi and the partner she was living with are trans, and the night before her murder, a neighbor had set a fire on their back porch in an attempt to burn down the apartment. After killing Kiwi, police took her partner into custody, where it is believed they are still being held.

Like so many Black, trans people before them, and so many Black, trans people in their everyday lives, Kiwi and her partner were targeted first by interpersonal transphobia, and next by the state for daring to fight for their own lives. It was violence on all sides, and a refusal to see Black, trans lives as ones worth protecting, that led to her murder, and the arrest of her partner.

At a vigil that same week, community gathered to mourn and celebrate Kiwi. A car drove into the crowd, injuring three attendees. Witnesses insist the driver jeered and harassed mourners before hitting them. The St. Louis police dispute this story—just as they dispute stories at the original murder scene—claiming community attacked the car first.

We recount these events not just to tell Kiwi’s story, but to note how much of the violence faced by Black, trans people, their partners and their advocates mirrors that of other communities, yet receives very different reactions. The same hyper-militarized police force that aided in the killing of Mike Brown and the suppression of Ferguson almost exactly three years prior has struck again. The same tactics for violence heralded by white nationalists, pushed forward by bigoted lawmakers nationwide, which led to the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, VA, are being used against Black, queer and trans protesters. We want to see the same response, the same calls for defense and justice for our communities that we have lately seen for others.

In this moment we are tired. We know other oppressed communities are tired, too. We know each of us must wake up day after day to the same old violence, and the constantly growing threats of new violence. We know the attacks on our communities feel unceasing, even escalating. We speak Kiwi’s name to remind us not only that there is nothing new about these threats, but that they are being leveled against us because we are winning.

It is hard to believe we are winning when we are losing our loved ones, our rights, our most basic needs on a daily basis. But we must remember the persecution of undocumented, immigrant, women, Muslim, Black, hood, working, queer, and trans communities are facing on a systemic level is a direct response to the power of our movements, the force of our voices, the vision we have laid out for a more just world. The vehemence of the backlash is proportional to the effectiveness of our organizing. We cannot give up now.

We speak Kiwi’s name as we call for demilitarization, including the demilitarizing and opening of all borders. We speak Kiwi’s name in honor of Black, trans undocumented youth and their families impacted by the repealing of DACA, and the other renewed attacks on immigrant people. We speak Kiwi’s name in honor of worker power, of a living wage. We speak Kiwi’s name in honor of police and prison abolition, in fierce demand for the funding of needed social services, and the redistribution of this empire’s wealth. We speak Kiwi’s name in honor of all women and girls impacted by partner violence, community violence, Islamophobia, and state terror. We speak Kiwi’s name as we envision struggles for justice which are global in scope, uniting not just our disparate identities, but our histories, and our demands.

Fighting together means never seeing our struggles and stories as competing, but always seeing them as tangential, bonded. Only when all of our stories are told, when all of our lives are actively fought for, can we clearly see the larger outline of the structures oppressing us, and an illuminated path toward their permanent destruction.

We must keep fighting for Kiwi, and for all Black, trans people alongside and within each new fight we take up. We must gather the stories of those we’ve already lost, and continue to weave them into the stories of those for whom we are presently fighting.

#Justice4Kiwi #KiwiHerring #SayHerName #BlackTransPower

Call to action: Call the St. Louis Police Department at 314 231 1212 and tell them to release the names of the officers involved in Kiwi Herring’s murder.

UPDATE: Kiwi’s partner has been released thanks to the combined work of Metro Trans Umbrella Group and St. Louis Action Council.

Cover image by Darien Wendell

Open Membership Hang on August 19th

Come hang out with with members of the Black, Trans and Gender-NonConforming Collecitve (BTGNC), get to know our organization and learn more about joining!

At this open event, Black, trans, and gnc folks from the Chicago area are invited to come and eat good food, play games, engage in a healing space, and learn more about the BTGNC Collective and it’s work. We want to hear from our community about what their needs and interests are in btgnc organizing, and throughout the afternoon there will be info sessions for those present to get to know our collective, it’s mission, values, and goals, and how you can join!

The Breathing Room has generously provided their space, and we will be bbqing, hanging, and building together. Please come through, and invite other Black, trans, and gnc folks!

Info sessions will be at 3:30pm and again at 5:00pm, but come by at any time! RSVP at the Facebook event.

Interested In Joining BTGNC? Follow Us!

The BTGNC Collective is a newly-formed organization in the Chicago area, dedicated to getting Black, trans and gender-nonconcorming people involved in activism and organizing, and in conversation with each other.

If you live in the Chicago area, identify as Black, trans/non-binary/gender-nonconforming, and want to get involved with BTGNC, follow our web page here, and check us out on Facebook and Twitter. We will host interest meetings for new members beginning in June 2017, and will be posting updates with more information as the date gets closer!

We hope to meet you soon!

Cover image courtesy of Love & Struggle Photos

Our Website Is Live!

Welcome to the homepage for the BTGNC Collective! We are a newly-formed organization, dedicating to building Black, trans and gender-nonconforming power in the Chicago area. This is our homepage, complete with our mission, values, and other important info about who were are. As we continue to grow, updates about membership opportunities and upcoming actions will be posted here as well.

Look around, follow us, and keep posted for new updates!

Cover image courtesy of Love & Struggle Photos