Since its inception in 2012, first as an online conversation and now as a widespread network of 30+ chapters and affiliated groups, Black Lives Matter has prioritized the leadership and voices of Black women, queer and trans folks, and others at the intersections of Blackness and marginalized identity.
Because of the movement’s inclusionary goals, at first glance it may make sense that, for the second year, Black Lives Matter has been named grand marshal for the 2016 San Francisco Pride Parade (co-founder Alicia Garza was recognized last year). This alliance has the potential to increase the visibility of issues affecting black lives. But I have some concerns and questions, including, How has San Francisco demonstrated in any way that it cares about black lives?
In my own involvement and observation of the groups aligned with Black Lives Matter, their commitment to inclusion has largely held up. Many of us are black, queer and have a deep commitment to the liberation of all black people.
This type of organizing — which values all parts of ourselves and does not ask us to leave bits of ourselves behind — is the type of organizing that many of us have been waiting years, perhaps our entire lives, for.
Black people have been uprooted from neighborhoods in San Francisco and the East Bay with complete indifference and impunity from city politicians. The remaining black population in San Francisco is below 3.9 percent. The San Francisco Police Department officers who were involved in the execution-style shooting death of Mario Woods have yet to be implicated. Predominantly white “gay meccas” like the Castro district have been unwelcoming and downright hostile to the Black Lives Matter movement.
It’s one thing for the San Francisco Pride Parade recognize an organization that has done incredible work. It’s entirely another to be politically aligned with the work and cause.
Beyond that, it feels like pride parades across the country have lost their radical roots. Pride arose from the Stonewall Riots — a movement spearheaded primarily by trans women of color — but on its face has become more about capitalism, alcohol sales and rainbow flags than it has honoring the radical nature of direct action demonstrated in Stonewall, the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots and AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACTUP).
In 2015, as Pride celebrated the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriages across the country, many black folks were reeling from the Charleston massacre and the burning of black churches across the nation. But there was no space for us to hold that grief amid the joy and celebration of a right that many of still can’t envision. We are out here just trying to stay alive.
Keeping it real, the alliance of Pride and Black Lives Matter reminds me of colleges that stick their token black person on the admissions brochure when the university has done nothing to ensure students of color have a welcoming and affirming environment.
What space does SF Pride plan to hold for us so that we can honor our dead and dying, the forcefully displaced or our family members behind bars?
What message is SF Pride trying to send by honoring Black Lives Matter? What does accepting this honor mean in terms of prioritizing a queer politic? How can this be used as an opportunity to demand change?
To me, “honoring black queer and trans leadership” means not only identifying queerness as “loving differently than the mainstream.” Queerness is a politic that means to transgress — not simply to assimilate.