We’ve almost reached LGBT Pride Month, which is becoming clearer each day as more rainbow-themed dudads begin to pop up in stores. But while the designation of June as a time for queer celebration is certainly a solid opportunity for large companies to cash in on the pink dollar, it wasn’t always about Target selling you a #LoveWins hoodie.
It’s an indisputable truth that without trans women of color throwing bricks at cops half a century ago, we wouldn’t have Pride today. June is known as the world’s time for doing tons of fun queer stuff because it was the month that Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and other patrons of New York’s Stonewall Inn rioted in response to police invading their space.
But plenty of the most dominant Pride organizations have clearly not drawn much from the legacy of the uprising which spawned Pride in the first place; they are often unflinching in their support for policing, reliant on corporations, and incredibly white-centric. This is the atmosphere which groups like the Central Ohio-based Black Queer & Intersectional Collective, or BQIC (pronounced Be Quick), have aimed to fight.
The birth of BQIC resulted, in part, from the shared disillusion which two Black, queer, trans comrades named Ariana Steele and Dkeama Alexis felt with the unexamined racism of many queer circles as well as the unexamined queerphobia of many black circles; additionally, the election of Donald Trump (a proto-fascist) to the US presidency galvanized their desire to organize radically.
This photo series explains #WhyCommunityPride is necessary here in Central Ohio! Support grassroots QTPOC-led initiatives over whitewashed, cop-filled spaces and support #CommunityPride!
Images with full text here: https://t.co/exh3uH4H8N pic.twitter.com/uMKHedUuja
— CbusCommPride (@CbusCommPride) May 28, 2019
“After talking to people for a couple months, BQIC officially debuted, and like came out (for lack of better phrasing) in March 2017,” said Dkeama when I spoke with them recently. “And then we had our first ever event three months later where we had a zine release party for a zine that we comprised from different black LGBTQIA+ artists.” This refers to Obsidian, a wonderful volume of art and literature which the group produced. Additionally, in conjunction with Columbus Community Pride, the group released another zine the following year, titled Onyx.
A few months after the formation of BQIC, a harrowing incident transpired in their city.
“In June of 2017, during the Columbus Pride Parade, a group of about a dozen or so protestors, who were largely queer and trans folks of color, wanted to peacefully interrupt the pride parade for seven minutes to call attention to the then-recent acquittal of Philando Castile’s murderer.” These seven minutes were meant to symbolize the seven times Castile was shot.
“They also wanted to hold that space to call attention to the widespread marginalisation and oppression of people of color within the larger LGBTQIA+ community. Within a minute or so of stepping off the curb, Columbus Police immediately biked in and brutalized these protestors, pummeled them with bikes, maced these people…”
During this heinous incident, four of the protestors were arrested; they would come to be known as the ‘Black Pride Four’. From this moment until March 2018, activists from BQIC worked tirelessly in their campaign to #FreeTheBlackPride4, fighting the array of charges which their comrades were facing; information was spread, rallies were held, petition signatures were collected, and direct actions were organized in this effort.
“And it was at this trial that Stonewall Columbus even testified against the Black Pride Four; so now you see how these larger white-led organizations can directly collude with the state to destroy Black bodies and Black livelihoods.”
“Their legal battle culminated officially in March of 2018, when three out of the four of them who all had misdemeanors were sentenced to fines and community service, and also placed on probation,” Alexis explained. “So still, even though they weren’t jailed, they were still very much so ensnared by the State. And it was at this trial that Stonewall Columbus even testified against the Black Pride Four; so now you see how these larger white-led organizations can directly collude with the state to destroy Black bodies and Black livelihoods.”
— Black Queer & Intersectional Collective (BQIC) (@BQICollective) March 13, 2018
The persecution of the Black Pride Four clearly displayed the corrosive effects of queer advocacy becoming intertwined with systems of policing, imprisonment, and capitalism. Two years on, the Collective is continuing to organize radically in the cause of supporting the Black, queer and trans community – one part of this has been distributing necessary materials.
“Free Resource Friday is a monthly initiative where we go to predominantly-Black areas in Columbus and give out free clothes, free food, free hygiene items, free condoms and lube, as well as information about different things that are happening around the city,” said Dkeama.
“Direct service can be incredibly valuable…in the future, we’re hoping to be able to have folks do skillshares, like teaching trans people how to do makeup, or tuck, or apply fake stubble.”
View this post on Instagram
Our next Free Resource Friday will be Friday, May 31st 4:00-6:00 at the MLK Library Branch! We’ll be passing out resources like food, clothing, and hygiene items to folks for free. All in need are welcome to stop by, Black LGBTQIA+ folks and QTPOC to the front! This time, a rep from @equality.ohio will be present to share information about the work they do to legally advocate for LGBTQIA+ people, like with name changes or discrimination complaints for example **swipe for more info**. Stop by to learn more and/or get the help you need! As always, we are in need of donations — please bring by summer clothing, children’s clothing, socks, tampons, dental hygiene items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss), shelf-stable food, and snack items. Please DM us or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to donate items to this initiative! 💕💕💕
Furthermore, BQIC remains in the fight against prosecutorial injustice, as a major part of the Coalition to #FreeMasonique – a movement that has worked to get the charges against Masonique Saunders, a young Black woman being wrongfully repressed for the Columbus Police killing of her boyfriend, dropped.
“We believe there shouldn’t be any police or prisons at all, so the fight to free Masonique is very much tied to the fight to free the Black Pride Four, which is very much tied to the fight to free immigrants who are caged in detention centers. It’s all very much connected for us, and we see ourselves connected to this fight…”
“…As we fight for the supreme self-determination of Black, queer and trans people, that has to include the supreme self-determination of all Black people everywhere. Fighting for Masonique is still very much a part of that struggle…The Coalition to Free Masonique has been organizing a bunch of different actions and events over the past few months to support her as she fights for her freedom behind bars.”
To stay up to date on the comings and goings of this case, follow @FreeMasonqiue on Twitter and Instagram, and visit https://freemasonique.home.blog. And if you live in the area, please consider volunteering for Columbus Community Pride 2019, a grassroots festival which BQIC has helped put on. This event will center LGBTQ people of color, and the community’s proud tradition of resistance – therefore, it is reliant on crowdfunding over wealthy benefactors. Learn more, get involved, and contribute at https://columbuscommunitypride.org! Finally, be sure to follow the Collective on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as visit BQIC.net.