“Our whole Pride month comes from the origins of us resisting police brutality,” said Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality NC. “So there is nothing more fitting than the LGBT community standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Uprisings all over the country. It makes perfect sense and it is in many ways a return to our roots.”
Those roots date back to June 28, 1969, when New York City Police Department officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. At the time, it was illegal to engage in any kind of same-sex relations–including holding hands, dancing and kissing–in public in New York City.
The chaos sparked a riot and several days of protests, led by trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, after patrons and employees were brutality arrested.
More than 50 years later, the Black Lives Matter movement, co-founded by members of the Black queer community, is leading the debate over defunding the police–a measure Johnson said Equality NC supports.
“Re-imagining how we create safer communities where we are not seeing the most marginalized communities targeted by police,” Johnson said. “It is directing resources to community programs that have been eviscerated, it’s putting money into schools to keep kids in schools. It’s getting cops out of schools so that when kids have fights, kids are not criminalized.”
For the past two years, Equality NC has pivoted its focus to racial equity, partnering with groups, politicians and candidates and elevating immigration issues, criminal justice reform and reproductive rights. The group also calls attention to the disproportionate impacts education, healthcare, and employment have on the LGBTQ community.
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“Frequently Black and Brown, trans and nonconforming people have been left to the side,” Johnson said. “That’s part of the dialogue that we are having to situate our history.”
June is Pride month in many cities across the country–a month normally filled with parades and celebration in honor of the June 28 riot at the Stonewall Inn. However, many cities, including Raleigh, cancelled their events due to COVID 19.
Equality NC said it’s using this moment as an opportunity to shine a light on issues the LGBTQ community has been fighting since the Civil Rights Movement.
“Pride is fun, but in reality, we have a lot of work to do, and this is one of the ways that we can keep pushing for the American promise: pushing against police brutality, demanding respect, demanding a better way for resolving the problems that we have in our community,” Johnson said.
A representative for Equality NC said those who want to get involved can donate to the Movement for Black Lives or Black Lives Matter.
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