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24 Oct

‘Black trans power’: Inside 2020’s revolutionary Stonewall Protests

‘Black trans power’: Inside 2020’s revolutionary Stonewall Protests

A latest book, titled Revolution Is Love: A 12 months of Black Trans Liberation, remembers the movement through photos, essays and interviews – read an excerpt here

Back in May 2020, a Black trans woman named Nina Pop was killed in Missouri. Weeks later, in Florida, a Black trans man named Tony McDade was also killed.

The next month, activists Qween Jean and Joela Rivera launched into a journey to the Stonewall Inn – the positioning of the historic 1969 riots that catalysed the fashionable gay rights movement. At Stonewall, Jean and Rivera initiated weekly actions, where lots of of individuals met every Thursday to march for Black queer and trans lives. The marches became generally known as the Stonewall Protests, and lasted for greater than a 12 months.

The result was a vibrant and radical community that cared deeply about trans freedom. Now, a latest book captures this powerful group in motion: Revolution Is Love: A 12 months of Black Trans Liberation celebrates the euphoria, struggle and community of the Stonewall Protests through photos, essays, and interviews. Above all, it’s concerning the power of affection in trans liberation.

Below is an excerpt from Revolution Is Love, written by Qween Jean.

Iyanna Dior was 20 years old when she was attacked and beaten up by a community of individuals in Minnesota. She ran to a bodega for help. The owners declined to assist and pushed her out. She recalled, “If I’m going to die, I’m going to die on camera… I wanted people to really know what happened.” These traumatic stories and videos are all too common for Black trans women. Dior’s attack took place on June 1, 2020: the start of Pride Month and first rally I attended on the Stonewall Inn. 

At our first march two weeks later, on June 18, 2020, I returned to the steps near the Stonewall Inn with a message that was fighting to flee my body. It was needed to acknowledge Black queer trans folks throughout the Black Lives Matter revolution. Past movements had ignored the contributions of our TGNC ancestors: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. This connection was undeniable and felt utterly divine. The Stonewall Protests was born, and Black Trans Liberation was the mission. 

Our purpose became clearer every week as more people got here out and the collective grew. There have been a couple of resilient bikers the primary time who took up space on the West Side Highway. We continued to march with a ferocious fervour of passion and rage, a military of lovers ready for change and a latest day. We had the best to assemble, and the best to fight for our freedom. Marginalised folks don’t must prove they deserve respect; we demand it! We weren’t alone, and for the primary time, it felt real. 

I’d start each rally with activist Raquel Willis’s mantra: 

I think in my power 

I think in your power 

I think in our power 

I think in Black queer power 

I think in Black trans power

Her words became an affidavit that electrified the group. That power would lead us into jubilation.

After I take into consideration our Stonewall community, I believe of family. Despite pain, trauma, or abuse, the community was there to nourish, heal, and make you are feeling whole. Black queer and trans folks were supported and embraced as we’re, in our vibrant fullness. Our chosen family held space for the opportunity of transformation. Someone could evolve over time and grow more comfortable expressing their true selves. Our cis-het community members also learned language and ways to higher support us. To know that trans women are in truth women and Black trans people deserve the utmost respect and protection. Our diversity was instrumental in growth and understanding intersectional liberation.

Our history is rooted in violence; our ancestors were raided and looted. Yet they persevered and radically dreamed of freedom. We stand tall on the shoulders of sex staff, drag queens, healers, queer writers, storytellers, community leaders, abolitionists, and courageous Black women, who needed to fight injustice and prove that they belonged. So we, too, proceed to fight, knowing that we had power all along. The facility of our beauty, joy, and vision for Black Trans Liberation! 

The rallies consisted of teachings, brave offerings, stories of our history, and powerful vigils for the siblings we’d lost to racism and transphobic violence. There have been core themes, subjects, and dates that dictated the tone for every motion, including Black Angels Ball, Homegoing Services, Trans Day of Visibility, Sex Employees’ March, African Diasporic History, World AIDS Day, and In Solidarity with ICE Detainees. Audre Lorde says that “without community, there isn’t a liberation.” And I feel that without service, there isn’t a community. The actions were rooted in community constructing, mutual aid, and advocacy for trans wellness and vitality. We consistently met up with other organisations throughout the week to support other actions involving women’s health, LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers, housing discrimination, AAPI hate, Free Palestine, sex staff’ rights, and lots of more. Clothing drives throughout the winter, self-defence training sessions, food drives, and meal distributions were essential to the mission. Holiday celebrations like Transgiving, Transmas, and toy drives created space dedicated to chosen family and fellowship. The community modelled that change doesn’t need to take a lifetime. We’ve got the power and capability to generate a sustainable future, and trans women have been providing for his or her communities all this time. 

I realised we wanted a approach to release. Instinctively I called for us to “open it up,” and the percussion beats guided us right into a circle. Inspired by our ancestors, one could enter the circle and relinquish the burdens they could have been carrying as a approach to heal. An ecstatic roar of affection from the group would erupt as the person danced, vogued, or strutted with no fear. Artists can use their gifts to heal and reclaim their power and ultimately change this world. Who could deny the facility of Black joy as resistance?

Malcolm X reminds us that “the press is so powerful in its image-making role, it will probably make the criminal appear to be he’s the victim and make the victim appear to be he’s the criminal.” We’d hold space while navigating transphobia and unprecedented violence from the police. Physical assaults, including punching, hair-pulling, choking, holding us in headlocks, pulling out their guns, illegal arrests, misgendering, bullying, and abductions of our comrades. This level of abuse and mistreatment was sadly condoned by our public officials, including former Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Nobody needs to be treated with this egregious behaviour while simply attempting to fight for his or her freedom. I can only imagine how our ancestors felt after they were hosed, bitten by dogs, and beaten with batons in past movements.

Revolution is usually depicted as a pastoral memory or event from the past, seen in paintings, folktales, novels, and even movies. The truth is that real revolution exists when real people come together and demand change. We revolt against the systems that try to suppress and silence us. This revolution is devoted to uprooting white supremacy and dismantling its relatives: racism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny. The work will prevail. They’ll’t stop the revolution. And I’m not drained yet.

Revolution Is Love: A 12 months of Black Trans Liberation is published by Aperture and that can be purchased from October 23.

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