Shea Coulee & Scott Studenberg
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40,000 Demand Justice for Black Trans Lives at Protests

Brooklyn Liberation March

Though some media reports say that the Black Lives Matter protests are dying down, there is increasing evidence to the contrary. On Sunday, a reported 15,000 people centered, were led by and stood in solidarity with Black trans folks at the Brooklyn Liberation action. With a series of speeches given by Black activists standing on the ledged of the Brooklyn Museum looking out over the massive crowd wearing all white — around 600 of whom were wearing Black Trans Lives Matter t-shirts that had been screen printed and handed out by the fashion brand Willie Norris — the protest uplifted the names of Black trans folks who have been killed over the last two years including Tony McDade, Layleen Xtravaganza Cubilette-Polanco, Nina Pop, Riah Milton, Dominique "Rem'Mie" Fells, Muhlaysia Booker, Chanel Scurlock, and many more.

The speakers at the event included Ceyenne Doroshow,  the founder and executive director of Gays and Lesbians Living In a Transgender Society, an organization that creates and secures housing for people of trans experience. As a result of recent advocacy work on behalf of the organization, Doroshow announced Sunday that they had raised just under $1 million to do this work — since the organization's GoFundMe has tipped over that line. Ianne Fields Stewart, a founder of The Okra Project also spoke. That organization provides food as well as funds for obtaining mental health services, specifically targeted at Black trans folks. Activist and former Out executive editor Raquel Willis also spoke. 

"I believe in my power," she said, leading a chant as a component of her speech. "I believe in your power. I believe in our power. I believe in Black trans power." Willis went on to say that those organizations that didn't include Black trans leadership, or did not serve the Black trans community were "obsolete."

The sister of Polanco, Melania Brown, also spoke, detailing how her sister's death at the hands of the state and prison industrial complex had spurred her into action — new video footage shows guards laughing directly before Polanco's death meaning that it was likely preventable. This footage emerged after the district attorney's office deadnamed Polanco in their report declaring no criminality in her death.

Those who marched wore all white. According to organizers at the event, this was in direct ode to the NAACP Silent Protest where nearly 10,000 people wore white. Organizers included The Okra Project, Marsha P. Johnson Institute, For the Gworls, GLITS, Black Trans Femmes in the Arts, as well as activists like Eliel Cruz, drag performer West Dakota, and former Out deputy editor Fran Tirado.

In Brooklyn Sunday, along the two-mile march, protestors carried signs and chanted. The vast majority wore masks and hand sanitizer, as well as water, was provided throughout the route. As has been present at a few marches, people vogued — apt as that dance form was one specifically born of queer resistance and protest.

But this wasn't the only march. In Los Angeles, the All Black Lives Matter protest reportedly boasted 25,000. There, many protestors also wore masks and carried signs with the names and faces of trans folks who had been killed. The march had initially been planned by the organizers of LA Pride in place of its Pride festival — which was set to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year — but they pulled out after widespread criticism. Instead, the Black LGBTQIA Advisory Board Council led the event. For it, Hollywood Boulevard was painted with All Black Lives Matter, painted with colors that correspond with the Trans Flag and the Pride Flag.

Chicago also held its Drag March for Change in support of the effort featuring speeches by the likes of Shea Coulee, Dida Ritz, Lucy Stoole, The Vixen and more. The procession walked through Boystown. 

RELATED | You Marched for Black Lives — Here's the Next Step

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