During this time of protests, we are seeing who Columbus’s community leaders really are.
Let’s first address what makes a community leader. In general, it’s a person who publicly represents their individual community. More specifically, we have to ask who currently represents the Black persons of Columbus, to name a few: BQIC, PJP, Free them All, Columbus Freedom Coalition. Then there are countless individuals who have been fierce leaders for all Black people, LGBTQ+ included.
But sadly, there are those who are attempting to change the narrative the previously mentioned groups are working so hard to establish, shifting the attention away from justice and equality for all those harmed by the state.
So let’s revisit some of our past. Columbus has always had protests of various kinds for social justice issues. The powers-that-be have been—for the most part—vague in their support. These recent protests are if not the first, then definitely a first in some time, that members of city council joined the protest.
There was a protest in November with the Columbus March for Black Trans Women, and another in March put on by BQIC (Black Queer & Intersectional Collective) to call for justice for the rise in deaths of Black trans women. BQIC has also called for justice for Black persons who have been killed by the Columbus Police Department. If you aren’t familiar with who they are, here is a brief, not-complete list: Tyre King, Henry Green, and Julius Tate.
That march in November was sizable, with attendance representing all walks of life. The one thing that was noticeably missing was a city council member.
When a politician shows up to a march, there can be reservations. Protestors question whether the councilmember in attendance is there for disingenuous reasons or only present to get votes. But with a majority of a city council that is African American, the November march was for an issue that actually affected the community they are actually serving. By that November, there were at least 22 transgender persons reportedly killed. A striking number of that number where Black, yet those 22 victims didn’t any get attention generally and certainly no attention from city council specifically.
At the protest this March, there was a person present named Morgan Harper, who at the time was running for 3rd Congressional District. Her appearance there felt genuine, that she was not there looking for likes or electability. The march route traveled through the Short North, stopping directly in front of Stonewall Columbus, an organization that until recently had been slow to speak out against the raising number trans deaths and has a reputation with parts of the Black LGBTQ community had been fractured for decades and broke into pieces after the treatment of The Black Pride 4 that resulted in their prosecution. The police and their helicopter made an appearance as one of the leaders of the march read all 22 names that been murdered. The march concluded uneventfully and people left and went home safely.
These past few weeks, every march for the most part has ended in police violence. Police have no restraint as various video evidence shows protesters with nothing more than t-shirts being hit with rubber/wooden bullets. For reference, google rubber or wooden bullets to fully understand their deadliness.
But a turning point occurred when a member of city council and Joyce Beatty were maced indiscriminately by the police. Pictures of them being attacked by the police were widely shared. What wasn’t shared was that they never attend a march until then.
Occasionally marching goes in and out of vogue, which should never be the case. Marching isn’t a display of wokeness. Your presence should be there for justice: justice for all Black people who are murdered regardless of their identity or rap-sheet. And picking and choosing whom you march for doesn’t make you a true community leader.
Recently, a new group of “community leaders” emerged called Black Freedom, a group that states they represent Black Lives Matter ideals. This group stands out due to their taking and posting photos of members with their arms around police officers. Black Lives Matter isn’t just a saying; it is a core of beliefs that specifically doesn’t include approval of city officials, the city newspaper, or the cops.
So, a true community leader for Black Lives isn’t networking, meeting/marching with Police, or occasionally attending some marches for the lives you believe matter. You don’t protest to make your org relevant or hip. Being a true community leader means showing up for all Black lives—LGBTQ or otherwise—who have been hurt or violently murdered.
Being a true community leader is solely about justice.
To quote Malcolm X, “We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.