by Ken Schneck
On Saturday, June 27, participants will gather at the LGBT Historical Marker on W. 29th and Detroit in Cleveland for the LGBTQ+ March for Black Lives, walking from that starting point to the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland at 6705 Detroit. The Buckeye Flame editor Ken Schneck spoke with Evie DuVernay, one of the march organizers, and Phyllis “Seven” Harris, Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center, to learn more about the event.
How did the March originate?
DuVernay: The idea came from conversations and just reaching out to Seven. She is our first Black leader of the LGBT Center and we are the 3rd oldest LGBT Center in the entire nation. So that says a lot about the way that Black leaders aren’t recognized or amplified within our community. Both myself and [March organizer] Mallory McMaster had reached out to Seven to say Hey, How are you, what’s going on? How can we support? She talked to us a bit about some of her frustrations and some of her challenges and we decided it was time to pull together some folx. We’re here and it’s time to start doing the work to address the fact that the LGBTQ+ community has historically been run with a lot of white supremacy.
What can participants expect?
DuVernay: We are starting at the LGBT Historical Marker. We know what our history has been and we are going to take each one of those steps towards the future of the community, finishing at the LGBT Center, which is finally led by a Black lesbian. At the end of the march, we will have spaces for Black-led LGBTQ+ specific organizations to take donations and let folx know this is what we’re doing and this is how you can support us in our work. All of our speakers are Black-identified, and Seven is the only cis speaker that has been invited. We thought it really important to amplify the voices that are typically the most marginalized in our community.
Harris: During the March, I hope folks keep safe and speak truth to our collective power. I’m grateful for the organizers and anyone who chooses to show up. Folks who arrive for the March will see it from their lens. They may be there to protest police brutality and to call for police reform, they may be there in solidarity with Black LGBTQ+ community members, they may be there because it might feel good to gather in community.
The Facebook event page asks that participants “take every step with intention.” What do you hope people actually do during the March?
DuVernay: The idea of a march is great. We know Stonewall was a riot. Uprisings are a really important pieces of a social movement for justice and for equity. But if we’re only showing up to take steps, then we’re missing it. It’s not just physical movement from point A to point B. We want this to be symbolic of wider movement that is needed in all of our organizations, in all of our LGBTQ+ groups, even in our LGBTQ+ friend groups to challenge white supremacy within ourselves and others.
There’s just absolutely no reason that when we look at the data and statistics that our community should be further marginalizing other members of our community. It’s inexcusable and we want to give folx that ability to reflect on the ways they might be perpetuating white supremacy within a community, within themselves, within their friend groups, within their roles on Boards.
Harris: My hope is that this is the start of the work that is needed to confront and correct attitudes and practices that promote anti-Black racism and exclusion of Black people in LGBTQ+ led organizations who serve Greater Cleveland. I’m also excited about the March serving as an opportunity to let everyone know that the BLM movement includes LGBTQ+ Black Lives.
Is there any work that participants can do before they arrive?
DuVernay: This is really directed to the white folx: do some self-work and start to take a self-inventory: How have I amplified voices of color? How have I stomped them out? How have I silenced them? Am I supporting Black leadership the same way I am supporting white-led organizations? Look at the donations you’ve made. Look at the events you show up to. Look at the spaces that you’re in within your queer community. Are they inclusive? Think about those things in advance so during the march, you can walk with full intention. This is not a Pride parade and that’s one of the things I’m most concerned with. I don’t want people showing up in costumes to say Ooh! Yay! Look at me! This is about reflecting and doing better. Because we haven’t done good enough for a really long time and this is a long overdue change. We have to come together. We have to hold each other accountable and we have to do better.
- Take the Racial Justice Assessment Tool or a host of other online Racial Equity Tools to start your process of “take every step with intention.”
- Attend the LGBTQ+ March for Black Lives on Saturday, June 27 at 10am.
- During the March, practice social distancing and wear a mask or face covering if you are able.