Recognizing Black Queer Creators and their Impact for Pride - Part three

June 30, 2020

Recognizing Black Queer Creators and their Impact for Pride - Part three

Coco Brown, Andrew DeCaro

This Pride, we want to recognize Black queer activists and creators, many of whom have built and continue to build a better world for all of us. This month, our OBERLAND staff is sharing work by Black queer creators that has shaped our actions as citizens, humans, and advertisers who are fighting against racial injustice.

We asked our team to reflect on Black queer creators as one small step toward being active antiracist. Education is one of countless actions we need and plan to take. By sharing the below, we hope to inspire others in our industry and community to follow suit. 

In the interest of Pride, multiple queer staffers contributed to this. However, we’ve also asked cishet allies to join the convo, because we all can play a part in educating ourselves better as one small step in active anti-racism.

This is part one of a three part series highlighting our staff’s favorite works. See here for Parts One and Two.

G.L.I.T.S: Grassroots organizing for Black trans community (by Coco Brown, Executive Assistant and Office Coordinator)

Photo via Eliel Cruz 

I don’t usually “go to Pride”. I don’t do well with the crowds, which is less of an issue during this particular pandemic. Instead, I usually spend my time on the phone with my queer, trans and 2spirit fam across Lenapehoking (the traditional Indigenous name for so called NYC in Lenape). This year has been particularly distressing. We’ve seen riot cops pepper spray us at the Queer Liberation March. Our queer and trans kin have been beaten, brutalized and jailed by police unprovoked. We’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars on Venmo for friends needing acute long-term care as a result, all within the context of the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots

The salve on the wound however, is that trans elder, Ceyenne Doroshow, and her mighty crew of queer and trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (also some rad white allies too!) raised $1.25 MILLION U.S. DOLLARS IN ONE WEEK for permanent safe housing for Trans folx here in NYC through her organization G.L.I.T.S (Gays and Lesbians Living In a Transgender Society). Ceyenne and her crew started out to raise $20,000 to sustain the urgent work of placing trans folx coming out of Rikers during the COVID-19 bailouts, so that they could quarantine and find long-term housing. 

Now, for a bit more context, you should know that G.L.I.T.S is literally a group of grassroots organizers who were called in by the queer community to do this work. Guards at Rikers would hand out Ceyenne’s number to folx upon release as their primary point of contact for reentering the community safely. G.L.I.T.S. is not a formal 501c3. G.L.I.T.S is a crew that our community loves, trusts, and believes in. They are the literal antithesis of the “nonprofit industrial complex.

I started working with G.L.I.T.S through an IG thread that a friend had posted asking for help with a clothing drive for folx coming out of Rikers needing the basics. I reposted that call for support and began organizing my own drive for them, which wound up receiving a car full of beautiful items donated by fellow, and former, OBERLANDERS and relative strangers from the internet. We then shared mutual aid funds from the Indigenous Kinship Collective, of which I am a member, and all of a sudden, day-by-day friends started their own $1,000 crowdfunding campaigns for G.L.I.T.S. I can’t even begin to tell you, we raised $1.25 MILLION for Black Trans Lives in one week (literally, yes, just 1) by and for community. There were no government or private grants, no silent phase. These were small individual gifts $20, $50, $100 at a time. 

We needed this. To see in action that We in fact are the ones that keep Us safe. That Housing = Health Care. And that Reparations (in the form of land, money, culture, and power) are real and should be considered a daily act of resistance. I will continue to support Ceyenne and her crew. She recently signed papers to purchase a building and put down deposits on 2 apartments. And the following week, we celebrated BIG! More than 15,000 folx gathered at the steps of the Brooklyn Museum to march for Black Trans Lives. From the corner of Branded Saloon, a Brooklyn queer landmark, I watched angels in white march. And with a deep exhale, we build a promise of tomorrow. 

Audre Lorde: Fighting for Intersectionality in the LGBT movement (by Andrew DeCaro, Account Supervisor)
Photo via Poetry Foundation

Audre Lorde is one of the literary heroes of the LGBTQ movement. A brilliant poet, she once said that she thought in poetry. And as a self- described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” she made it her mission, both creatively and personally, to fight for intersectional equality. 

We see the growing recognition of intersectionality in the various fights for equal rights occuring today. Now, more than ever, we’re discussing prejudices and outright racism against BIPOC in the LGBTQ community, and the rising calls to include LGB and especially transgender, people in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Reflecting on the legacy of Audre Lorde has inspired me to not just passively advocate the inclusion of intersectionality into social justice movements, but to take meaningful steps to bring intersectionality to the forefront. That’s why I’m going to make a recurring donation to the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, the only organization in the country led by Black trans people to combat the inequities faced by Black trans people. I’m also advocating for my White friends, family, and colleagues to consume intersectional LGBT content. Works by Lorde, Baldwin, and even the Netflix documentary, Disclosure by Laverne Cox, are critical parts of the Black LGBT experience that are often overlooked due to unconscious biases. 

By introducing White people (especially cis and/or straight) to contexts that they may have never considered, I can help change their perspectives. To me, allyship means using my privilege to advocate and advance the conversation around intersectionality to help create broader, and more inclusive, understandings of different experiences.

Header image - Eliel Cruz

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