Happy Pride 2017!
This weekend in NYC, where I am currently for a few joyous occasions, we marked the 47th anniversary of the march created as an act of visible resistance and resilience for trans and queer (trans and queer used as umbrella terms) people of all kinds. (for a closer look on specific people i have included links in this post)
The history of what led to a national belief that resistance was possible, could be mapped in spirals of complicated patterns, like a good braid-up before a sew-in. However, as I have spent the majority of my career ensuring that people of color do not get erased, I usually point to two ignited flints in the social fabric that set into motion spirals we have yet to reconcile within our social and community structures today.
The 1966 Compton's Cafeteria riot where people resisted including Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and the 1969 Stonewall rebellion where Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy were present included scores of other Black and Brown trans and queer people. Both nights the police arrived at location and expected to perform routine aggression and violence toward Black and Brown bodies. Both nights those bodies, trans women, butch, femme, and more, fighting to be alive another night bodies, lead the way of resistance. The run of the mill state organized roundup, detention and violence would not go as usual - becoming communication networks that spanned across the country. People who are Black and Brown are quite familiar with the need to create strategies to survive given that the state has historically organized mass roundups, detentions and violence against us regardless of our gender or sexual orientation.
Like any other community in existence, there are a wide array of ideas on how to dismantle the attitudes and ideas that perpetuate bigotry that we face. That is, bigotry broadly speaking -- along a spectrum/range that include some who are focused the bigotry faced only by white gay, lesbian, trans people and others focused achieving the liberation from all bigotry and oppression.) This has led to a variety of individual strategies and organizations. As part of the historical collective conversations across and within identity, I would like to offer my two cents regarding attempts by the New York Police Department (NYPD) to -- well, I am not at all sure of what they think they are doing.
Anyway, for the last several years of NYC Pride, the NYPD has gotten specially detailed vehicles and vans displaying flags for both the rainbow pride and trans pride, along with rainbow hearts, rainbow flashing lights, a giant rainbow "corrections" and "Pride, Equality, Peace" logos instead of the usual "Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect".
I promise you, the horrifying history of the trans and queer community’s battle against police brutality does not stem from a lack of appreciation for how they decorated their vehicles. I don't believe detailing multiple vehicles has or will make our people feel any safer or more empowered as a community. Especially when you are loading community members into those same vehicles -- rainbow lights flashing. In this age of marketing, are we now getting a more personal touch for our own brand of police brutality and can other communities expect the same? What about the "Right to Know Act", which is currently stalled in the NYC Council by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito? The Right to Know Act states quite clearly what is being called for by NYers to make relevant changes to police protocols. The time has come to pass this act in 2017 -- so instead of the NYPD looking for ways to consider how to build community relations where there are few to none -- try doing what is asked.
As a society and a city, we are still developing our conversation of what safety can look like for all communities. As Laverne Cox who spoke in support of the act states, "..we need to pass the Right to Know Act in New York City, so we have more police accountability..." although her own personal experiences with police are different. Passing the Right to Know Act is an incredibly small step in a complicated conversation. For many of us as Black and Brown trans and queer folks, this conversation hinges on the still endangered right to live and move unobstructed.