#BlackLivesMatter Actions Are Largely Led By Queer & Trans Black Youth

Black youth-led groups that operate under a "queer-feminist" politics have been organizing peaceful, public demonstrations responding to violence faced by black communities in Chicago

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  1. The protests around the most recent cases of young black people slain by Chicago police, Laquan McDonald, Rekia Boyd and Ronald Johnson, accentuate a period of political upheaval in the country’s third-largest city. Activists are demanding racial and economic justice, along with a full reconstruction of justice system some say has been "designed to fail."
  2. This prospective moment is largely a result of the pressure applied on officials by mostly young black activists (many of them queer and trans) tied to the larger Black Lives Matter movement across the country.
  3. Imani Jackson is a young queer organizer with Black Youth Project 100. She has been active with the group for almost a year. Last November, Jackson attended the sit-in organized at City Hall in response to a Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
  4. Jackson remembers a woman (who wasn't part of any group) stand up at the sit-in to say "we can't be focusing on this gay, queer shit right now cuz people are dying."
  5. "The black youth leading that action shut [the woman] down in a loving way and reoriented the attention to solidarity with queer black people and undocumented black people," Jackson said.
  6. The BlackLivesMatter movement has elevated the demand of community control of the police to a national conversation. What has been given seemingly less attention is the practice of organizations developing queer and trans youth as leaders. Jackson said she attended a day-long training on "organizing from a black queer feminist lens."
  7. Camesha Jones, communications director for Black Youth Project 100, said it's critical to re-center the groups' queer feminist framework, especially when it gets drowned out by the voices of those who typically get to lead and be most visible, namely, hetero-men.
  8. "We are really serious about creating freedom and justice for all black people, but all too often black women and girls, black LGBTQ folks, are left on the sidelines," Jones said. "And it’s been my experience that issues of gender justice and LGBT justice have been either secondary or not recognized at all."

  9. "We are poised to march as long as needed," said BYP100's national director Charlene Carruthers, who is gay, to a crowd of activists outside Cook County Court Building the night after the first protest this past November. "This did not start last night and it didn't end last night. We are marching in protest of constant, structural racism by the Chicago Police Department."
  10. It's become common to hear activists use a chant that is sourced from the writings of prison abolitionist and black feminist Assata Shakur:
  11. “It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
    It is our duty to win.
    We must love each other and support each other.
    We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

  12. Importantly, the chant lifts up the notion that "love" is an inherently interdependent and communal process that is central to liberation. This invitation to embrace and further explore collective vulnerability is a powerful example of Shakur's framework.
  13. Another central tenant of queer feminism is collective liberation. Simply put, it's the idea that no one is free until everyone is free.
  14. When black activist shut down an international conference of police chiefs in October, there was deep collaboration with Latinx/Chicanx activists from immigrant justice movements. Activist see anti-immigrant and anti-black violence, as symptoms of white-supremacy, an historically based and institutionally perpetuated belief that white people are superior.
  15. At a recent action for Laquan McDonald, activists barred reporters form entering "black only" spaces. Jackson supports the idea and says groups need space to decompress.
  16. Jackson said it was disappointing to see the vast majority of news coverage of the Laquan McDonald protests feature images and sounds of male protesters, especially male elders like the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
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