A response to David Fair’s open letter

Conversational space when it comes to issues of racial bias always seems to be co-opted by white cis-gender activists using a momentous issue to elevate their voice above the voices of black and brown community members, who they often identify as having oppositional politics or simplistic diatribes. It is a point of privilege to enter this conversation on race.

We black and brown community members have been dealing and continue to deal with this as something real, lived and not theoretical or from the position of spectator. Pretend allies will and have listed work they have done as a way of centering their voices. My mother, Melody E. Beverly, worked for We The People in the ’90s as the housing director and in other positions there. Boastful, arrogant attempts at allyship is just what this community doesn’t need. White LGBT community members should be listening and not writing open letters about community frictions. I know of your legacy, David Fair.

David uses this open letter to basically not discuss anti-blackness and conflates black liberation with queer liberation. The clear and present truth of what he wrote is that it highlights why the work of the Black and Brown Workers Collective is so important. The work of black and brown resistance doesn’t exist for the commentary of assumptive allies, but is the necessary work of survival for communities burdened by disproportionate HIV infections, violence and death. David’s words do nothing to be impactful on those truths. The mark of an accomplice to liberation is their ability to have conversations with community and not an omnibus op-ed that is tone-deaf, elitist and without a measure of clarity of privilege. A city with a plurality of black and brown populations has leadership that doesn’t reflect communities impacted most by policies.

From city government to nonprofits, the power structure is overwhelmingly white. Since the inception of the BBWC, we’ve been focused on disrupting this flagrant disparity within the organizations that are funded to provide services to communities of color. Conversations about equity and accountability have to be, as we refrain, black- and brown- centered. Without that, this is more of the same. Be bold, my dear black and brown community members. Be steadfast in speaking your truth, for there are well-meaning white people who will jump on your backs to be heard. Onward.

Abdul-Aliy Muhammad is a Philadelphian and their work has mostly been in HIV prevention. They currently work as an organizer with the Black and Brown Workers Collective and does anti-oppression trainings with the Blaqollective.