Black LGBTQ voices from the front lines of Philly protests

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Image Courtesy of Joe Piette via Flickr

This weekend, protestors flooded the streets of Center City to honor and seek justice for those Black folks who recently suffered violent deaths at the hands of police: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade. Here in Philadelphia, people are also marching in protest of a $14-19 million increase in police funding.

In lieu of regular reporting, PGN has elected to print the words of Black LGBTQ community organizers and officials who are on the frontlines of this civil unrest. 

Monique Perry is a Black, queer organizer for Black Lives Matter Philly and a graduate student at Penn University. 

“I was out there for hours. Emotionally and physically, it was both painful and inspiring. It’s painful to see the media images of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade who were murdered by police officers. It’s painful to have all these reminders of police brutality against Black and Brown folks. It was really inspiring to see the massive number of people who came out to support our community. In that sense, I wasn’t even concerned about how my feet hurt.

“One of the concerns about non-people of color participating in the protest is agitation. Agitation can be used as an excellent strategy in protesting, but agitation can be risky to your physical safety. Oftentimes, Black and Brown bodies are the bodies that are at a higher risk for physical retaliation by police officers who are confronted. 

“White folks, or non-people of color can educate themselves. They can donate. They can be co-conspirators in the movement for Black lives. They can also ask the mayor not to give additional funding to the police. That’s not necessary considering that all these other city services are being cut, especially considering how Black lives are being attacked by our militarized police department. So, we want allies, we want co-conspirators, but we also want to make sure that Black and Brown peoples’ needs are met and their goals achieved. Put your privilege aside and listen to that.

“These protests remind us of protests of the past. They remind me of the Gay Liberation Front. We got to remember and we got to honor what folks were fighting for in the Stonewall riots. It was about the tension between the police and the LGBTQ community. It is the same for Black and Brown people.”

Bri Golphin is a Black, nonbinary activist and community organizer with Food Not Bombs. 

“I was at the protests on both days. I’m exhausted. Everyone’s feelings are valid, the Black folks’ feelings, that is. I really don’t care for the opinions of white folks right now because this is really about Black people. In regards to the looting during the protests, all reactions are valid — some folks feel shame, some folks don’t. I’m one of those folks that don’t. Looting is a result of poverty, especially now. There’s a lot of folks who did not get their stimulus checks. There’s a lot of folks who are not eligible for unemployment. There’s just not enough to feed the fifth largest, poorest city. 

“When it comes to stealing and looting from these stores — first of all, all these stores should have insurance. I’m speaking as someone who has a store. If someone wanted to break into my store to steal a bunch of books, [I’d let them]. I wouldn’t feel bad or ashamed of it. There needs to be more access to the books that we sell. We have insurance to cover that. I honestly think looting is a result of a lack of access and a lack of resources. 

“I’m one of those folks that feel that there should be a serious defund in the police. I’m really bothered that there’s a $14 million increase for police, but not for all these programs that could benefit the communities that have taken to looting [to meet their basic needs]. 

“In terms of what folks can do — donate to local bail funds, donate to organizations like Black Lives Matter, Broke in Philly, Food Not Bombs and Sisters PGH. These organizations may seem radical, but radicalization comes from frustration.”

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta is the first Black and gay Pennsylvania state representative.

“What this moment requires is that we don’t think for one second that we can go back to ‘normal.’ We have to meet the moment. We have to address real pain and anger that people are feeling that lead to the civil unrest that we’ve seen. This is certainly about George Floyd, but this is about inequity in our economic system. Poverty is the moral and ethical issue of our time. People are signifying their displeasure with the fact that Black and Brown folks are killed routinely by police with almost no accountability. But, we also have a pandemic that has led to an economic crisis that has deepened the divide between folks who are low income in ways that, quite frankly, we’ve never seen. 

“The other piece of it is that it reinforces the fact the good government matters. That’s part of the reason why myself and my colleagues held a press conference today where we talked about a 5-tier plan to deal with police reform. 

“Someone at the press conference asked ‘What’s the deadline?’ And my colleague, Jordan Harris, said it appropriately, ‘The deadline is on the streets right now’. They don’t want lip service, they want action.”

Julian Domanico is a biracial queer man and represents the Gayborhood as a committee person for the Philadelphia Democratic Party.  

“Philadelphia was on fire last night. My literal home filled with the City’s smoke as I watched trauma boil over. I’m emotionally exhausted by everything here and around the country, let alone the concerns around the pandemic. 

“The protests are about the dire need to END the consistent, sustained, and intentional attacks on the Black community that far outpace other groups. Police brutality is real. People are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

“Due to COVID-19, most of my advocacy, outside of my bi-weekly deliveries of food, personal protective equipment, and donated electronic tablets to the John C. Anderson Apartments, has gone virtual. I work alongside the Mayor’s Office (vice-chair of the Millennial Advisory Committee), DVLF (board secretary), and help manage eight public schools’ after school programs through Public Health Management Corporation’s program Project LYFT. However, now, due to the extraordinary nature of these times and as a sign of respect for the protests, I am having to be much more tactful and thoughtful about what and why we are championing any cause outside of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“We as advocates recognize that there is so much to do with regard to social justice. Yet, now is not the time to compete for airspace, money nor attention (outside of the primary). In a sign of solidarity, many of the spaces I work within have been diverting resources and time to the BLM cause. I am also being intentionally gentle and giving space to those doing and benefiting from this type of work. Many people’s mental health has been affected during this time; my main goal during these protests has been to maintain my advocacy as a consistent force for positivity and not be a hindrance of any kind to the movement.”