Black LGBT march re­turns from hia­tus for La­bor Day

Stand Up & Rep­re­sent March to ad­dress a se­ries of is­sues

GA Voice - - Georgia News - By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

One night in mid-2001, An­thony An­toine had a dream. In it he saw a sea of black LGBT faces march­ing through the streets of At­lanta, rep­re­sent­ing, be­ing seen.

He later men­tioned the dream to friend and fel­low ac­tivist Ma­lik Wil­liams, an or­ga­nizer at the time for Sec­ond Sun­day of At­lanta, a monthly meet­ing group for black LGBT men.

“When I shared it with him, his re­sponse was, ‘Well, why does it have to be a dream?’” An­toine said.

And from that, the Stand Up & Rep­re­sent March was born. Hun­dreds of black LGBT peo­ple marched from the State Capi­tol to the Martin Luther King Cen­ter that La­bor Day as an al­ter­na­tive to the par­ties and other so­cial events at Black Gay Pride Week­end.

The march grew the next year, and the next, but 2003 would be the last one—un­til now. Or­ga­niz­ers are spurred on, not only by the orig­i­nal goal of in­ject­ing the crit­i­cal in­gre­di­ent of grass­roots ad­vo­cacy into Black Gay Pride, but also by a se­ries of events that has af­fected the black and black LGBT com­mu­ni­ties in 2015.

So on Mon­day, Sept. 7, they step off from the Mall West End to reignite a tra­di­tion.

Growth fol­lowed by the stall

With en­cour­age­ment from Wil­liams about his dream in 2001, An­toine be­gan to rally sup­port from other friends and ac­tivists, in­clud­ing Craig Washington, Mau­rice Cook and Jim­mie Scott, a com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer and board mem­ber at the time for Ge­or­gia Equal­ity.

“What I brought to the ta­ble was the po­lit­i­cal an­gle and the media an­gle and An­thony, he had the dream. And ev­ery­body knew An­thony,” Scott said. “To­gether, we were able to bring other peo­ple to­gether and fa­cil­i­tate it.”

And on La­bor Day 2001, just as An­toine dreamed it, 200 black LGBT peo­ple and al­lies set out from the State Capi­tol and made the 1.4-mile march to the King Cen­ter.

“I think peo­ple were hun­gry for another way to rep­re­sent, and to have Black Pride mean some­thing and to charge us to do some­thing with rep­re­sen­ta­tion so that we’re not only rep­re­sent­ing in­side a club or party but also rep­re­sent­ing for other is­sues that mat­ter to LGBTQ peo­ple,” An­toine said.

With more ex­pe­ri­ence and more clout, the march hap­pened again the fol­low­ing year and 300 peo­ple showed up. But they be­gan to ques­tion the march route.

“Af­ter­ward, we all just kind of lin­gered around the Martin Luther King Cen­ter be­cause no­body wanted to go home,” Scott said, laugh­ing. “That’s when it was versed that we needed to end where we could celebrate.”

So in 2003, they moved the end point to How­ell Park in the West End. Four hun­dred showed up that year, ac­cord­ing to Scott, with nu­mer­ous politi­cians and civic lead­ers and about 25 or­ga­ni­za­tions, clubs and houses of faith rep­re­sented, in­clud­ing Ge­or­gia Equal­ity, Hu­man Rights Cam­paign, AID At­lanta, ZAMI NOBLA, Con­gre­ga­tion Bet Haverim and more.

How­ever, due to a num­ber of fac­tors, the march stopped ceased af­ter that year. A cou­ple of the or­ga­niz­ers moved, in­clud­ing Scott. Oth­ers turned the reins over to younger mem­bers in the com­mu­nity, but the suc­cess of those first three years couldn’t be re­peated.

An idea reborn

The move­ment to bring back the march be­gan on Martin Luther King Day week­end of this year, with mur­murs among the par­tic­i­pants at the an­nual Ba­yard Rustin/ Audre Lorde Break­fast, or­ga­nized by Washington and ac­tivist Dar­lene Hud­son. A new in­ci­dent of po­lice bru­tal­ity against the black com­mu­nity seemed to hap­pen ev­ery week, the HIV in­fec­tion rate among young, black gay men was sky­rock­et­ing and vi­o­lence against trans women was on the rise.

Mean­while, An­toine was in Selma, Alabama, tak­ing part in the Martin Luther King Day march, and was feel­ing inspired by the award-win­ning film “Selma.” When he got back, he con­nected with Washington, and they reached out to Mary Hooks of South­ern­ers On New Ground. Soon Hud­son, Cook and Rev. Dun­can Teague were on board and the march was a go.

“When you think about po­lice and state vi­o­lence, up­lift­ing trans lives stomped out in just the last year alone, and also high­light­ing that the black LGBTQ com­mu­nity is also a part of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment al­ready, I don’t see that as a sep­a­rate com­mu­nity,” An­toine said. “When you think about HIV crim­i­nal­iza­tion and how that par­tic­u­larly im­pacts black gay men or black LGBT peo­ple, that’s another rea­son why we think about march­ing.

“Ev­ery­one has a per­sonal in­di­vid­ual rea­son why it’s im­por­tant to rep­re­sent, but then col­lec­tively I think it also makes a state­ment about how we see our own lives and our rep­re­sen­ta­tion in that.”

An­thony An­toine (left, with ban­ner) and Jim­mie Scott (right, with ban­ner) were two of the main or­ga­niz­ers be­hind the early 2000s Stand Up & Rep­re­sent Marches. (Photo via Face­book)

The Stand Up & Rep­re­sent March for Black Lives NOW will kick off at The Mall West End and con­clude at West End Park. (Map via Mapquest)

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