Marches need to be more in­clu­sive

Ash­leigh Atwell is a queer les­bian writer and or­ga­nizer born and raised in At­lanta, GA.

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

“We have a wealth of in­for­ma­tion at our fin­ger­tips. Google is free, y’all. If you try, you can learn how to make your move­ment work and ac­tions in­clu­sive to ev­ery­one.”

The day af­ter Don­ald Trump was in­au­gu­rated, I was on the train leav­ing work. The car was un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally packed be­cause the At­lanta leg of the women’s march was start­ing. I was sit­ting silently won­der­ing if I should keep go­ing to De­catur or get off and join the ac­tion. I went to De­catur. When I first heard about the march back in Novem­ber, I was cau­tiously hope­ful. I thought it’d be nice to see peo­ple come to­gether for such a huge en­deavor. Per­haps it’d bring the unity this coun­try so des­per­ately needs to fight the Cheeto in Chief. Still, I’ve been in white fem­i­nist or­ga­niz­ing spa­ces and un­less they’re called out, they don’t worry about is­sues that don’t af­fect them.

As weeks passed, the or­ga­niz­ers of the women’s march were crit­i­cized for their lack of peo­ple of color in lead­er­ship. Writ­ers pro­duced count­less think piece and ex­pe­ri­enced or­ga­niz­ers started ask­ing a lot of hard ques­tions. They re­sponded by nam­ing a group of women of color or­ga­niz­ers as their co-chairs. Still, the in­fight­ing con­tin­ued and I pro­gres­sively be­came turned off. To make mat­ters worse, the At­lanta march had the coun­ter­feit Black Lives Mat­ter of Greater At­lanta chap­ter as a com­mu­nity part­ner. With that in mind, I went home. A few days later, plans for the Na­tional Pride March, or­ga­nized by David Brul­nooge, were an­nounced. The march is sched­uled for early June in con­junc­tion with Wash­ing­ton D.C.’s Capi­tol Pride Week­end.

Al­though go­ing to an­other city’s Pride is a goal of mine, I am faced with the same de­ci­sion I had to make for the Women’s March.

As I’ve writ­ten sev­eral times, the LGBTQ com­mu­nity has a dis­mal track record when it comes to di­ver­sity. Brul­nooge said he was in­spired af­ter “watch­ing the events [of the Women’s March] un­fold on TV and I was very proud and in­spired by all the women, the strong women in our coun­try who were kind of tak­ing this to the street and get­ting their voices heard.” That’s nice, but he al­ready made one key mis­take.

This march was orig­i­nally called Gays on the Mall be­fore Ryan Bos, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cap­i­tal Pride Al­liance, urged Brul­nooge to give it a more in­clu­sive name. That’s an im­me­di­ate red flag.

The orig­i­nal ti­tle makes me feel like an af­ter­thought. It’s the same feel­ing I get when I walk through Mid­town or get sep­a­rated from my group at Pride. It makes me feel like the Latavia to the gays’ Bey­oncé and that ain’t cute. If we’re go­ing to sur­vive this ad­min­is­tra­tion as a com­mu­nity, we should stop mak­ing these mis­takes. It’s easy to blame that flub on be­ing a new or­ga­nizer, but that should never be an ex­cuse. We have a wealth of in­for­ma­tion at our fin­ger­tips. Google is free, y’all. If you try, you can learn how to make your move­ment work and ac­tions in­clu­sive to ev­ery­one. Part of my frus­tra­tion with the pussy­hat posse was peo­ple urg­ing or­ga­niz­ers to han­dle them with kid gloves while not re­quir­ing any­thing from them. I want the LGBTQ com­mu­nity to be an ex­am­ple. Ac­cord­ing to the march’s Face­book page, “this will be an ALL-in­clu­sive and peace­ful event.” I hope so. I will be watch­ing. Hope­fully, I will be in­spired enough to twerk in front of the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial in the name of queer re­sis­tance.

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