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Black Queer and Black Trans organizers push the Grand Rapids Pride Center to own its participation in White Supremacy

July 2, 2020

The Black Lives Matter Movement began years ago, but the recent police murders of Black Lives has re-energized the movement with sustained uprisings across the US since the death of George Floyd.

This movement has also produced a younger generation of freedom fighters that are no longer content with reformist agendas nor the politics of respectability. Many of these Black, Queer and Trans organizers are also rooted in an intersectional analysis, which makes their work more comprehensive and more dynamic.

Another thing that the current Black Lives Matter uprising has done, is the it has provided tremendous opportunities to push for more transformational politics, more collective liberation and more radical imagination.

One clear example of this practice of collective liberation is the action that several activist/organizers in Grand Rapids engaged in recently to challenge the Grand Rapids Pride Center to not perpetuate White Supremacy in the work they do.

Five activist/organizers – Samantha Przybylski, Nate Bentley, birdie duka-tutambe, Titus Hankins and Kyn (Chief) Ewing – sent the following letter to the Grand Rapids Pride Center:

The letter also included a powerful video action on the same day that the letter was sent.

After just a few days, the Grand Rapids Pride Center released their response and commitment to honor the demands included in the letter. You can read what actions the Grand Rapids Pride Center have already taken and future action plans, which are a direct response to the letter. 

Now some will say that the Grand Rapids Pride Center should be saluted for responding so quickly to the demands. We do affirm their willingness to make important changes, but it is also important for all of us and the organizations and movements we are part of,  to do this work without having to be told to do it. We can’t just stay in our silos doing the work we set out to do, we have to do the important, intersectional work that the Black Queer and Trans organizers have modeled for the rest of us.

Shortly after the Grand Rapids Pride Center began their process of making commitments to the demands listed above, the same activist/organizers sent a follow up letter to the Grand Rapids Pride Center, which we include here below. This is the power of Direct Action!!!

Dear Board of Directors and Staff of the Grand Rapids Pride Center,

On June 22nd, 2020 our group gathered to demand that the Grand Rapids Pride Center stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by committing to the requests of Black LGBTQ+ members of this community. In the letter, we made the following demands:

1. The GRPC will commit to no cops participating in Pride ever again.

2. The GRPC will make a public statement saying explicitly BLACK LIVES MATTER.

3. The GRPC will add at least one Black person to the board of directors in the next 90 days.

4. The GRPC will contact all Pride 2020 sponsors and request that they make a donation of at least $100 to The Okra Project or Trans Sistas of Color Project – Detroit.

• We also called for the Grand Rapids Pride Center to support the defunding of the Grand Rapids Police Department to its charter mandated 32% of the City of Grand Rapids’ budget.

The Grand Rapids Pride Center has responded to our demands via grpride.org/cap. We understand that you have seen and committed to our demands and have added your own. Specifically, for demand #3, we are able to provide a list of potential board members to contact in order to reach this goal within 90 days. Our group looks forward to seeing the completion of action steps specifically around the demands we made.

Do not forget that this work is being done due to the labor of Black Queer and Trans individuals in our community. These individuals deserve to be credited and compensated by the GRPC. This compensation can be sent via Cash App to $birdietutambe and will be shared among the organizers.

To our LGBTQ+ family and allies –

We have seen you view our Facebook Live over 1,000 times. We have seen you share our demand letter over 100 times. We have heard you express support of our letter to the board and staff and many of you have stood in solidarity with us by withholding donations of time and money. You have shown us that our community is committed to elevating Black queer and trans voices, but there is more to do.

Although we are a group that is committed to pushing the Grand Rapids Pride Center to be an agency that works for all of us, we are exhausted and we need you now. We need our community to continue to hold the Grand Rapids Pride Center to the commitments they have made – make sure to read their commitment letter and action item at grpride.org/cap.

Since our group has done the talking, it is now time for you all to do the walking.

Thank you,

Samantha Przybylski | Nate Bentley | birdie duka-tutambe | Titus Hankins | Kyn (Chief) Ewing”

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