Black Pride 4 – An Activist’s Perspective
There are about half a dozen really clear videos of what went down on June 17, 2017 during the Pride parade in Columbus, OH – shot from all sorts of angles. You can find them all pretty easily. I am watching one of them as I type this.
As one watches the footage, there are some things that are stark nakedly clear: a group of brave activists, now known as the Black Pride 4, peacefully walked into the street, locking arms, to disrupt the flow of the planned pride parade; Columbus police officers on bikes swooped in on them in a matter of seconds; Columbus police officers, with their bikes, pushed into the bodies of Wriply Bennet, Kendall Denton, Ashley Braxton, DeAndre Antonio Miles-Hercules and others, moving them several feet; the activists were at no point combative; Columbus police officers grab, body slam, dog pile and mace the activists; White onlookers film and cheer from the sidewalks. In the activists’ attempt to bring awareness to the violence against, and erasure, of queer and trans POC and to hold space for the memory of Philando Castille in the wake of the non-indictment of his murderer, it is clear who the aggressor was on that day. It was not the group of brown and black people standing still in silent protest. However, in spite of all that is clear, the four were arrested on trumped up charges. Three of the four, Wriply, Ashley, and Kendall, were recently tried and found guilty of 6 of the 8 charges levied against them. Currently, they await sentencing which could include jail time.
Jail time. For protesting during a parade that began as a protest against police violence towards queer and Trans folk.
I… I don’t know what country I live in anymore. I don’t think I can even be sure of what year it is. It’s difficult for me to know what to write about this. It is so ludicrous.
Do we not know our history? Even if we are not LGBTQ, are not POC, do we not know our history? Marginalized people in America, when they have been brutalized and disenfranchised and made to feel powerless in the face of oppression, have always summoned the power of their voices, their bodies, their numbers, and their spirits to fight. To roll over the beast of systemic bigotry and hatred to expose its slimy underbelly to be pierced by the blade of their right to merely exist. And they win. Small wins, big wins, public or private, they win. Have won. Are winning. The Black Pride 4 know and understand that inherent power of resistance. They put their bodies, their lives, and their freedom on the line in the name of resistance. Their freedom is on the line today.
*This blog was written by Darius Stubbs. Darius is a performer, poet and trans advocate living in Cleveland, OH. He is currently a member of the TransAction Committee with the ACLU of Ohio. The opinions expressed in this blog are the author’s own.*