[News] Chicago - Misogyny on the Mag Mile: A Turning Point
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 2 16:10:40 EST 2015
Misogyny on the Mag Mile: A Turning Point
December 2, 2015
· by rad fag <http://radfag.com/author/radfag/>
After Black, queer women organizers were physically attacked on the
Magnificent Mile, we must ask what the next steps of our movement will
be–and who will be leading us.
Several prominent Chicago youth organizers—all of them Black women, and
the majority of them queer—were physically assaulted on Black Friday
during the hugely successful shutdown of the Magnificent Mile in honor
of Laquan McDonald.
The religious leaders and community elders who called for the
demonstration rallied early in the day at the Water Tower in the Loop.
Several youth organizations—BYP100, FLY and Assata’s Daughters—were
invited to participate, and appeared in several photo ops with Jesse
Jackson Sr. and other public figures, the majority of them men.
As organizers began to address the crowd, several well-known
Black elders forced their way to the front, pushed youth organizers back
from the mic, and one man actually began elbowing a young, Black, queer
woman in the face. Minutes later, when one of the heads of BYP
confronted the elder, he swung on a second Black woman, shouting sexist
and homophobic slurs, and a small scuffle ensued.
In the wake of the altercation, youth organizers performed their own mic
check to address the crowd, then promptly left the march—some to treat
injuries, while others simply felt deeply unsafe and disrespected.
The Black, queer women targeted in this attack were the same ones who
had been clashing with police in the streets all week, including the
night the video of Laquan was released. They were the same organizers
who had staged and been arrested in the shutdown of the IACP conference
in Chicago last month. They were the youth who have been working
tirelessly to lift up the name of Rekia Boyd, and who created a seamless
campaign to fire Dante Servin, the officer who killed her. They were the
same youth who have been instrumental in organizing for and ultimately
winning a trauma center for the South Side, and who led the original
Black Friday shutdown of the Magnificent Mile in 2014.
In short, they were badass, Black, queer, young women who have
orchestrated and overseen long-term campaigns for Black lives in the
city of Chicago with little to no support from the male elders who
The incredible turnout for the Black Friday demonstration displayed
Chicagoans’ ability to forge direct connections between capitalism,
corporate revenue and the squelching of Black life. It undeniably fueled
the firing of police superintendent McCarthy, and the calls for further
resignations resounding through the city. Yet the media frenzy generated
by the video of Laquan McDonald’s murder and its subsequent cover-up
meant the sudden appearance of community members, religious leaders, and
well-known Black figureheads who have not been in evidence at the
countless political demonstrations over the past two years. Large
numbers of these were men, significantly older than the organizers who
have been leading the fight for Black lives in that time.
The assault of young women activists on the Mag Mile is both tragic and
terrifying. When placed in the context of the larger demonstration, and
the state of Black organizing in Chicago, the attack raises crucial
questions about the next steps of the movement for Black liberation.
Black Lives Matter was founded by young, Black, queer women. This is not
up for debate
<http://www.thefeministwire.com/2014/10/blacklivesmatter-2/>. On both
national and local levels, Black, queer women have been on the front
lines, while simultaneously organizing strategy, tactics and messaging
behind the scenes. It was their groundwork that made the uprising at
and subsequent campuses around the nation come to fruition. It is their
deeply capable organizing that has made the founding of new
organizations, the execution of game changing actions, and the
sustaining of the struggle for Black lives possible.
This is not accidental. As youth, as women, and as queer people, these
revolutionaries stand at the crux of deeply oppressive systems, and
carry a unique understanding of the ways racial injustice is dependent
on misogyny, homophobia, nationalism, adultism, capitalism, and so much
more to maintain its potency. Not only have they shown themselves over
generations to be the most fearless warriors for justice, their demands
are consistently the most radical, their vision the most clear, their
abilities to unite and connect the disparate members of their
communities the most well-honed and indispensable.
What is alarming about the attack that happened on the Mag Mile is that
it requires us to revisit these facts as though they are revelations,
rather than things that should be common knowledge to any individual
claiming to be a part of the movement for Black lives. Attacking any
young, Black, queer woman—but especially those who have been fighting
harder than anyone else in their city for justice on a daily basis—is
the equivalent of showing up late to class halfway through the semester
and throwing your textbook at the professor.
It’s not surprising, then, that many of the male elders who organized
the march, as well as those who took prominent positions in media
coverage, posed not merely less radical demands, but ones that actually
contradict those advocated for by young, Black, queer women throughout
the last year. Calling for vague reforms, and even demanding there be
/more/ police of color, not only displays a lack of knowledge of the
issues the movement has already rejected, but undermines the nuanced and
more fully-formed demands for economic justice
<http://byp100.org/stopthecops/> and the redistributing of resources
that youth organizers have heralded.
There is a long history within Black struggles in the US of purposefully
silencing youth, women and queers. From Claudette Coleman—a teen mom who
was the first person on record to refuse to give up her seat in
Montgomery—being swapped out for a depoliticized Rosa Parks, to Fannie
Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and other women being banned from speaking at the
famed March on Washington. The reoccurring rationale for erasing the
contributions of these radical figures is respectability. As movements
gain momentum and visibility, the militant voices that spark them often
become seen as threats to mainstream acceptance, and the faces of the
true leaders too controversial to be beheld by the structures they are
Is it any coincidence, then, that as national scrutiny falls on Chicago
over issues that youth have been drawing our attention to for years,
male figureheads felt the need to physically attack young, Black, queer
women who have been leading the fight long before there were any cameras
to record them?
Ultimately, as our movement swells and attention grows, there is a
question about how leadership will be shared. One of the greatest
successes of the Black Lives Matter movement thus far is its
decentralized form of organizing—not a leaderless but a leader-full
movement, to quote BLM originator Patrisse Cullors. This structure is
the intentional design of young, Black, queer women organizers. Its
dismantling or undermining in the name of ego represents not just the
sexist dismissal of their hard work, but a disregard for the movement’s
early triumphs, and lack of forethought for its future.
And as so many of the leaders and experts that materialized this week
before the cameras were nowhere to be found in the campaigns pioneered
by youth organizers, one must ask where they will be once the media
hubbub has died down.
Will the preachers and pastors who tout “Black love” remember to extend
that love to Black women and queers? Will the public intellectuals and
talking heads who call for “Black unity” reach out to youth as more than
mere tokens? Will the sectors of our communities that chant “stop the
violence” intervene when they see youth, women, queers being assaulted
by their brothers and sisters?
One thing is for certain: We will always be here, and we will always be
at the front—whether we are recognized by our more privileged
counterparts or not—no matter what slurs or threats are hurled at us, no
matter from what party.
In the words of BYP leader Charlene Carruthers: We started this shit. We
gone finish this shit.
Special thanks to Veronica Morris-Moore
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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