[News] Chicago - Misogyny on the Mag Mile: A Turning Point

Anti-Imperialist News 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 
attacked them.

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 
railing against.

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 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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