"We see our movements in intersection!"

This Saturday I attended the LGBTQ Solidarity Rally at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village with a few friends to draw and show support. The event was originally organized in response to a pending executive order from the new White House administration that was said to dismantle anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across the country. Trump ended up not signing this EO so the Rally morphed into a solidarity rally for all disenfranchised groups amidst the new Trump administration. People were not just going to sit back because the President decided *one* time not to illegally infringe upon a minority's rights.

This, I think was an even more powerful show of strength. People came together, not because they personally were under attack (although this one order not being signed should not be taken as an "all clear" for LGBTQ folks under any circumstances), but in support of those that are. The LGBTQ community knows what its like to be under attack.

I was heartened to see that, more than any other Pride event, rally, or march I've seen from the LGBTQ community, this one embraced the diversity of the community. Often, the gay movement tends to center on wealthy, white men. But there are gay Muslims, queer immigrants, trans Latina/o/x, queer black women, and all different combinations of identities that, because we are all threatened, have the opportunity to intersect.

The Muslim community and the LGBTQ community would seem to be, pardon the term, strange bedfellows. Trump himself has tried to co-opt the LGBTQ community by saying his exclusionary anti-Muslim policies will make gays safer in response to the Orlando PULSE shooting this summer. But I was so proud to see that this community would not be turned away from fellow Americans, and those striving to become Americans, in a time of need. Fear will not divide us. I was again heartened to hear speakers from various Muslim and immigrant community centers and organizations come to speak in front of Stonewall, a symbol of the LGBTQ rights movement.

The speeches began with Louis, an immigration lawyer, who was working to protect a Syrian refugee and green card-holder of 10 years who became separated from her family during the travel ban. He was once a refugee himself, from Ecuador, where he fled anti-gay persecution. He was a living embodiment of the intersections of all of our communities and how we are in this fight together.

We also heard from Oliver, a Nigerian refugee who fled because his position as a gay rights activist in Nigeria became unsafe. He spoke of how now was the time for him to roll up his sleeves and fight for freedom again. He implored the crowd to not just preach to the choir, but to speak to those who support Trump's policies. We heard from many supportive politicians, including the only openly gay member of the NY State Senate, Brad Hoylman. He is also Jewish, and found swastikas drawn on his apartment building after the election in November.

Ishalaa Ortega, the first of several trans speakers of color received resounding applause as she described herself as Mexican, Transgender, Refugee, and American and that "WE ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!". Corey Johnson, gay New York City Council member and an organizer of the event, spoke passionately about our need to push ourselves to keep fighting and to not become complacent.

Several speakers referenced the black and Latina trans pioneers of the LGBT movement in NYC, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and their immense bravery. Others referenced the ACT UP movement during the AIDS crisis and its slogan "SILENCE = DEATH", stating "WE WILL NOT BE SILENT!"

Each speaker gave their own personal story of why they were there. There was a gay man who was also Syrian, Lebanese, and Mexican: a melting pot of Trump's targets. Khalid Latif, of the NYU Islamic Center echoed the refrain that "An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us." Olympia Perez of the Audre Lorde Project, a trans woman who identified herself as Afro-Latinx, Dominican, Brazillian, Puerto Rican, and South Asian eloquently said "I cannot divide the pieces of me." And these two ideas became the common thread between all the various speakers. Whether black, gay, trans, Latinx, Native American, Asian, queer, white, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, rich, or poor, we cannot separate the pieces of ourselves and we cannot separate these pieces of our nation.

We are Americans because of our intersections, not in spite of them, and that is what will make our resistance powerful.


Black Lives Matter

They stood surrounded by monuments to justice in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan. The crowds gathered and grew to vent their frustration, confusion, disappointment, and anger. The appalling decision on Wednesday not to indict the police officer responsible for killing the unarmed black man, Eric Garner, in Staten Island, reignited the spark from the similarly disappointing decision in Ferguson, MO. The officer who killed Michael Brown, another unarmed black man, also walked free without an indictment from the grand jury.

Thousands assembled across Manhattan in Foley Square, Union Square, Times Square, and marched across the city to let their anger be heard. The crowd is made up of men, women, black, white, Asian, Latino, gay, straight, young, old, and every piece of the New York melting pot that should make it a safe place to live for all.

The police presence was immense and intimidating. They stood like a wall, diverting the bubbling river of protesters through the streets and across the bridges of the city.

In the recent months, social media has become full of #hashtag activism to call attention to racial disparities, especially in their dealings with the police.

#HandsUpDontShoot, recalling the surrender by Michael Brown that witnesses described before he was killed.

#ICantBreathe, echoing Eric Garner’s last words before he was killed by police.

#BlackLivesMatter, the phrase that New York Mayor Bill De Blasio lamented “should never have to be said”, but still does need to be said, because black lives are frequently undervalued by the law.

#CrimingWhileWhite and #LivingWhileBlack try to highlight specific instances of how black citizens are treated by law enforcement compared to white citizens. White people committing actual crimes are ignored, while black people minding their own business are hassled, arrested, and sometimes killed. (Although this has been criticized for focusing too much on white stories in the talks about racism.)

While I may not love Twitter and Facebook, I can’t deny that these platforms have opened up discussions on race in way that allows the privileged to see a small piece of what minorities endure on a daily basis, myself included.

At one point in the protest, people carried coffins bearing the names of black people killed by police. Like pallbearers in a time of mourning, they carried the black coffins through the crowd as reminders of lives lost.

I noticed a black family next to me as the coffins passed, with a young boy, about twelve years old, chanting along with his parents. Hopefully it is empowering and maybe as he grows he will know that he does not deserve the burdens of racism he is forced to carry.

It reminded me of another popular hashtag this summer within the children’s publishing community, #WeNeedDiverseBooks. (You can read more about it here) It is a call on publishers, editors, authors, and illustrators to show a more diverse world in books for children, to reflect the world we live in.


Part of the campaign's platform is that children of color need to see themselves reflected in the books they read as kids, or they may not ever want to read at all. Black lives matter, and black stories matter. Each individual has a story that matters. These are stories that need to be told, so that the legacy of this anger will no longer be a burden, but a source of power and empathy.

My friends Carly Larsson and Audrey Hawkins also reportaged the protest.

You can see their drawings here:
Audrey Hawkins
Carly Larsson