July 4, 2020

Organizers say ‘Reclaim Pride’ march for Black, trans rights brings Pride back to its roots

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CHICAGO — Chicago’s annual Pride Parade has resembled a party in recent years, with hundreds of thousands flocking to Lakeview and Boystown to celebrate and watch the parade.

But after the pandemic canceled the official parade and the death of Georgey Floyd sparked protests across the country, people were marching for a different reason Sunday. 

Organizers say 2020’s Pride Parade isn’t a party – it’s a protest. Pride Month has intertwined with a worldwide movement for racial justice, and a call to focus more on the most vulnerable among us.

“We’re trying to make sure this march gets back to its roots. Pride was initially a riot. It was not a party where people can get drunk and then leave as if nothing ever happened,” said Ashabi Owagboriaye, an organizer of the Reclaim Pride March.

The Pride March’s roots trace back to the Stonewall Uprising in New York 51 years ago. Transgender people of color were leaders of that movement, but there’s a strong sense that black trans people have not equally shared in the gains of either the racial justice or the LGBTQ+ movements.

“I think we need to open our doors and start accepting trans people into society. They are humans, they are people and they deserve the same rights as everybody else,” organizer Fredy Roberts-Ramirez said.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 16 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been murdered so far in 2020, making them a particularly vulnerable part of the community.

Thousands marched through the North Side Sunday, heading down the Boystown corridor of North Halsted Street where more than a million people traditionally watch the Pride Parade.  

This year, organizers say marching is for a different purpose: to “reclaim” Pride. Organizers said they’re also against the increasing corporatization of pride, which seeks to market merchandise to the community, but activists say it does little else.  

“Corporate America takes advantage of that so they can consider themselves allies, but they never actually do stuff for the community who needs it and that’s why we’re here, to tell them that us as a community – black and brown folks – have organized this,” organizer Alexis Abarca said.

The march focused on trans rights but also embraced the cause of racial justice sparked by the police killing of George Floyd. Organizers are asking for the city to devote more resources to at-risk  LGBTQ+ people beyond what’s available in Lakeview.

“We need to focus on the South and West sides of Chicago; there’s deserts of health care and services on that side of town, so we need you to donate money to grassroots organizations that don’t have big names in this city,” Roberts-Ramirez said.

Protesters were encouraged to wear masks – and nearly everyone did – and social distance as much as possible, while also assembling to make their voices heard.