by Carl Redwood (Pittsburgh)
A strong new voice exists among black liberation activists in Pittsburgh, PA. They have drawn upon the revolutionary legacy of the Combahee River Collective, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde and Assata Shakur to lead the struggle against white supremacy, women’s oppression and hetero-patriarchy.
On the Saturday night acquittal of George Zimmerman, a group of queer black women in Pittsburgh called for a community gathering to recognize the injustice of the verdict. (http://queerandbrown.com/post/55604640037/on-the-saturday-night-acquittal-of-george)
The next day on July 14 the people (100+) were gathered in the afternoon at a rally at Mellon Park which sits on the borders of several Pittsburgh neighborhoods including Point Breeze, Homewood, East Liberty and Shadyside. The rally was a speak-out where anyone could express their views and feelings about the verdict. Another rally was planned for 6 o’clock in the Hill District at Freedom Corner. During and after the rally, the sisters who had called for the rally held a strategy meeting to develop a statement that spoke about why it was important for our community to stop and look at this injustice. To stop and not proceed with our lives as usual because this was a horrendous display of how Black lives do not matter in America. They were outraged and wanted to call attention that this should not happen ever again!
At 6 o’clock people (200+) assembled at Freedom Corner. This was also a speak-out with an open mic. Joy KMT and Bekezela Mguni decided to sit in the street. At first it was two sisters. Then more people joined, including La’Tasha Mayes, BriaThomas, Brya Adams, Shaquel Adams, Quinn Elliot, Aimee Mangham and Raymond Peterson, soon the whole rally moved to the street. Many men and women from the rally who had been activists for many years admonished the young women to get up, told them that the rally was over, that “next time” they should plan better and do things differently. However there were several allies and friends of the young women who helped them with childcare, food, water and emotional and physical support. The young women said that there should be no next times and that it was indicative how accustomed we’ve grown to this type of injustice that we expected one. Negotiations with police led to the police commander rerouting traffic. The sisters who took a stand and the supporters stayed until 11:00 pm and used the time to plan next steps.
The plan that was developed was to call a press conference and rally for July 17 at noon at the County Courthouse. The call stated,
We gather to condemn the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman and to express solidarity with every black victim of injustice.
We recognize that Trayvon Martin’s murder is not an isolated incident. Pittsburgh is home to the same systemic injustice, racism, white supremacy and brutalization of black people. In response, we are formally delivering a set of demands to the mayor and city council following the rally.
We will continue to stand our ground with other groups fighting for justice around Pittsburgh and the nation. We expect city officials to address our demands immediately.
150 protesters deliver demands to Pittsburgh leaders after acquittal in Trayvon Martin (http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/150-protesters-deliver-demands-to-pittsburgh-leaders-after-acquittal-in-trayvon-martin-case-695760/#ixzz2bQltrOnK)
Our Demands: We Stand to Address the City of Pittsburgh: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Democratic Nominee Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh City Council, The Urban Redevelopment Authority, The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, and all agencies, institutions, organizations, complicit with systemic injustice and white supremacy in Pittsburgh. We encourage the City of Pittsburgh, all community organizations, non-profits, churches and businesses to stand with us, express solidarity and denounce the culture of institutionalized white supremacy that inflicts incomprehensible violence on Black lives and bodies.
The demands addressed legal violence, economic violence, institutional violence, physical violence and emotional violence against black people. (http://trayvonpgh.wordpress.com/statement-from-freedom-corner/)
The Mayor did not come out to receive demands. Demonstrators stayed in City Hall outside Mayor’s office overnight. Because he did not show up they delivered demands to his home in the morning.
On July 20th there was rally and speak-out at the Federal building with more than 300 people.La'Tasha Mayes, Executive Director New Voices of Pittsburgh, speaks at the Rally Seeking Justice for Trayvon Martin and victims of racial profiling in Pittsburgh, Pa.
On August 8th Pittsburgh for Trayvon delivered demands to the Urban Redevelopment Authority to stop their economic violence and gentrification in the black community. (http://trayvonpgh.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/love-letter-delivered-to-ura-and-talking-to-the-press/)
Within these mobilizations, this new voice is not new at all. These sisters have been organizing for many years building a base of progressive women who fight for social justice. Many are members of New Voices Pittsburgh. New Voices Pittsburgh will soon be 10 years old.
New Voices Pittsburgh is a grassroots Human Rights organization for, led by and about women of color. Human Rights and Reproductive Justice is our innovative framework to engage Black women in community organizing for lasting social change. The mission of New Voices Pittsburgh is to build a social change movement dedicated to the health and well-being of Black women and girls through leadership development, Human Right and Reproductive Justice.
Reproductive Justice is the belief that all people should control all choices about our bodies, sexuality, gender, work and reproduction.
The Black Left Unity Network sees struggling against women’s oppression and hetero-patriarchy as essential in forging the unity of Black liberation organizations.
However, some people and forces who consider themselves part of the Black liberation movement do not support LGBTQ Rights or queer black women as leaders.
The Black Left Unity Network must unite others around our principles:
· We are Black people fighting for power and liberation.
· We fight to end the system of capitalist exploitation, patriarchy, homophobia and all other forms of oppression.
· We organize by connecting local battlefronts rooted in a working class perspective to build national unity of action and international solidarity with other struggling oppressed people.
When we undermine the leadership of Black queer women, we undermine the leadership of many of our community’s greatest leaders. We undermine their humanity and their contributions to our liberation and vision for freedom as a people. We harm them emotionally, psychically, and physically. We isolate them and often force them into spaces where they have to choose which parts of themselves must be most visible in order to be “accepted.”
We must encourage our communities to unpack the relationships between homophobia, white supremacy, hetero-normativity and sexism. An important essay that everyone must read is Audre Lorde’s work “Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities” in I Am Your Sister. She addresses this very issue and says:
Homophobia and heterosexism mean you allow yourselves to be robbed of the sisterhood and strength of Black Lesbian women because you are afraid of being called a Lesbian yourself. Yet we share so many concerns as Black women, so much work to be done. The urgency of the destruction of our Black children and the theft of young Black minds are joint urgencies. Black children shot down or doped up on the streets of our cities are priorities for all of us. The fact of Black women’s blood ﬂowing with grim regularity in the streets and living rooms of Black communities is not a Black Lesbian rumor. It is sad statistical truth.
The fact that there is widening and dangerous lack of communication around our differences between Black women and men is not a Black Lesbian plot. It is a reality that is starkly clariﬁed as we see our young people becoming more and more uncaring of each other. Young Black boys believing that they can deﬁne their manhood between a sixth-grade girl’s legs, growing up believing that Black women and girls are the ﬁtting target for their justiﬁable furies rather than the racist structures grinding us all into dust, these are not Black Lesbian myths. These are sad realities of Black communities today and of immediate concern to us all. We cannot afford to waste each other’s energies in our common battles.
Article submitted from Pittsburgh Black Activists