No Justice, No Pride
As a white, cis lesbian, I now have a lot of rights and freedoms not afforded to the queers who came before me or those who live alongside me at different intersections of oppression. And I have those rights thanks, largely, to decades of work by trans and queer women of color who now suffer the most discrimination—from police brutality and disproportionate incarceration to violence and hate crimes, from employment discrimination to challenges overcoming substance abuse.
Corporate pride parades and festivals have long taken money from companies, organizations and individuals who discriminate against the LGBT+ community every other day of the year. They have often allowed law enforcement bodies and institutions of oppression paint themselves rainbow for a weekend without complaint or reprimand for their perpetuation of the marginalization of queers and trans folks. By participating in a corporate pride celebration, we are agreeing to not only accept the status quo, but do so in chorus with our oppressors.
I'm from Los Angeles. I hate LA pride because because it is a capitalist machine—from the bars to the festival, with no free block party—that comes with no acknowledgment of our past and no real ambitions for change in the future. When I got to D.C. this weekend and learned about No Justice No Pride, I was amped to stand as an ally against oppression.
NJNP describes itself as "an ad-hoc collective of organizers and activists" who are working with D.C. "to end the LGBT movement's complicity with systems of oppression that further marginalize queer and trans individuals... We recognize that there can be no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us."
Their actions began at the NJNP night march, which kicked off at dusk. The family-friendly march stopped in an act of solidarity for restaurant workers facing retaliation.
The rally and march that followed went down the day before D.C.'s Capital Pride parade. It was a pride celebration for the ages—only it was also "free from corporations, the police, banks like Wells Fargo, and from military contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman—who oppress our communities locally, across the country, and globally."
During the Capital Pride parade the next day, an action took place that blocked off a police unit from marching.
During the protest, activists read the NJNP demands:
1. Capital Pride will honor the legacy of Pride and the trans women of color who inspired it by ensuring that trans women of color play a central role in decision-making processes.
2. Capital Pride will take a strong position against state violence and end its endorsement of MPD and other law enforcement agencies.
3. Capital Pride will address its neglect of native, indigenous and two-spirit communities.
4. Capital Pride will commit to restructuring, replacing and expanding its board of directors to represent and center the leadership of historically marginalized* communities.
5. Capital Pride will bar corporate entities that inflict harm on historically marginalized LGBTQ2S people from participation in Pride events.
As a result of the action, the entire parade was rerouted—stopping the police from marching and forcing the corporate floats to bypass the media tent and miss their photo-op. (Some white men were very upset because "we all already have rights.")
The work NJNP brought to this year's Capital Pride celebration could not have been more pivotal. At a time of increased hostility toward not only LGBT folks but women and people of color, it is more important than ever that we move from resistance to revolution.
Pride itself was the product of revolution. Now more than ever, we should return to those roots.
Molly Adams is an LA-based photographer documenting stories from Afghanistan to Standing Rock to queer clubs. You can find her on Instagram.