The intersections at which Black Queer Folks exist forces them to confront (at minimum) two forms of violence, and they do not have the privilege to resist passively
The Intersections of Blackness, Queerness and Activism: A Conversation with Desmond Cole and Reakash Walters was a virtual teach-in held on Sep.17, 2020, that addressed anti-Blackness, anti-Queerness and the intersections at which these two forms of violence meet.
The event also explored abolition, activism, community responses to harm and violence, and the ways in which the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ identified persons are affected by and intersect with, the law.
Re-centering the work done by those who are marginalized
From the Stonewall Riots to the Black Lives Matter Movement and beyond, it is evident that Black Queer Folks are vitally situated within global liberation movements. The victors who are simultaneously the victims, the liberators who oftentimes remain shackled, the forerunners whose leadership is routinely subject to erasure; in truth & by all accounts, it is an experience that is oxymoronic.
As acknowledged at the event, Black, Queer, Trans, gender non-conforming, and feminist politic has unfailingly guided us. These folks have grieved, cried, laughed, loved, taught, cared for, celebrated, and held space for each of us, even when we have been incapable of holding space for ourselves. This event was created to confront erasures that tell us otherwise. In the same breath, we must remember Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin… Harvey Milk and Marsha P. Johnson! Ultimately, each of us are strong in our fight against injustice today because these folks were first.
Living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities
The intersections at which Black Queer Folks exist forces them to confront (at minimum) two forms of violence, and they do not have the privilege to resist passively. Operating within the confines of both anti-Blackness and anti-Queerness, Black Queer persons are oftentimes entangled in the middle of movements that either deny their race or their sexuality.
It is imperative that our activism, in this moment of radical resistance and transformative change, recognizes this uncomfortable truth so that we can begin to wholeheartedly embrace an intersectional approach to resistance.
Challenging systems of oppression
It is our duty to dismantle heteronormativity, transphobia, anti-queerness, xenophobia, islamophobia, white supremacist delusions, patriarchy, sexism and racism. Wherever we are situated on the spectrum of learning—for we are all in a constant flux of emitting, receiving and processing information—we must acknowledge this responsibility. We have an inescapable obligation to protect one another, and this protection must be intersectional.
Your pro-Blackness cannot be anti-Queer, and your Pro-Queerness cannot be anti-Black: a simultaneous acceptance of these opposing dichotomies only serves to reify the very systems of violence that we are seeking to undo.
Building safer communities and interrogating our activism
I would like to echo the same sentiments expressed by both Desmond Cole and Reakash Walters, being that we as a community—as a collective of interlocked beings—must embrace a radical turn towards community-centered solutions to harm and violence. This also includes the University of Ottawa community.
What have you done since your Black colleagues have told you that they do not feel safe on our campus? How are you protecting me—how are you protecting us?
I implore all of you to interrogate your activism: who have you been leaving behind? Who have you failed to hold space for? In your silence and complacency, whose lives have you decided no longer matter?
Shadé Edwards is a second-year law student at the University of Ottawa in the common law section. She completed her BA in criminology and Canadian studies, with a minor in sociology at the University of Toronto. She is passionate about the struggle for social justice and its interplay with the legal sector.