Back to Our Roots


By Maria Aranibar, REACH Intern

“Pride has not been cancelled… we are going back to our roots this year.”

This has been an amplified quote from the queer community on different social media platforms in response to the “cancelling” of Pride celebrations due to COVID-19 and the demonstrations for racial justice across America.

Many often forget the untold Black history of the LGBTQ movement and how it started with the first brick being thrown at the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. That first brick was thrown by a Black Trans Woman, Marsha P. Johnson. And while the movement had started long before Stonewall, its significance created a wave of fighting for equality under systems of oppression and rooted in anti-blackness. The Stonewall Riots were a response by the queer community to police raids, to which police responded with even more violence. 

Image created by Kyra Frazier, rising senior at Brandeis University

Throughout the past few weeks, the United States has seen thousands gather together at rallies and demonstrations to protest against police brutality and racism, following the murders of George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Tony McDade and countless other Black people. The Black Lives Matter Movement never disappeared, it has always been present, but too many people have chosen to not pay attention.

The protests are about more than just the individuals who have been killed by law enforcement and bringing justice to their names, they are an uproar that has been fought for 400 years; Black Lives Matter. ALL Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter. Black Queer Lives Matter. Protesting police brutality is rooted in queer liberation: “The first Pride was a riot.”

Anti-queer and anti-gay practice by police does not just happen, it is institutional. The queer community was (and still is) faced with anti-queer legislation that allowed law enforcement, employers, and businesses to discriminate against the queer community. In the late 60s, Sodomy laws gave access to those in power to discriminate against queer folx and to “prevent non-procreative sexuality anywhere, and any sexuality outside of marriage.” Sodomy laws were designed to target queer folx in ways that also prevented them from raising children, got them fired from jobs, and openly denied equal treatment. The Stonewall raids by police specifically targeted transgender women, and the majority of the queer folxs targeted were Black and Brown. 

Black queer folx have always been at the frontlines of these movements, which is illuminated through Marsha P. Johnson, as one of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front. Others to name are Audre Lourde, Barbara Smith, Janet Mock, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Patricia Hill Collins, Elaine Brown, Bell Hooks, Andrea Jenkins; the list could go on. 

It is important, now more than ever, to center Black Queer Lives when talking about the Black Lives Matter Movement and police brutality. We cannot have Gay Liberation, without Black Liberation. Especially when the life expectancy of Black trans women is only 35 years. If you cannot show up for Black Trans Women, you are not including all Black lives. 

Justice for Dana Martin. Justice for Tony McDade. Justice for Ellie Marie Washtock. Justice Riah Milton. Justice for Dominique “rem’mie” Fells. Justice for Nina Pop. Justice for Yahira Nesby. Justice for Brianna “BB” Hill. Justice for Ashanti Carmon. Justice for Claire Legato. Justice for Muhlaysia Booker. Justice for Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington. Justice for Paris Cameron. Justice for Titi Gulley. Justice for Chynal Lindsey. Justice for Chanel Scurlock. Justice for Zoe Spears. Justice for Bubba Walker. Justice for Kiki Fantroy. Justice for Tracy Single. Justice for Denali Berries Stuckey. Justice for Brooklyn Lindsey. Justice for Layleen Polanco Xtravaganza. Justice for Jordan Cofer. Justice for Pebbles LaDime “Dime” Doe. Justice for Bee Love Slater. Justice for Jamagio Jamar Berryman. Justice for Johana ‘Joa’ Medina.*

*Names of Black Trans Folx killed in 2019/2020.