Protests continued across the Philadelphia area Sunday, with demonstrators demanding systemic change to address racial injustice and police violence.
The demonstrations marked nearly four weeks of civil unrest across the country following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Queer March for Black Lives draws hundreds
Several hundred people marched from LOVE Park to the Art Museum Sunday afternoon in a Pride march that focused on elevating the voices of Black transgender women.
The Philly Queer March for Black Lives didn’t have the usual floats and performances associated with June Pride month events. Instead, Black trans women took the mic to share their experiences in Philly queer spaces.
Ebony Fierce emceed the event and spoke about how trans women like her are often on the front lines of marches demanding equality for Black and queer communities. Still, Fierce laid out in a poem how trans voices are often pushed aside.
“You are the beginning of pride and activism, and marches, and HIV awareness, and ballroom, but when will it be seen?”
Fierce and other speakers said the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements need one another to create real change. And now, as protests over racism continue into their fourth week, they are more than ready to see that change.
“We will no longer be pushed to the side, we will no longer be ignored,” Fierce said. “WE WILL BE SEEN!”
“So often we are left out of the conversation as Black queer people,” said Tariem Burroughs, who sits on the board for Philadelphia Family Pride and the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club. “It’s important for both of these movements to be visible together, because that’s the only way that we’re all going to move forward.”
Liberty City Dems board member Ted Bordelon echoed Burroughs’ sentiment, adding that the theme of Sunday’s march is recommitting to pride.
“We have to remember our roots, that Pride originally — the Stonewall Riots — were led by Black trans women,” Bordelon said.
“The point of this is not to be performative or a party atmosphere. This is a protest,” Bordelon explained. “We’re taking the moment usually reserved for Pride and letting Philadelphia see that the queer community is committed to Black lives.”
Madelyn N. Morrison, a Black trans woman who directs the Bryson Institute at Philadelphia’s Attic Youth Center, spoke to what she described as the often-overlooked efforts of her community.
“That changes this season,” Morrison said. “Our voices are not asking to be heard. We demand it.”
VinChelle, a Philadelphia drag queen, told the crowd she hopes to see the same number of people advocating for Black lives, especially Black trans lives, during next year’s event.
“This is not a trend,” VinChelle said. “This is not a TikTok dance.”
Speakers also remembered Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a Black trans woman who was found dismembered along the Schuylkill River in early June. Philadelphia police are searching for the man who they say is wanted in Fells’ murder. Akhenaton “Akh” Jones, 36, of the 3900 block of Powelton Avenue, faces charges for murder, tampering with evidence, abuse of corpse and related offenses.
Rev. Andrea Lamour-Harrington, a Black trans woman and associate minister at Whosoever Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia, said she came to the march for trans women like Fells, who can no longer speak for themselves.
“I really do have a dream that we have a world where me being trans … has nothing to do with people being nice to me,” Lamour-Harrington said. “Where me being trans won’t be the reason why I may get killed or harmed.”
Father’s Day rally for police reform
At 11 a.m., about 50 people joined members of the Urban League of Philadelphia at the Octavius V. Catto statue outside City Hall for the organization’s “Fathers Fighting for Families” march against Black injustice.
The group marched from the statue, Philadelphia’s first public monument to an African American, to Old City.
“Racism is part of the DNA of the United States of America. It’s woven into the documents that were signed and authored in that building over there,” state Sen. Vincent Hughes said, gesturing to Independence Hall.
Hughes said as he and the other speakers marched, they discussed whether or not the weeks of sustained protests will be a transformational moment.
“I’ve got hope,” he said. “Even on Father’s Day, when a few dads would like to have a little bit of a break, we’re out here speaking up, speaking out because as fathers, it is our responsibility to never take our foot off the gas.”
ULP President and CEO Andrea Custis, who sits on Mayor Jim Kenney’s advisory committee on police reform, spoke to several immediate concerns.
“We need new body cameras. We need new training — because, obviously, police do not know how to de-escalate,” Custis said. “We also said very clearly: No choking hold. Done, done, done, done.”
Philadelphia’s City Council is considering a ban on chokeholds, and state Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) has proposed a similar statewide measure.
Beyond police reform, Custis called for fair funding for education, family-sustaining wages and affordable housing and health care.
National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, nearly 200 years after slavery was abolished in the U.S., said the promises made in the Constitution’s 13th, 14th and 15th amendments have yet to be fulfilled.
“Why are we here in 2020 relitigating, refighting battles which should have ended a long time ago?” Morial said. “I say it is what it is, and it is our charge today to once and for all move this nation in a direction to end institutional racism.”
Among the local and national leaders who joined the community-based nonprofit for the march were U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans and state Reps. Morgan Cephas and Jordan Harris.
Harris, addressing the crowd, said that the people who have been taking to the streets have made it possible for Pennsylvania lawmakers to work on legislation they introduced years ago. Harris is a member of the state’s legislative Black Caucus, which took control of the State House for more than an hour two weeks ago to demand action on a series of bills.
“None of these issues are new to us,” Harris said.