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Ukraine 2022: “Is This Happening?”

EVENTS | ACTIVISM

Ukraine 2022:

“Is This Happening?”

Foreword by GiOD.

Interviews/photos by Alexey Kim.

02-26-22

Seven hours

is the difference between

local time in New York City and Ukraine.

While millions of New Yorkers laid their heads to rest like on any normal Wednesday, the Russian Federation was celebrating the Soviet Era holiday, Defender of the Fatherland Day. This holiday has been historically held on the 23 of February since its creation in 1919. Ukraine, though it is a previous Soviet Republic, no longer celebrates this historical holiday. In fact, the holiday is not even recognized and Ukraine has in response created Defender of Ukraine Day, held on the 14th of October. Russia celebrated with its usual display of fireworks from Moscow to Kazan. The celebration was interrupted by a televised broadcast of Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. Though the broadcast was in Russia, the whole world tuned in for this special announcement. The announcement was concise, short, and widely received as one thing; we have declared war on Ukraine. Soon after the announcement, residents of Ukraine woke to blasts and flashes in the sky. Sounds of Ka-52’s, a large helicopter with the Russian nickname “Alligator” because like the alligator, it is strong, powerful, scary, and is meant to kill. In the digital media age, videos began circulating on all the popular social media applications.

“Is this happening?”

Confused and unaware of the severity, Ukrainian citizens began conducting their days as normal. For a country that has known nothing but battlegrounds, scrimmages, and body bags, an overwhelming number of citizens have become desensitized to the sense of danger. Just a regular day. It was not long before some cities in the most eastern regions of Ukraine were flooded with Russian military vehicles, tanks, personnel, and convoys of weapons. In Russia, things also appeared as normal, with the curtain pulled over the media. Citizens suspected nothing. That same curtain veiled the media from what was going on in the Eastern Bloc. Russia’s war extended all the way from the cold, muddy slosh of Ukrainian forests in the winter, to the censorship of news, media, and information from being released to the world. Stateside, the informed public knows that mainstream news is no longer credible and is much too versed in Russian Cyber Tactics. A war was waging in Eastern Europe and in an attempt to find credible sources, people all over the world had to conduct a personal treasure hunt for news. Once again – Is this happening? The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressed his country and delivered the grim news that their eastern neighbors had declared war on Ukraine, but not only on the country – on the Ukrainian people. This sent chills down the spines of Ukrainians who fought for their land and to be recognized as a group of people. Recognition of nationality and sovereignty sparked a war nearly seven centuries ago. It is this very same war that has dehumanized and discredited the Ukrainian people today. Ruthenia, a historical kingdom that dates back to the Middle Ages, developed into what you recognize today as Russia and Eastern Europe. A kingdom once united, was divided by differences in nationality, sovereignty, moral, and religious views. Freedom eventually came but it was not long before a new “kingdom” was invented: the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Under the USSR, WWII left Ukraine in ruins with the population massacred and the culture ethnically cleansed. Ukraine saw a rebirth and rebuilding period after the country was recognized as a sovereign state. Though the birth of a nation is always a struggle, Ukraine was more susceptible to the influence of its former Soviet neighbor because of their intertwined economies and geographical resources. In usual form, the Russians influenced individuals by means of media to cause political insurgence against a pro-Ukrainian government. As a result of constant influence, people began to see the familiarities in their current government and the government it fled from. Corruption was abundant amongst the Ukrainian government officials and the public no longer recognized their president as their leader. The Ukrainian people fought for their sovereignty on the streets of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, against a Soviet martyr. A successful election was held in 2012, and the people of Ukraine elected a president to represent them. As Ukrainians began to look to the future for Ukraine, Soviet nuisance once again challenged its comrade. Crimea, a 24,000km peninsula connected to both Ukraine and Russia, was invaded by the Russian Federation nearly two years after the insurrection in Kyiv. Ukraine once again was left robbed, discredited, and with a loss of sovereignty.

Nearly seven years later, on the 23rd of February, on Defender of the Fatherland Day, Putin looks to unite the people of Ukraine with the people of Russia. The same unity that has stayed weft into the fabric of society for more than seven centuries.

Meanwhile, on February 26, 2022 New Yorkers gathered at the historic The Stonewall Inn to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NOTE: Citations linked within interviews are also used as a sourse for the foreword.

Bogdan holds up a Ukrainian flag in front of The Stonewall Inn.

SWK: Are you the organzier of this event?

Bogdan: Yes.

SWK: I’d like to find out a bit more about this event and why we are here today.

Bogdan: I think there are two ideas here. One is to show solidarity to the LGBTQ+ community of Ukraine. The main reason why is because many of them didn’t have a chance to leave Ukraine. It’s a real war there and most of the day they are hidden somewhere because Russians are bombing them. They don’t have any internet or electricity, it’s very tough there right now. They need to see that we care about them. They are so happy when I call them and tell them,

“Hey, we are holding protests in New York every day, we are doing sanctions, we are pushing the government to take action.”

They need that feeling, to feel like someone is fighting for them and they are not alone. The second idea was to mobilize our human rights community. It’s a very powerful community, we know how to work with Congress, with the White House, we know how to do advocacy, how to push things forward. It’s a very powerful movement and I think now it’s the right time to protect the Ukrainians – in a few days hundreds of them won’t be with us anymore, we are running out of time. It’s real shit there. If Russians will take over the territory they will then start hunting down all these activists and they have no way out of the country. It’s so complex and there are so many problems, so I think it’s a good opportunity to think about this, to bring attention to that, to mobilize. I believe many people today will go home and will do something- push their representatives, contact some organization, help in some way. And in a few weeks, this will be another problem in New York, there will be a huge amount of refugees coming from Ukraine, so we need to help them. So right now we will need to think about an infrastructure- how to give them shelter, food, clothes. Most of the people don’t have money, because the bank system doesn’t work in Ukraine anymore. They are limited with what they can do.

SWK: What does your organization do when outside of what’s currently happening in Ukraine?

Bogdan: We were founded several years ago. First we started in New York with social events for the Ukrainian LGBTQ+ community here, we were the first group to organize the Ukrainian pride group during New York Pride. We do panel discussions, photo exhibitions, bring discussions about the LGBTQ+ situation in Ukraine, lectures in universities. We also work on Capitol Hill with political advocacy helping our folks and we also try to help those who come to America- navigating the process of settling, helping them find a job. This is a grassroots social organization.

Man holds up a poster that reads ‘LGBTQ+ Untied Against Putin.”

SWK: Why did you want to do this event at the Stonewall today?

Bogdan: It’s a spiritual place, I believe it has a lot of connections because The Stonewall symbolizes how a small group of LGBTQ+ community fought for their freedom, and from there it started a big LGBTQ+ and human rights movement in this country and how we ended up with gay rights, with legalized marriage, with all of this protection, with a happy life, with all of this infrastructure in our social life and to be free. I believe that this is the same as what Ukrainians are doing right now. They are fighting for their freedom, Russians want to take away their freedom, and now there is this small group of people fighting in Ukraine and I think this is kind of a connection spiritually.


Polina (on left) stands next to Ivanna who holds up a poster that reads

“Save Ukraine. linktr.ee/RazomForUkraine Stop Putin”

Polina: Both of us are Ukrainian. We are from Kyiv. We have family back home, so it’s incredibly important for us, as any global Ukrainians, to stand together, to bring our spirits together, to raise awareness, to shout about the situation and influence people and ask them to take action, to help us immediately.

Ivanna: Most importantly, to ask for urgent aid for Ukraine, for NATO to close our skies, they’ve already closed the skies above Ukraine i think[8], but to continue actually providing aid that’s immediate, not just sanctions, because sanctions are incredibly helpful for long term progress but they are not stopping Putin from bringing the army to our country and from rockets flying into civilian homes.

SWK: How is your family in Kyiv?

Polina: I mean it’s self-explanatory, everyone is terrified, but they are trying to stay strong. We try to be as much in touch with them as possible without adding any additional emotional burden. It’s stressful, some are in the bunkers, some are in a subway, the word stressed doesn’t even do it any justice. It’s actually hard to even find a voice to describe what they are going through right now.

Ivanna: And that’s why it’s important to come out on the streets in your city and help those who can’t really see the daylight right now.


Larissa looks into the camera. She is wearing a traditional Ukrainian headdress called “Vinok.”

Larissa: My family is Ukrainian, various and immediate family have been murdered by Russians or were driven out for fear of being murdered. That is why I grew up in the United States. And I am here because there are so many fucking horrible issues. I can’t speak to it as well as the journalists, but I know that what Russia plans to do to the queer community in Ukraine[1] is gut-wrenching, heartbreaking- literally rounding up and killing people. We have to stand up for humanity and this is a human rights issue. It’s one that I’m really concerned about.

SWK: I saw this post circulating on social media, a friend actually sent it to me. I asked him what he thought about it and he said it’s not hard to believe after what happened in Chechnya in 2017[2].

Larissa: That’s literally what’s going to happen. Russia is spreading so much disinformation about Ukraine like what they stand for are drugs and gay people, so you definitely should hate Ukrainians. There’s been an information war happening for a decade[3]that has deep roots, you know it’s real, you’ve seen it happen in other countries[4]. This is a very small thing to do but this is the least I can do right now.

Slava Ukraine. [Glory to Ukraine]


Taya H, 27 & Luca Iwasykiw, 24

Seattle and NYC

Luca has his arm around Taya. Luca wears a jacket made out of Ukrainian flag colors, Taya holds up a small Ukrainian flag, while the larger one is wrapped around her shoulders.

Taya: We are friends, I was born in America, my parents were born in the States, but all four of my grandparents were born in Ukraine and they all came over here during WWII, so we are happy to see so many people out here. We were out last night as well in Times Square. Really just want to spread awareness, it’s great that there are so many people watching Ukraine and Russia right now. We are just hoping things calm down, hoping that our family that still remains there is safe. It’s shocking to watch what’s happening.

SWK: Are you in contact with your family there? How are they doing?

Taya: Yes, they are in western Ukraine, so it’s a little bit calmer on that side, they are outside of Lviv. So I think the worst of it is in the east and in Kyiv. In Kyiv, we had an awful night last night, an awful day yesterday, but somehow repelled the Russian army which is incredible. So my family at this time is staying put, but hoping it stays OK where they are.

SWK: My great aunt is in Dnepropetrovsk, she said that they are still OK there, although last night there were sirens going off. What brings you here, Luca?

Luca: I’m kind of in a similar position, my parents were born here as well, my grandparents are from Ukraine, they moved here after WWII. We are involved in a Ukrainian scouting organization [Plast] which we’ve been a part of since we were children and that’s kind of an interesting phenomenon. When you think of diaspora and you especially think of people whose parents weren’t even born there, you think that, oh you don’t really have that much of a cultural connection. But there was no Ukraine when our grandparents[5] were fleeing so they brought everything here and they’ve spent all their energy fostering it in the younger generations like ourselves, so there is that sense of pride and it’s that sense that we’ve been feeling for a very long time. I’ve been trying to get people to understand the plight for a very long time and now it’s just pretty hard to see especially in this protest. A lot of non-Ukrainians are here which is something we’ve always wanted to see – an investment and a sense of caring about what’s going on there and what has been going on there. It’s unfortunate it’s under these circumstances, but there is definitely a morale boost that I think a lot of Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans are feeling which we’ve never felt before because of that, so we are very glad to be at this particular protest for that reason.

SWK: And obviously The Stonewall Inn is a historic place[6] for the LGBTQ+ community, so it’s a special place to be for sure. Can you tell me more about the scouting organization you are a part of?

Luca: Think of Boy Scouts of America except co-ed and the main activities are related to spending time outdoors, learning camping skills, all that kind of stuff. It’s been a cultural thing for a while. The organization was banned in WWII by the Soviet government, so it was not only a scouting organization, but it was a sort of dissident organization for quite a bit of time and when the Soviet repression was at its most brutal. That was kind of the way that organizations here supported people back home, through organizations like this.

“PEACE” written in Ukrainian/Russian over the Ukrainian flag.

Taya: It is an international organization, it is in Ukraine, in Poland, as far as Australia, Germany, it’s huge in Canada and America so it’s really kind of a finding thing for a lot of us that were born in the States but this is kind of like how we stay close to the culture. Like Luca said, it’s our grandparents that fled and brought it all over the world after WWII.

Luca: So thankfully its function as the opposition movement has been less important since things in Ukraine have been relatively calmer until now, but in other terms it’s just a sort of a cultural thing for you to stick with your community as we get further and further from people that were actually born there.


unknown

Germany

unknown: I feel that Putin’s aggression and invasion of Ukraine is not only a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, this moment in time really changes everything in the world. I feel like the world is now waking up to a new situation where democracies and autocracies are facing each other. I feel it’s the beginning of the new Cold War-style era where we see the big blocs of Russia and China on the one side cracking down further and further on the freedom of their citizens and a democratic western alliance on the other side. I feel that many other countries will fall into either of these two camps; so while we have seen that for a long time progressing at a slow speed I think it is accelerated dramatically overnight and we all need to be aware of it. This is a really fundamental shift in how the world works and we need to take action to be prepared for what is yet to come. It’s very much a wake-up call for everyone.


Maxim Ibadov, 25 ; Yerkenaz Bayetova, 28 & Didar Sarsenov, 29

Moscow; Kazakhstan

From left to right: Maxim Ibadov, Dina Pimenova, Yerkenaz Bayetova, Didar Sarsenov and Anuar Kubiyev.

Maxim: I am an activist and a nightlife organizer, I am part of the collective WE Together where we do LGBTQ+ events for the entire post-Soviet community. We do events, parties, we are actually doing an event on March 20 at 3$Bill. We are doing this event in full support of Ukraine. 100% of proceeds are going to go to various Ukrainian organizations. I’ve been here for ten years now, even though I’m from Russia I am anti-Putin, I’ve been anti-Putin, that’s why I’m here. I’ve been in support of Ukraine for the last eight years so it’s great to be here even though the circumstances obviously are atrocious, but it’s been escalating for eight years[9] and it’s nice to see that people are finally uniting all together against Putin, doesn’t matter if it’s Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, we all know what it’s like to be oppressed under those crazy old white men, well Putin. And that’s what I’m here for.

Yerkenaz: I work closely with Ukrainian guys, my offshore team, they all work in Ukraine. In the past year I’ve gotten so close to them, they are like a family to me. I really want to show my support and solidarity to them and my heart really breaks just imagining that these guys who are engineers who have no military training, they are on the streets right now fighting for their lives, fighting for their motherland. They have no arms, they have no ammunition and they are fighting for their land. This is the least I can do right now – show the support for my fellow Ukrainians and show that all my thoughts and prayers are with them.

Didar: The reason why I’m here is because what’s happening in Ukraine, invading the countries’ sovereignty is not right, from a human perspective. The other reason I am here is to support the LGBTQ+ community because I am a part of that as well. Also what’s happening is we know how crazy Putin is and what he might do if he invaded Ukraine. He wants it to become a part of Russia again and restore the USSR, next will be Kazakhstan, it’s for sure. I believe that it has to be stopped at the beginning and that the community in every part of the world should act, and they shouldn’t wait until the sanctions are going to do something. They have to pressure their government officials and the world organizations like the UN to make sure that they do something. This needs to happen as soon as possible, we can’t wait until the voting is going to happen. While these things are happening, many people are dying. I’m here with solidarity, I’m here to tell the Ukrainian people that we are supporting them and we are family, because we share the same history, the same path. In this case if Russia invades, the LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable social group. So this has to be stopped.

Man holds up a poster that reads “Queer People Are Responsible For Queer People Everywhere.”

SWK: Do you think a similar thing can really happen to Kazakhstan?

Didar: If you look at the foreign policy of Kazakhstan, the strategy is multi-vectorism[1]. Multi-vectorism states that you have to be in very good standing with all the countries. If there is escalation you cannot go into the war. You have to be able to solve the problem in a diplomatic way. In this case, we cannot choose, we cannot replace our neighbors. That’s why if we are thinking in the way that (former Kazakh president) Nazarbayev was pro-Russian and the new administration, whether they would be pro-other countries, not even necessarily Russia, I think that would reflect negatively on the country. It could be that the same history could repeat itself with Kazakhstan, in this case, they should be really careful in exercising diplomatic negotiations while at the same time protecting the sovereignty of all countries. But again, since the country is very young, it doesn’t have much experience, it doesn’t have much support from the international community, it’s kind of hard for Kazakhstan. It’s right between Russia and China. At the same time, we need to understand what exactly is happening there, we can’t just say,

“Hey you can’t be friends with Russia!”

We cannot do that. Because the same thing might happen to you. It’s best to think about those details depending on the situation. In this case, what I would say for (current Kazakh president) Tokayev, is he has experience in diplomatic missions, he could find a balance between Russia and Kazakhstan, I think he could be respectful but at the same time achieve his own mission while still holding authority over Kazakhstan.


Shane faces a poster that he is holding, which reads “No War. Stand With Ukraine.” Shane’s pink kippah is out of focus in the foreground.

Henry: My name is Henry Shane, I am a 19-year-old political activist. I’m a freshman at The New School, I’m a political science major, and I’m a gay Jewish American. What brought me out here today? First of all, my father’s ancestry is Ukrainian and what is happening in Ukraine is not just affecting the Ukrainian people but this is affecting every single person on this planet. Political warfare is what we are seeing and this was all started and led by Putin and his regime of people. This is not good for anyone. I’ve been so empowered and inspired by the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian activists here today in New York City and The Stonewall Inn. I found out about this on social media, but really I haven’t been involved with anything in the Ukrainian community, but today is the beginning of me going out here to educate myself on the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian history, and heritage. It’s really easy to start a war but it’s very difficult to stop a war, but if we all come out here and show solidarity and march hand in hand with the Ukrainian people together, that is gonna be how we stop this war.


Katia Love, 33 ; Luka Love, 7 & Derek Love, 41

NYC

Couple and their son holding up protest posters.

Katia: I have family in Ukraine. There are Ukrainians from the LGBT community who are here today because they know what it’s like to be oppressed. In Russia, you can’t be open and people in Ukraine fear that if Russia has invaded, bad things are going to happen to their friends and minority communities. People are just trying to gather here, spread awareness and do what we can to pressure the government to ask people to donate, to pressure your congressmen, president Biden, so they can somehow help Ukraine, because right now we are left alone. No one in Ukraine wants to be a part of Russia. There is all this false information about it, no one asked them to come. Even people in the east. I know lots of people in the east who fled when they invaded them, no one wanted Russians.

In Crimea, lots of my friends lost their homes, they cannot come back. It was a beautiful place and it’s all gone because they decided that it’s theirs. It’s scary. Right now Ukraine needs to show that they are strong. The rest of the world needs to show that we are fighting for this. Because if it’s not us this time, next time China gets Taiwan[10], because they are going to be like,

“Oh look, Russia can get Ukraine, now we can do anything we want.”

We need to show that there is a place for democracy and no place for Putin and his autocracy.

Derek: Americans need to stop hiding. They need to come out, support, and show themselves. We need to support Ukraine.

SWK: And you brought your kid here today.

Katia: Oh of course.

Derek: He’s part Ukrainian, Luka.

SWK: Why is it important for our young ones to know about these things?

Katia: Because we are trying to raise him in a world where there is freedom of everything and it’s important to stand for your freedom.

Man holds up a poster that reads “Putin = Hitler. Treat Him Like One.”


Olena Shkoda, 39

Kyiv, Ukraine

Olena holds up a poster that reads “Putin go fuck yourself together w russian warship! #stopthewar.

Olena: I was hoping for more support from my American friends, cuz I have some but I expected even more.

SWK: What do you mean?

Olena: I mean in the protest.

SWK: What about your close friends?

Olena: No, they are here but I thought I had more friends that would support. I went to all of these protests like BLM, Palestine. And here I am where people offer to talk to me, I don’t need to talk. I need support.

SWK: It’s a sobering realization to have.

Olena: Yeah, it’s not a joke for us. My friend is in the subway right now with her mom and everybody.

SWK: In Kyiv?

Olena: Yeah.

SWK: My family is also right now in Ukraine. I was hoping for a bigger turnout myself.

Olena: I know. Times Square too. There was a moment when there were a lot of people, but I was expecting them to block the fucking streets. We want to organize a movie week to collect money for the army and we already started collecting artwork to sell.


Izabele Lucena, 36 & Lydia Malinova, 30

Brazil & Moscow

Isabele (left) holds up a poster that reads “Stop beign a bitch Putin,”; Lydia holds up a poster that reads “I am Russian and I stand with Ukraine!”

Izabele: How unfair is the war? It’s disgusting. Putin wants to control everything. He wants Russia to get back the territory [Ukraine] without any thinking- he wants to kill everybody. That’s not natural, that’s not humane, it’s awful.

Lydia: I’m Russian and I have to say I am really ashamed of what the president is doing now. And I’m going to cry. Wars like this shouldn’t exist in the 21st century. I hate that people are dying and I want it to stop right now. And I want freedom for Russia because we are all trapped with this psycho [Putin]. And of course, I want them to leave Ukraine immediately, leave them their territory, their country, and their freedom too.

Izabel: I’m from Brazil and my country is not the best but from what I see in the works right now, we need to do something. We need to protest, at least we need to make other countries interfere and I think the protest is a good way of doing it. That’s why I ended up here- even not being a part of the countries that are involved, I want to be part of a change.

SWK: I think it’s important for everyone to be aware because today it’s happening over there, tomorrow it’s happening here. I was talking to my mom about it yesterday and she said that she was talking to my aunt in Ukraine and my aunt said something along the lines of,

“We are paying for who we elected as our leaders.”

And I told my mom,

“Well not really because these are the leaders that are putting themselves in power for decades. Those are police states, there are no fair elections.”

How much can people really do? I read a news report[7] how some people in Russia went out on the streets to protest and were all immediately arrested with criminal charges brought up against them. It’s fucked up and it’s scary. Let’s hope for a better world.


NOTE: Henry Shane’s and Maxim Ibadov’s quotes were changed per their request on 03/04/22.

Alexey Kim

Founder

GiOD

designer


Categories
Activisim Events Timeline

The Stonewall Protests are Here to Abolish the System

EVENTS | ACTIVISM

The Stonewall Protests:

Liberation Extravaganza

On Thursday, September 24, 2020, a group of activists gathered at The Stonewall Inn to fight for all Black life, Breonna Taylor, and abolition of the system.

Every Thursday, a group of activists, headlined by Joel Rivera and Qween Jean, gather at the iconic Stonewall Inn, part of a series of protests under the rubric The Stonewall Protests, organized by “Black Queer and Black Trans Activists centered on the Acknowledgment of All Black Life.” On Thursday, September 24, just a day after Kentucky’s grand jury decision not to charge cops involved in Breonna Taylor’s fatal shooting, The Stonewall Protests held a ballroom-themed protest called Liberation Extravaganza. 

Before taking to the streets, Qween Jean addressed the news about Breonna’s case,

“They [the grand jury] did not bring justice to Breyonna Taylor, her family, our family. There was no justice! And for that, we are gonna get justice today.”

Joel Rivera explained that the reason for the Liberation Extravaganza theme was the arrest of 86 peaceful protesters in Times Square on Saturday, September 19:

“We witnessed that protesters are not even allowed to step onto the streets without being arrested and so we said, no matter what happens on Thursday, we are going to look our best. And we are going to walk into a battle looking our best, because that is a legacy of Black queer and Black trans people, the Black queer and Black trans people that were here on the same street fighting for liberation, fighting for Black Lives Matter before the movement was founded. We call this The Stonewall Protests, because The Stonewall Inn forgot that history. But we are here to remind them of the legacy of The Stonewall riots. It’s 2020, we are at The Stonewall Protests, fighting for the same thing our ancestors died for. So this is not a threat, it is a promise, if I am not allowed to march on this street today, there will be a Stonewall riot part two…”

The movement’s slogan is “Abolition is Liberation.” Joel explains,

“When we scream ‘No justice, no peace’ what do we mean? Because Breonna Taylor, the black life that really initiated the Black Lives Matter movement over this summer, got no justice. And I can’t sit here and say I’m surprised, because Black people do not get justice under this system. We can vote in November, but my problem will be the same in December. Because no matter who runs for office, no matter if you know who runs for office, no matter if you know that person is a great person, the system will destroy them. Because that’s what the system was made for – to destroy Black people. We need to be in these streets chanting ‘Abolition Now,’ because that is the only way I will get true liberation, that is the only way we will all get true liberation. Tear down the system and forge a new one that is for all people, not just white men…”

Join Joel Rivera, Qween Jean, Iman Le Caire, Alana Jessica and many more every Thursday at The Stonewall Inn, to fight for all Black life and abolition of the system.

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Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Activisim Events Pride Timeline

This Is The Future Queer Liberation Protesters Are Fighting For

EVENTS | ACTIVISM

NYC Queer Liberation March

“It’s 2020, and we are still dealing with issues that we’ve been dealing with for hundreds of years. It’s ridiculous. This needs to end now.”

On June 28, 2020 instead of celebrating the annual Pride Parade in the usual way – with barricaded streets, company-sponsored floats, and police convoys – the people of New York took to the streets to protest police brutality and walk for Black and Black Trans Lives.

Sidewalkkilla was commissioned by BuzzFeed LGBTQ to interview NYC’s Queer Liberation March protesters on their hopes for the future. Find out what brings people out on the streets day after day.

Special thanks to Angel OrtÍz-Perreira for assisting with the project.

Katie Rose Summerfield

Bones Jones

Daniel Nieto

Rollerena

J. Alexander

Gabriella Rosa Morales

Ty Sunderland

Glow Job

Terence, Samy, Luis

Iman Le Caire

Cory Walker

Justin, Onika, Emilie, Spencer, Luke, Jordan

Angel Ortíz-Perreira

Jonas Bardin

Andy Jean

Steven the Neptunite

Sugar B.

& Jen Cinclair

Madelyn Keith &

Graham D’Craquer

Xander Gaines

Joel Riviera

Katie Rose Summerfield

What brings you out here today?

I am an artist and a human in the world who cares about the humanity of all people. I think it’s essential that we show up for our brothers and sisters who have not been treated with any fairness, kindness, justice, or humanity for hundreds of years. And it’s time that we all be accomplices in the fight for abolition of white supremacy, racism, the police brutality and inequality across everything.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hopes for the future are that everybody in the world, everybody in America, feels safe to live in the body as they are, to be exactly who they are, to be loved tirelessly and fearlessly, and for everyone to feel safe.

Bones Jones

What brings you out here today?

I am here today at the Queer Liberation March to liberate humanity, honestly. People of the LGBTQIA+ community are the backbone of how culture moves in this country. So I am here to support humanity in this outfit, have a good time, and support those who need support.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hope for the future is that all people have the same rights, the same opportunities, the same abilities. We’ve seen what happens year after year after year when it comes to these things. It gets us nowhere to just oppress one group of people, so my hope and my wish is that we all just get the equal rights, equal opportunities, and just live in peace. Celebrate in peace, love in peace, have sex in peace.

Daniel Nieto

What brings you out here today?

I am here to fight for freedom, equalities for everybody. Black lives matter, trans lives matter, gay lives matter.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hope for the future is for everyone to be treated equally, with respect, and to have equal freedom and opportunities in this country and everywhere else in the world.

Rollerena

What are your hopes for the future?

My hope for the future is the blue wave on election day, that everybody gets out there and votes. Votes with their conscience and gets this horrible regime out of office.

J. Alexander (right)

What brings you out here today?

I’m here for Pride, I’m here for Black liberation. I’m here to take a stand with all the people that are here today.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hope is that when these people go home, they actually do work, and they educate themselves about decolonizing the mind; they have the hard conversation with their racist aunts. I hope that they speak up for people of color — especially Black people — in these safe white spaces. I hope that the work goes beyond the streets and that we see actual change.

Gabriella Rosa Morales

What brings you out here today?

I’m an Afro Latina, bisexual woman, and I’m tired of the bullshit that’s going on. Honestly, it’s time for change and this is what needs to be happening and nobody is listening to us, so we are going to make them listen. So we are going to keep fighting every day until they listen to us, until we get what we need.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hope for the future is that they defund the police, that they treat every citizen the way they need to be treated and that fucking capitalism changes. White supremacy needs to be out of this country. It’s 2020, and we are still dealing with issues that we’ve been dealing with for hundreds of years. It’s ridiculous. This needs to end now.

Ty Sunderland (right) & friends

What brings you out here today?

We are marching here for our liberation. We are not free until our entire community is free. Right now we have to be out here marching for Black lives and Black trans lives.

What are your hopes for the future?

A future where we are all free, we are all safe, where we all have equal opportunity, equal rights, and equal access to resources.

What brings you out here today?

I am here today, because it’s the Queer Liberation March; it is Pride.

We need to show up; we need to show out. We need to be here for Black lives, for Black trans lives. This feels like, what I imagine maybe, the first Pride was like. It was a freaking protest; it was a riot. And so we are here to make a difference.

What are your hopes for the future?

I feel like things are actually changing for once. I think people are stopping to think… I think they have been disrupted from the system. I want the police to be defunded. I want Black trans people to be respected. I want joy to come back to everyone’s life. That’s why we’re here doing this.

What brings you out here today?

Terence: What brought me here today was trans rights, Black Lives Matter. An equality for all of us — we are marching together to be with all my sisters and brothers and nonbinary folks.

Luis: I am here with my friends and my community. This is our family. Until all of us are liberated, every single person in our community is liberated — trans, Black, queer, nonbinary, Latino people — the queer community will not stop until all of us are fully equal.

Samy: I’m here because this is the real Pride. It started 51 years ago with Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson — a riot against police brutality — and we are still criminalized and oppressed by the state and the police forces. So we need to continue organizing, running for office, voting, and getting engaged with our community to actually fight for change, including social justice and a [city] budget that really helps our community. So we are honoring that life and that spirit of resistance. This is what this march is — to bring that rioting spirit to actually fight for equal justice.

Terence: And the rights for sex workers, which we can’t forget, because the root people that led the riots and the march were Black and trans sex workers.

What are your hopes for the future?

Samy: Well, I really hope that we don’t have to fight against the state and discrimination, that we live in the society that honestly honors our lives, that we have full respect and we have full equality and justice. And that starts with the Equality Act, but we need so much more.

Legal marriage equality [happened], but that just got us the right to love. Now we need the right so we can walk in the streets without violence and being murdered, so the moment that no Black trans women are being killed in the streets, when people are not discriminated at work, when all the eradication of discrimination happens. That’s why we are truly here; that’s why we are marching. We are not only celebrating that we could march because of the history of our movement, but because there is so much work to be done.

Luis: And of course we hope that the city council of New York defunds the NYPD, defunds the military state in our city and starts funding the real needs of our communities, starts funding education, starts funding housing, starts funding healthcare for people in our community. Because that’s where we really want our tax dollars to be devoted to and not to police violence, not to state violence. I really hope that our state officials, our city and our local elected officials react and respond to the clamor that we are all expressing today.

Terence: My hope for the future is that I won’t have to be out on the streets saying “Trans Lives Matter”; I won’t have to be out on the streets saying “Black Lives Matter”; I won’t have to be on the streets saying “Black Trans Lives Matter.” It’s beautiful that we are saying those, but the reason that we are out here saying those is because we are continuously killed and there is no justice and we have to keep fighting and protesting. I’m hoping for the future that we no longer have to be out on the streets fighting against the state and state will side with us, and they will give us protection. So that Black trans girls will have protection, Black people will have protection, we want to fight against people that are killing us.

Samy: This is just the city’s Pride as Black Lives Matter rally, because the most important, impacted members of our LGBTQ community are the LGBTQ people of color: Black trans women, Latinx, undocumented queer immigrants. And it is a movement of solidarity. Fighting for racial justice is to fight for queer rights; fighting for queer rights is fighting for racial justice. So we are not only standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, we also have Black queer lives, we also have immigrant Latinx queer lives and people of color. So this is a movement of solidarity, but we are both because our struggles are very interconnected. That’s why this Pride, this Queer March is so powerful, because it combines the intersectional lives and identities that we all live and they have been oppressed for so long and this is the moment for liberation.

Luis: And at the end, us browns and Black people, we are also protesting against the mainstream LGBTQ community who has for so long discriminated against us, discriminated against our most vulnerable members. And we are saying today: This is the Pride that we want; this is the Pride that we celebrate and nothing from now on in the future will be less.

Terence: No more.

Iman Le Caire

What brings you out here today?

My hope for the future for the Black trans sisters and Black trans brothers, for all brown people and refugees to have jobs and to be walking the streets without getting hurt and killed. I’m tired of it. I’ve been harassed since being 8 years old and I’m sick of it.

What are your hopes for the future?

So I just want to be safe and have opportunities like everybody else. Is that too much to ask? No I don’t think so, so I hope for the future and especially for trans youth to have a better future than I ever had. Hopefully that’s going to happen. I feel optimistic for the future, especially now that we all came together. Hopefully something is going to happen.

And I feel Trump is going to go away.

Cory Walker

What brings you out here today?

I am out here celebrating Black and brown trans lives and just witnessing a revolution.

It’s been a beautiful way to emerge back into the new world and to be in New York City is such a blessing. Because this is kind of where that kind of liberation began: going to Stonewall and just feeling that energy. I feel like the ancestors are really here. I’m taking it moment by moment; it’s really a lot to digest, but it’s everything we’ve been asking for, so. I think this is our time.

What are your hopes for the future?

Oh, so many. I would say for everyone, every being who enters this plane, this earth, this physical experience, to know that there is so much worthiness and rightness in their existence.

I would love for kids to be born knowing that there is a reason that they are here and that they have the power, that their evolution and their natural flow is going to look so specific for them and that’s beautiful. And I want the people who maybe didn’t have that, who are kind of learning that about themselves now, I want them to heal and be graceful knowing that they always did and survived the best way they knew how.

And for people to just have more empathy and compassion and to really see each other again more, maybe for the first time. We are all kind of seeing ourselves for the first time. I think we are all being initiated into ourselves. So, my hope for the future, my hope for now really, just to continue celebration.

Justin, Onika, Emilie, Spencer, Luke, Jordan

Please, tell us what brings you out here today.

Justin: Celebrating our Pride, celebrating identities and Black trans lives.

Spencer: Our identities, our brothers, our sisters, everybody in between who just wants to be themselves.

Justin: It’s been really cool. These last few weeks people have been really showing up for each other in a beautiful way, and I feel like I am responsible to be a part of that.

Jordan: Also standing up against police brutality that’s been going on in this country since literally we began and just saying enough is enough. We are done. It needs to be scrapped, and we need to rebuild.

Spencer: As much as COVID sucks, I feel like it’s been a wake-up call that America needs to motivate and take action against police brutality and everything that’s been happening negatively toward our country to move forward.

What are your hopes for the future?

Justin: That we can all just fucking love each other.

Jordan: Yeah, and be able to live without being afraid of literally being killed.

Spencer: Love each other.

Emilie: Respect each other too.

Spencer: Respect each other in a world that’s built out of love, respect and compassion, and not negativity.

Angel Ortíz-Perreira

What brings you out here today?

I am out here today for Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hope for the future is for us to understand one another even whether we don’t agree with one another or not. I think finding that common ground of understanding and having those dialogues — that’s the future that we get to have. It really feels like there is an awakening happening in New York, in the world, in every major city. And it’s lovely to be out, even though today is limited in scope.

Jonas Bardin

What brings you out here today?

I am here today in support of, particularly, Black trans community as they continue to be marginalized and oppressed throughout this country. And I am here to also remind fellow white people, that this is the work that we need to be focusing on specifically in this moment.

And when we think of Pride, we need to be focalizing Black trans women specifically in our politics and in our minds when we are protesting moving forward.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hopes for the future are dismantling white supremacy and ending capitalism in this country. My hopes are that right now people can find a moment of peace and joy with their friends, maybe even just alone if they are alone today.

These are tumultuous times, but change is never something that is slow and that feels comfortable, so I take it as a good sign.

Qween Jean (left)

What brings you out here today?

I am here today for Black trans liberation, not only today, but each and every day. Moving forward, so that these folks, honey, [cops] are fucking abolished. Thank you. That’s why I’m here.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hope for the future is that no more Black and brown trans people have to be subjected to violence, that they have to be killed and that they could actually be free, fully, beautifully. That is my dream.

Steven the Neptunite

What brings you out here today?

I am here in celebration of not only Pride, but I’m also here for Black Lives Matter, because we celebrate Pride, but too often so many people get left out of this movement.

I believe that by combining BLM with LGBTQ+ Pride we can actually bend together and learn intersectionality and learn that we have a common oppressor. This builds a lot of strength to see people of color and queer people of color here as well as white people.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hope for the future is that we get to dress and look however we want and identify however we want and not have to deal with the threatening looks, not have to deal with the shit talk, not have to deal with the potential violence threats and the death threats. That is my hope for the future.

And my hope for the future is also, for us queer people of color to work within ourselves as well, because there is a lot of self-hate among our community; it’s not just our common oppressor. It’s gotten to the point where we teach this shit to ourselves and we need to fix that.

One of my hopes for the future is for us to stand in harmony and as one, like we should have a long time ago.

Sugar B. & Jen Cinclair

What brings you out here today?

Jen: I am here with one of my besties whom I met at the Imperial Court of New York. She happens to be the first Black biological woman empress of the Imperial Court of New York. She’s fucking amazing, and we marched with our court friends today.

Sugar: I am, like Jen said, one of the first biological women of color, for a cis woman to reign with the Imperial Court of New York. We are a fundraising organization that mostly comprised drag queens, drag kings. We cater to the LGBTQ+ community. We raise money for a lot of organizations. My emperor was actually working at Stonewall when the riots happened. So we are considered the Stonewall monarchs of the Imperial Court of New York.

What are your hopes for the future?

Jen: No regressions. At least keep the rights that we have right now and move forward. No regressions at least step 1, and steps 2 through 50…so many fucking things.

Sugar: I have a basic theory: If you take care of yourself, in turn you take care of other people. Wear your masks; stay inside; don’t believe that you are better than anyone; don’t believe that you are not immune to what’s going on. There is a lot of people out here today, but you cannot cancel Pride. Pride is something that we do. But in the same spirit, stay safe. And if you can and when you can stay home… And I hope to hug someone very shortly. Oh my god I miss it. I miss hugging and kissing and loving people — it’s the most amazing thing.

Graham D’Craquer & Madelyn Keith

What brings you out here today?

Madelyn: My name is Madelyn Keith. I am empress 34 of the Imperial Court of New York.

Graham: And I am Graham D’Craquer, and I am member 29 of the Imperial Court of New York. And we are husbands in real life. So the Imperial Court of New York is a 501c3 charity organization that raises money for LGBTQ+ organizations, and we do it through events. And we figured since there is no Pride parade today, we’d just walk around, spread a little joy, spread a little cheer.

Madelyn: Imperial Court is 35 years old, and we are the producers of Night of the 1000 Gowns, which takes place in the spring. This year, our coronation was canceled due to the coronavirus, but we wanted to come out; we wanted to say hello; we wanted to show people we are here, we are proud, and that we love everybody.

Graham: Absolutely.

What are your hopes for the future?

Madelyn: First, I’d love to see everybody get through this, so we could get back to doing what we do: fundraising and charity, visiting people in hospice, and just bringing a little light to people.

Xander Gaines

What brings you out here today?

It’s Pride. It’s New York. I wanna see my family, my friends, my sisters, and although I can’t be with them the way I normally am, I could be among them so I’m out.

What are your hopes for the future?

A future. That’s my hope. Just having a future.

Joela-Abiona Rivera

What brings you out here today?

I’m 19 now, and I still got a high school education. I’m in college right now, and I’ve been an active member of the Black Lives movement since the day I was born and now I’m here.

I do a protest at Stonewall every Thursday. [And] now what I’m currently doing is stopping traffic, because I know when the Pride parades that are led by white people, when they organize they stop the streets. But when it’s for Black people, they let the traffic go. They try to dismantle us. So that’s why I’m here; it only takes one person.

I feel like the people here — they don’t want to join in, that’s fine. A lot of people are pussies, I can’t help that. So I’m here just doing that, doing my part, causing chaos, because like I said, I’m not peaceful; I’m not violent. I say I’m not peaceful, because I am here to cause noise, to cause chaos. I’m here to wake people up.

But I’m not violent, because the police are violent. People that hate in their hearts are violent. I don’t have hate in my heart, so I’m not violent.

What are your hopes for the future?

I guess it’s kind of cliché: I hope for equality. I hope that if I was to go on a train just like this, I wouldn’t face any harassment. I hope that there is a new system that doesn’t see the color of your skin but sees the content of your character. That’s what Martin Luther King said.

I hope that every single person in the world, now that’s crazy, but I hope that every single person in the world finds love in their heart. If you have love, it doesn’t matter your sexuality, your gender identity, your skin color, because you will just love everybody. And honestly, I take it back when I said it was a stretch. It should not be a stretch to be able to love everyone, but some people just make it so difficult.

Alexey Kim

Founder