Several within the protest community came together in the name of black trans lives on Friday, June 5. The march was the final action of a full day of protests across St. Louis City and St. Louis County.
Entitled “Pride is cancelled until we stop killing black trans people,” the event was organized by a black transgender man who is a member of Metro Trans Umbrella Group.
The march began at 4100 Manchester and protestors marched from The Grove to the Central West End in a demonstration that spanned more than three hours.
During the action, organizers made five demands: Decriminalize sex work, decriminalize HIV, expand Medicaid (vote in August), provide state and city protections for trans people, and hold individuals who commit transphobic and trans antagonistic offenses accountable.
Protestors assembled around leaders before marching, cheering and reciting the Assata Shakur quote that often marked the culmination of protests during the Ferguson unrest.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win,” the crowd said in unison. “We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Leaders repeated the cheer, with protestors chanting louder and louder each time.
A trans woman named Amiyah – who was a leader of the protest – stood up and stated, “I’m here for your support. This is our day. Black trans lives do matter.” Protestors circling the leaders immediately erupted into applause and cheers.
Amiyah continued by recounting the issues she faces as a trans woman. “I get on the Metro, go to a store, Walmart, anything, and I get people calling me man,” Amiyah said. “The thing is, I am not no sir. I am a female, just like everyone else. That is who we are. That is who we were meant to be born as.”
Protestors responded with affirmations such as “that’s right,” as she continued.
“I wear my shirt that says I’m a person,” Amiyah continued. “It goes from straight all the way to queer – because you are a person no matter what you are. No matter what your sexual identity is, you are who you are. So, we don’t have to change for nobody.”
“We’re not saying everybody doesn’t matter, but we’re focusing on one group,” A protestor stepped forward and said. “It’s black trans lives.”
Following the leaders’ statements, protestors started to march through the streets, some waving their posters and signs in the air.
Music blared as they marched. Among the playlist was rapper Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.”
The popular song and viral video from 2018 offered a musical and visual illustration of systemic racism and the broken relationship between the black community and law enforcement.
During the protest, Dr. LJ Punch, community advocate and trauma surgeon for BJC HealthCare, passed out popsicles to protestors – who responded with appreciation and thanks.
Protestors also celebrated a recent graduate that they passed during their march route. When they came upon the young woman – who was decked out in her graduation cap and gown – the crowd immediately erupted into congratulatory cheers.
The action ended with a promise from the organizers that they will continue to advocate for the African American Trans community.
“Every Thursday we are going to turn up for Black Trans Lives,” an organizer said. “Today is black trans rage, because we are angry. Thursday, we are going to show up again.”
Other demonstrations across St. Louis City and St. Louis County involved healthcare workers, teens, an African American male empowerment organization. Just as with other actions across the nation, they were protesting police killings and brutality as a response to the fatal arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis nearly two weeks ago that sparked global outrage.