All Black Lives Matter march calls for LGBTQ rights and racial justice
Thousands of people filled the streets of Hollywood and West Hollywood on Sunday, in a march denouncing racial injustice and supporting LGBTQ rights.
They walked atop an enormous street mural on Hollywood Boulevard, where “All Black Lives Matter” was painted in rainbow colors and the pale pink, blue and white of the transgender pride flag.
They chanted “Prosecute killer cops!” They danced. Nearly all wore masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They carried signs: “Racism ain’t a good look, honey.” “Racists, sashay away!” “Less Karens, more caring.”
The All Black Lives Matter march — held amid the pandemic that has canceled LGBTQ pride parades across the country — was the latest massive street demonstration for racial justice since George Floyd, a Black man, died last month after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)
The spirited crowd on Sunday was huge, diverse and young.
Jolie Ruffin, 24, of Leimert Park, wore a blue surgical mask and carried a sign that read: “To be a Black queer woman in Amerikkka is a triple threat ... and NOT in a good way.” This was her first-ever protest.
“I’m a Black, bisexual woman in America,” she said. “It’s intimidating to men especially ... I’m hurt that Black people want to live their lives, and their lives are taken from them.”
Hollywood Boulevard was closed to traffic, and there was little police presence. A portrait of Floyd flashed on a screen outside the legendary TCL Chinese Theatre. On the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a white woman with a rainbow flag draped over her shoulders blew bubbles as she passed David Hasselhoff’s star, and a Black man passed with a cardboard sign that said, “Black Trans Lives Matter.”
Greg Austin, 31, said the massive turnout was evidence of a desire for change that’s been building for years amid high-profile police shootings across the country.
“We’re not saying that every cop is bad. We just wish they would follow a different method,” said Austin, who is gay and Black. “This is an eye-opener for everyone.”
Eyvonne Leach stood on Hollywood Boulevard, wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and a pair of feathery, rainbow-colored wings.
As a Black lesbian, Leach, 40, of Inglewood, said she’d had to fight doubly hard against discrimination. It was rare, she said, that she got to make a statement for both parts of her identity.
“You have to put your Blackness first,” she said. “My lesbianism, that comes later. Being Black and a woman in America, it is really tough.”
Leach said she believed that because Americans were forced to put their lives on pause during the pandemic, they could not ignore Floyd’s death and the racism the country has always struggled with.
“I believe this is the universe working,” she said. “People are tired. If we weren’t forced to stay in the house, we wouldn’t have seen what happened. ... It would have been another killing, another Black killing.”
“It brings my heart much joy,” she said of the march.
The All Black Lives Matter march, though, came about amid controversy.
Critics said they believed organizers appropriated the Black Lives Matter cause in order to hold a “mini Pride” after festivities for the 50th anniversary of LA Pride were suspended because of the pandemic.
The march was announced June 3 by Christopher Street West, the organization that produces LA Pride, as a solidarity march with Black Lives Matter.
But the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles group never endorsed the event, and numerous leaders within the Black LGBTQ community said Christopher Street West — long criticized for being too white and too corporate — did not communicate with them before announcing it.
“With Christopher Street West, you don’t get to go from 0 to 10. This moment for Black Lives Matter is not going to exclude the white gay community and all their years of mistreatment and anti-Black behavior,” said Jasmyne Cannick, a political strategist and longtime Black LGBTQ activist.
Cannick, 42, noted that the separate, annual Los Angeles Black Pride, founded in 1988, was created in large part because Black LGBTQ people had endured so much racism from LA Pride and within West Hollywood, which is mostly white. Cannick also criticized Christopher Street West for last year getting rid of its hip-hop stage, which she said was both a safe space for Black people and a paid gig for Black artists.
Christopher Street West also was denounced for trying to organize the “solidarity” march collaboratively with the Los Angeles Police Department at the same time protesters nationwide are decrying systemic racism within law enforcement and pushing to defund the police.
On behalf of Christopher Street West, event producer Jeff Consoletti had submitted a special-event permit application to the LAPD citing LA Pride’s “strong and unified partnership with law enforcement.”
“Your support of this peaceful gathering is the key to its success and continues a LA tradition of support, advocacy and the peaceful right to protest for all,” Consoletti wrote.
Under pressure, LA Pride said it would no longer organize the march and apologized.
A newly formed group, Black LGBTQ+ Activists for Change, or BLAC, whose board is composed entirely of Black LGBTQ people, organized Sunday’s All Black Lives Matter march. But critics said it was still too closely tied to LA Pride, because BLAC board member Gerald Garth is the Christopher Street West board treasurer, and BLAC board member Brandon Anthony is an LA Pride event producer.
In an interview, Garth, 37, said that while “it started very rocky,” the goal of the All Black Lives Matter march was to “amplify and highlight the Black LGBTQ experience.”
“My whole life, I have experienced racism and homophobia,” Garth said. “I’m Black. I’m 6 foot 4. Dark skin and 240 pounds. There’s a certain perception people have when they hear certain identity markers. There’s often a point where people need to check themselves.”
Jeffrey King, founder of In the Meantime Men’s Group, a South L.A. outreach organization for Black LGBTQ men that supported the event, said the conflict showed a generational divide. King, 61, said that while younger Black LGBTQ people may feel more comfortable attending LA Pride than in years past, there are “deep-rooted scars” among older people because of the racism they experienced.
“It was clear Pride was never for us,” King said. He had drinks poured on him, was aggressively and inappropriately touched and had difficulty entering event venues, he said.
But King said he recognizes that many of the young Black LGBTQ people he works with have “different lived experiences” and that he supports what the All Black Lives Matter march represented. He said he has often felt he had to forgo the fight for LGBTQ rights in favor of fighting for equality of Black people.
“The Blackness comes first, and everything else follows,” he said. “If someone sees me walking down the street, there will be no question I’m a Black man, but they won’t always know the otherness of who I am.
“Most of us are taught to be certain ways for survival ... and we learn those very early in life. It’s rare that you will find a large number of us who will prioritize being gay or our sexual identity, expression, who we love, over our Blackness.”
On Sunday, Ammie Robinson, 37, of Huntington Park, walked down Sunset Boulevard with her girlfriend, Kimiko McCarthy, 31. Robinson said that as a Black and queer person and as a woman, she had a “triple whammy” when it came to fighting for her rights. Discrimination exists even within the LGBTQ community, she added.
“Sometimes, there’s not space for Black people,” she said. “You’re fighting for space in your own community.”
McCarthy carried a cardboard sign that read, “Hey WeHo Black Queers Exist!!! #MakeSpace.” She said she had just spoken with a friend, another queer woman, who did not attend the march because she didn’t feel comfortable there as a Black person.
“I respect that,” McCarthy said. “I told her I’d let her know how it goes. I heard about this weeks ago, and of course I wanted to be here to represent both sides of who I am.”