By Teshia Allen
Over the past few weeks, my spirit has been shattered. I felt as though I could not breathe, my heart racing, numb to my feelings, and frozen in the moment. I was left stunned by the footage I saw on TV and on social media of Black men (Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd) being modern-day lynched in front of my very eyes. This trauma continued, over the following weeks. The bodies of Black transgender women were found scattered in the lake and streets, brutalized for their identities, hated for who they were. In horror, we magnified our voices as communities often plagued by violence and racial injustice do in these moments; and we demanded that we want justice for these lives because Black Lives Matter. I have never been more mobilized by the call for action against racial injustice and Black liberation as I am now.
These dehumanizing killings of unarmed Black men and Black trans women reminds us that there is still much more work to be done to dismantle a system that has upheld the oppression of particular groups of people and benefited a vast majority. We are now forced to re-examine how systemic and structural violence infiltrated intersections of class, race, gender and sexuality. We understand that to be Black and Indigenous means our communities have been surviving while in constant states of trauma, and there is no better time to begin our collective healing than now.
As Black and Indigenous people demand liberation from racial injustices, we celebrate Pride Month. However, I cannot help but feel that this Pride is different. While I pause to reflect on the history of the LGBTQI2S movement, I also acknowledge those who paved the way to give me the freedom of expression so many of us need to live and feel safe in the bodies we are located. This month, we proudly elevate our visibility to redefine who we are, dismantling all forms of violence and the oppressive systems holding our communities in mental and physical bondage.
Black communities have a renewed spirit to fight for social justice to end systemic and structural violence and racism. We remember those before us who tirelessly fought to make visible the intersectionality of what it means to be Black and LGBTQ. Those who played a central figure in giving a voice to Black queer identities such as lesbian author Audre Lorde, known for her transformative feminism, and Marsha P. Johnson, a transgendered woman at the centre of the Stonewall riots. Her involvement in the Stonewall riots became the tipping point for the gay liberation movement in the USA, now celebrated on the last Sunday of June as Pride Day. We march in solidarity, Black and queer identities fused together, out of homage to the legacy of these strong women leading the resistance against systems of oppression, in the pursuit of freedom and inclusivity.
We are in a new era; I am witnessing a rebirth of Pride and Black liberation, and the dismantling of institutional systems that have marginalized and disenfranchised our communities. As a new generation demands, ‘Justice or no Peace,’ I am proud to say that Black women continue to be at the forefront of these movements: #MeToo, queer and trans liberation, and Black Lives Matter. Black women have always been at the forefront leading and championing change for the betterment of all communities.
These past few weeks have been an emotionally exhausting battle that has been further exacerbated by a global health pandemic. Raw emotions have evoked moments of anger and sadness at the thought that in 2020 we still need to chant ‘Black Lives Matter.’ The urgency Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is for allies to join in the fight to dismantle the structures that maintain social injustices, violence and the dehumanization of Black and Indigenous bodies. It is within these moments of rebellion, and revolutionary solidarity, that I find myself holding on to hope for the future and reassurance that our next generation is affirming what it means to be Black and Queer in the Americas.
It brings me hope to know that our ancestors prevailed through their adversities and trauma. They fought long and hard for the freedom and privileges I hold so why give up? It is in our DNA to forge ahead and fight back, speak out loudly, and continue to be resilient against all odds, and yell, All Lives Cannot Matter until Black Lives Matter.
Teshia Allen is is the Manager of Housing Supports and Special Projects at YWCA Toronto. As the manager of Housing Supports, she oversees a Transitional Housing program, and a Mental Health and Housing Rent supplement program that help women with mental health and addiction challenges secure and maintain housing. Additionally, in her role Teshia directs the organizational aspects for YWCA Toronto’s Trauma Informed Development Education project (TIDE).
Image by Mattia Faloretti