We still here, Deandre #freedeandre
This is a message from Deandre from Facebook.
To those concerned with my current predicament and others yet unaware, an open letter of notes:
I left home, Prince George’s County, Maryland, on May 30th to participate in summer research in Linguistics at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, expecting to explore some aspect of language and gender studies. The plan was to complete the Summer Research Opportunities Program, return home until September, and fly to England to spend the penultimate semester of my Emory University education studying abroad at the University of Sussex. On Saturday, June 17th, I linked arms with champions of freedom at the 2017 Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade. We stood for humanity, peace, and inclusion. We were met with violence. (video footage abounds)
Today in this country, people of color are cast aside by structures built on our backs, by the sweat of our collective brow. Unarmed Black people are routinely executed by unabashed police forces and transwomen of color are being murdered in record-breaking numbers. At the pride parade, we quite literally put our bodies – Black bodies, Brown bodies, queer bodies, trans bodies – on the line in stance against these injustices. During that stand I was arrested by the Columbus Police Department on felony charges of the 1st degree under accusation of aggravated robbery, a crime I did not commit. The egregious charge has not yet been indicted for a grand jury trial, and we hope it is not, for the sake of my future academic and career aspirations.
In the weeks leading up to this, my very first pride parade, I beheld the name “Stonewall Columbus,” plastered across the city. That name draws on the Stonewall Riots of 1969 that provided a foundation for the ensuing gay liberation movement. “Stonewall” was birthed by the labor and sacrifice of Black transwomen (google Marsha P. Johnson if you don’t believe me). Thus, even within a community that ostensibly comprehends the violence of marginalization, Blackness is misappropriated and cast away. Dismembered. And for what? To cheer on police brutality with rainbow-striped plastic horns?
This has not been an easy time for me, nor for any of us involved in this work. The weight of racism and queerphobia had never bored down on me so hard as an officer’s knee, pressing my head into concrete, smearing my makeup on the sidewalk. But I believe firmly in the words of my late fraternity brother, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who wrote, while similarly imprisoned, that “there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.” We must continue to struggle through this tension, until queer/trans folk of color like me are safe and happy living their truths.
Where there is struggle, there is also resilience and camaraderie. I have been welcomed with open arms into an inspiring community of freedom warriors for which I am eternally grateful. Kathryn, Ariana, and Ashanté, you have continued to pour into me from your reservoirs of strength and joy. I look forward to repaying the favor. I also deeply appreciate the hugs, legal fee donations, warm words, care packages, and positive energy I have gotten from allies and supporters of justice in Columbus and elsewhere. To the #BlackPride4 and the rest of the #BQIC family: We have shared pain, sacrifice, and, most importantly, love. Thank you for bringing this outsider in.
A mentor of mine recently said to me: “There is no movement without people’s suffering.” I am not sorry that it had to be ours. Regardless of what happens to me at this juncture, I hope that somewhere, over the rainbow, we can unearth love and freedom for all.
We still here,