Openly queer #BlackLivesMatter co-founder, performance artist, NAACP History Maker and Fulbright scholar Patrisse Cullors kicked off the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference ( MBLGTACC ) Feb. 17 at Navy Pier with a rousing keynote address centered on the theme of resistance.
Hosted by colleges and universities across the Midwest since 1993, the MBLGTACC is an annual three-day conference featuring speakers, workshops, activities and entertainment that focus on issues affecting the queer community. The Chicago Coalition of Queer and Allied Students are the hosts of this year's conference.
Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi co-founded #BlackLivesMatter after George Zimmerman's acquittal in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Since then, the movement has grown to include supporters from across the world.
Recently, Cullors has been bestowed with numerous accolades, including the Mairo Savio Young Activist of the Year Award, the Berger-Marks Foundation 2015 Edna Award and a Glamour 2016 Woman of the Year honor. She was one of the people on The Root's Top 100 List and listed as one of the LA Times New Civil Rights Leaders for the 21st Century.
Cullors said that it is a scary time to be alive with 45's ( her name for Donald Trump ) numerous executive orders, which she said are causing chaos and ripping apart communities.
"Our resistance has always been queer," said Cullors numerous times throughout her address.
Cullors spoke about the contributions of openly gay civil-rights leader Bayard Rustin. She highlighted his skill as an organizer and non-violent messaging that made the 1963 March on Washington a successful endeavor. Cullors said that without Rustin's involvement the civil-rights movement might never have gotten off the ground. She explained that due to Rustin's sexual orientation he was sidelined by history like most queer people have been over the years.
She also noted openly transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson's pivotal role during the Stonewall Rebellion and how history has sidelined her involvement in favor of a more "palatable" message.
Cullors pivoted to the founding of #BlackLivesMatter which she says is a love letter and call to action about respecting every Black life.
"Queer liberation is Black liberation," said Cullors. "#BlackLivesMatter isn't just about Black, straight, cisgender men; it's about all Black people, no matter how they identify. We need to center our stories around the most marginalized among us which are Black transgender women since so many of them are murdered."
Ferguson, Missouri, put #BlackLivesMatter on the map because it highlighted the existence of over-policing of mostly Black and Brown neighborhoods/cities, said Cullors. She noted the importance that social media played in getting that message across.
Cullors explained that both the GOP and Democratic parties have failed Black communities; however, the GOP shoulders most of the blame of late. She calls Nov. 8, 2016 ( the date of Trump's election ) "doomsday."
"They can take the House, Senate and White House, but they can't take our power." said Cullors.
Cullors called Trump's actions those of a fascist and noted two pending proposalseliminating both the Department of Education and the EPAthat need to be countered at every turn.
"Everyone in this room is a survivor," said Cullors. "Our goal is to protect and defend our families, friends and communities from fascism. Look around you at the collective power in this room. … The key is to fight locally, including getting more cities to become sanctuary cities. … Hope is not lost and former President Obama's two victories prove it. … What we are seeing now is beautiful movement moments like the Women's March and protests at airports. … We can't let 45 take our joy and power away."
A Q&A followed Cullors' address.
See patrissecullors.com/bio/ and mblgtacc.org/ for more information.