Since this year's Pride Parade promises extra security through a significantly enhanced police presence, those looking to celebrate and participate in the power of LGBTQ and minority communities in a more exuberant environment need to look no further than the Dyke March, which will take place in a new location this yearin Little Village on Saturday, June 24.
The historic event began as an alternative to the yearly Pride Parade, which felt unwelcoming to parts of the LGBTQ community.
Corporate participation is declined in favor of small businesses and nonprofits. The head-thumping, broken record of Lady Gaga's Greatest Hits is dispensed with in favor of a message of change and, while there are always bystanders waving-on the often 1,000-plus people who walk the Dyke March's route, they aren't squashed seven-deep behind barricades. In fact, anyone who wants to join in will always find a space.
The collective organizers behind this year's Dyke March found such a welcome from the businesses and communities of Little Village. It is the first time the event will take place in the Southwest Side neighborhood, having spent the past three years in Humboldt Park.
Reyna Wences is an organizer with both the Dyke March and a significant partner for the event this year, Organized Communities Against Deportations ( OCAD )which has taken up the fight "against unfair and inhumane immigration enforcement practices that impact immigrant communities" in an era erawhich has seen families torn apart, human rights denied and children and adults tortured and imprisoned for months without access to legal counsel or, in many cases, anyone from the outside world.
"In response to what's happening federally, OCAD has been involved in conversations and a campaign around expanding sanctuary," Wences told Windy City Times. "We know that the federal administration has been attacking different communities; immigrant, transgender so, when we talked between OCAD and the [Dyke March] Collective about the march, we wanted to expand the conversation around immigration to include more LGBTQ visibility."
Wences said that outreach to businesses and community organizations in Little Village began in late March.
"There was a lot of relationship-building with organizations on the ground," Wences noted. "Businesses have been very receptive of the Dyke March. There have been a number of social events leading up to it. When we approached business owners, they were really open to it. They welcomed us with open arms."
Organizers have also engaged Little Village schools by working with both parents and teachers.
"It's been beautiful and interesting going to these meetings, talking about what Dyke March is and the collaboration with OCAD," Wences said. "People have been really receptive and asked a lot of questions. In a recent meeting we had, one of the mothers wanted to know more about the LGBTQ community. We now know that there is a need for more education in Little Village. We see Dyke March coming to Little Village as a way for community members to get more engaged, to ask questions and to have conversations."
Alexis Martinez has been a core organizer with the Dyke March collective for eight years.
"We like the community to invite us in," she said. "[OCAD] approached us and was the main impetus that brought us to Little Village. Dyke March is always evolving. We're always getting new blood."
"We're taking a strong position on immigration rights," she added. "While there's an impetus to be more political, we're still celebrating who we are and getting our message out there."
Martinez agreed that the Dyke March has become more reflective of that kind of celebration than the Pride Parade.
"The Pride Parade still focuses on gay, white males and every year it becomes more of an upper-middle class corporate expression," she said. "Dyke Marches across the country go to the grassroots struggle of oppressed people."
Those who want to show solidarity with such communities and participate in the 2017 Dyke March are welcome to join the gathering point at Little Village Academy, 2620 S. Lawndale, at 1:30 p.m. The march will kick off an hour later and will conclude with a rally, free food and entertainment which includes superlative spoken word, music and dance performances in Piotrowski Park, 4247 W. 31st St.
The rally will also feature informational tables from, so far, more than 20 organizations.
"We hope a lot of people come out," Wences asserted. "It's a family-friendly, beautiful celebration that marginalized communities don't get at the Pride Parade."
"Every year we grow a little more," Martinez said. "We're trying to be inclusive without losing our identity. We're striving always to be accountable but sometimes you just have to rock the boat."
For more information on the 2017 Dyke March, see www.facebook.com/DykeMarchChicago/ .