Pride filled the streets of Little Village as Chicago Dyke March Collective led its 23rd annual Dyke March on June 29.
According to the group's mission statement, Chicago Dyke March Collective is "a grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual, transgender, and lesbian resilience."
With an inclusive vision, the grassroots effort is anti-racist, anti-violent and volunteer-led. It works toward bridging together communities across race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, size, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, culture, immigrant status, spirituality, and ability, as well as embracing body positivity, while challenging fatphobia.
The collective also describes itself as anti-capitalist, anti-state and anti-police, adding it does not accept funds or donations from state, corporate or oppressive institutions.
Chicago Dyke March is a celebration and gathering organized by the community, for the community. Centered around queer and trans people of color, the event created a space for the community to gather, while supporting local POC centered art, music and performance.
The march kicked off at Little Village Academy and ended with a celebratory rally at Piotrowski Park. Chicago Dyke March Core Organizer Chrissy Pugasaid her favorite part of the event, which welcomed over 2,000 attendees this year, is "this electrifying sense of community."
"We are not corporate-sponsored in any way and so everyone who is vending and tabling here, they're all a part of the community in some way," said Puga of Chicago Dyke March. "We also have opportunities for folks to have resources like STD testing, legal advice, there's an organization OCAD, Organized Communities Against Deportations, that are here, so a lot of it is connecting queers with their resources and that brings me a lot of joy because a lot of resources for queers are located on the North Side and the fact that we can bring it back to a different demographic is very important to us."
This year was the consecutive second year that the march was held in Little Village and that Little Village Environmental Justice Organization ( LVEJO ) served as the event's community org sponsor.
"It's evolved so much, too," Puga said of the event in its 23rd year. "We started in the '90s and evolved since to be a really dynamic and changing organization. Every year we get new recruits that offer their own perspective and right now we have a great group of organizers, I think. Our goal is really to shed light to the oppressed and also give Black and Brown, indigenous, queer, two-spirit folks the platform."
"Now that borders are contested in the media, we also want to offer our support [to undocumented folks experiencing struggle]," added Puga of this year's focus on undocumented queers. "We want to stand with all of our queer family and all of their different needs. This neighborhood in particular is an immigrant neighborhood [and] we want to show solidarity with them."
Despite the hot temperatures outside, Dyke March participants chanted loudly as they represented many different communities and causes.
"I feel so much joyful energy and celebratory energy and everyone is vibing," Puga described. "It's like being home, like seeing your family again."
As the marching crowd dispersed into Piotrowski Park, the celebration continued into the evening with music, performances and food. Various partnering organizations from all around Chicago had tables set up as resources where people could get more information and get involved.
Stephanie Skora, coordinating committee member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago ( JVP ), one of the partnering organizations that was present at Dyke March,enthusiastically said Dyke March is the best thing that happens in Chicago.
"Hands down, nothing else in Chicago can compare to Dyke March for me," said Skora, who identifies as a gender-queer trans woman, hard fem lesbian and working class, anti-Zionist, Ashkenazi Jew.
"This is a space that is soaked in Jewishness," Skora said. "Every single year there have been visibly Jewish people, invisibly Jewish people, Jewish people of all races, of all kinds of Judaism. It's a wonderful space. … We marched in the parade with some trans and queer Jewish banners. It was wonderful and I think our participation in the parade, our visible participation in the parade, is not just because we think it's a valuable, radical space for queer and trans Jews, but also we want to exquisitely challenge the narrative that Dyke March isn't a space for Jews and say 'no this is a space that Jews want to be.'"
"This march is also about community building and healing," said Puga. "We also want to create a safe space for all folks any way that they identify. We have ideological differences amongst all of us, but what remains the same is the respect for all kinds of religions, sexualities, gender representations and we hold space for all of it; especially, Black and Brown folks. That's our focus today."