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Progress Bar owner agrees to activist demands
by Matt Simonette
2019-07-01

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The owner of Progress Bar in Boystown has agreed to a number of demands issued by a coalition of community activists following accusations of racism in an email he issued in late May.

Justin Romme agreed to the terms formally on June 26, according to a June 29 statement released by the advocates, who included Pastor Jamie Frazier of Lighthouse Community Church, Imani Rupert-Gordon of Affinity Community Services and Erik Glenn of Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus.

Shortly after a tumultuous Memorial Day weekend at Progress Bar, Romme issued a dictate to DJs that they were henceforth forbidden to play rap or hip-hop. Such bans are frequently read as coded bans on or increased surveillance of customers of color. News of the rule leaked a few days later, and community members both staged a public protest against Progress Bar and held a community meeting to discuss their next courses of action.

Romme agreed to five conditions, according to the statement: 1 ) By October 1, 2019, Progress bar must work with anti-racist trainers to develop updated, anti-racist, person-centered security policies; 2 ) Progress bar must work with anti-racist trainers to develop updated, anti-racist, person-centered security policies. 3 ) The bar must post a sign declaring its commitment to racial justice that may not be removed before August 1, 2020, so that it will be in place for Pride season next year; 4 ) By June 30, 2019, the bar must directly invest in the Black LGBTQ+ community through Black LGBTQ+ led organizations and individuals that serve Black LGBTQ+ people; and 5 ) By June 30, 2019, Progress Bar must deliver a written, public accounting to the Chicago LGBTQ+ community at large that is a response to the incident described at the opening of this letter and explicitly describes Progress Bar's movement toward anti-racist practices.

Organizers said in their June 29 statement, "We know that change doesn't happen overnight, but this shows that we will not allow racism to exist unchallenged in our community. On behalf of the host organizations, we would like to thank all of the community members so much for your hard work and dedication to making this possible. The wins secured show the power of African-American LGBTQ+ and our allies when we organize for change."

Earlier coverage at www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Progress-Bar-protesters-issue-statement-before-June-2-event/66187.html .


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