Story and photos by Tracy Baim and Amy Wooten
Outraged that last year's New Year's Eve shooting at a party primarily attended by Black gay men on the city's South Side remains unsolved, members of the African-American LGBT community and their allies marched against anti-gay violence.
The Dec. 31 march, taking place over a 2.8-mile stretch of 79th Street between Wabash and Jeffery, was in cold and snowy conditions. The march was organized by Critical Caucus; Chicago's Black Gay Lesbian Bi Transgendered Leadership Council; and the Coalition for Justice and Respect.
About 20 people managed the distance, receiving strong protection from Chicago police.
Prior to the march, participants received words of strong support from political allies, including Alderman Ed Smith ( 28th Ward ) , State Rep. Karen Yarbrough and Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, followed by a prayer.
'It's warm enough for all of us to stand up against any kind of injustice,' Yarbrough said.
Smith expressed his anger at violence against 'minorities of a minority,' and said something needs to be done to 'stop this madness.' He vowed to stand with his community and see that justice is served.
'We're all here because we have to understand we have to stand up and not tolerate this inhumanity,' Sufferdin said, adding that until the hate and violence stops, the community and allies need to continue to march. Longtime activist Willie Barrow did not end up joining the effort, despite organizer's statements saying she would be there.
The march mostly included African Americans, plus four white supporters. Along the route, there were mostly stares, plus a few raised fists and honks from cars in support. There were a few jeers, and one obsessed fiftysomething African-American male screamed about the Bible condemning gays. However, once was not enough, as he kept moving his car along the route, getting out, hollering and pointing his finger, saying everyone in the march was going to hell. 'Get out of our neighborhood!' he shouted, not acknowledging that some of the marchers were, in fact, from this area of town, and that the march was held there because of anti-gay violence committed in a gay-occupied home on Woodlawn and 79th.
The marchers shouted, 'Stop the violence, stop the hate,' and 'What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!' to patrons of beauty shops, liquor stores, Sears and small retail shops along the busy business district on New Year's Eve. The group ended its cold trek on the steps of the Winnie Mandela Alternative High School, 7847 S. Jeffery, feeling confident from the reception and emboldened by the statement they made in the community. Some had feared for their safety, and felt that completing the march was in itself a heroic act.