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LGBTQ
Laura Hoge speaks at the march. COURTESY CATHY RENNA

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

June is Pride Month.

But some members of LGBTQ+ do not feel like celebrating the way they normally would.

“It’s difficult for me to be proud right now of the queer and cis white Pride movement,” said Laura Hoge, of Montclair, who spoke at “Walk With Us for Black Queer Lives,” a march for racial justice organized by the LGBTQ+ community in South Orange on Sunday, June 7. 

“We have a long history of racism in our movement,” Hoge said. “Until there’s something to be proud of, I’m not in the mood to celebrate.”

But the size of the crowd gave Hoge some hope.

“When I got up at the mic, I was expecting to see 200 people, and it was about 1,500 people,” she said. “That was a moment.” [Hoge’s speech is below.]

Hoge’s son is black, and she belongs to Unity Fellowship Church NewArk, which is predominantly black, and whose members she considers her family.

“I am uniquely positioned to be calling in, and calling out white people, as a white person,” Hoge said. “You have to be here for the long haul. You have to be anti-racist every day.”

She is also part of the LGBTQ+ community, identifying as a queer woman, married to a man.

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READ: MHS STUDENTS RALLY FOR BLACK LIVES MATTER AND UNITY

READ: GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS: MONTCLAIRIANS MARCH

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“Everybody’s in the streets right now,” she added. “I want to see what people do when they go home. Are they talking to relatives? Are hiring practices changing? Are we looking at everything in our life through the lens of anti-racism?

“Otherwise people will get comfortable and go back to their jobs when coronavirus is over. The new normal has to include black liberation.”

The release calling for the LGBTQ+ march states: “We must turn our mourning into anger and action.” It points out that though people of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera, led the Stonewall Uprising in Greenwich Village in 1969, “many queer organizations have been silent or have gone as far as to partner with police.”

JAN KAMINSKY

Though there were 23 organizations involved, the march on Sunday came together quickly, in six days. [A list of participating organizations is below.] About 1,500 people turned out for the mile-and-a-half walk, said Jan Kaminsky, of Maplewood, who represents SOMa Justice.

Kaminsky texted Denise Hinds, of South Orange, who is the board chairperson of the Newark LGBTQ Center, on Monday, June 1. 

“I think it was 7:30 a.m. I don’t even think she had her coffee yet. She said ‘Yes, that sounds great.’ I was thinking it would be great to bring organizations from all over New Jersey. Denise went right to work recruiting, and it was magic,” Kaminsky said. 

SOMa Justice was formed to address racial inequality in South Orange and Maplewood, Kaminsky said. Hinds said that the Newark LGBTQ Center was founded in 2013 to provide LGBTQ people in general and in Newark with a safe space to be able to congregate, without going into Manhattan.

“It was really about creating that kind of space based on the loss and murder of Sakia Gunn, an African-American lesbian murdered [in 2003] on the streets of Newark late at night,” Hinds said. 

This protest was important, to focus on black queer lives, she added. Many trans people of

DENISE HINDS

color have been killed in the past year and a half, and very little has been done about that, Hinds said.

“There are inequalities even in the gay community,” she said. “A lot of the speakers [at the march] talked about the importance of being allies to the black community because for a long time there hasn’t been that outward-focusing, intentional kind of allyship when things are happening to black people, and to people of color in the LGBTQ community. 

“I think white allies in the LGBTQ community cannot sit back and watch injustice happen and then expect people of color to march for other things, like we have done for marriage equality and other rights.”

Kaminsky agreed. “White, Cisgender queer people have relied on the voices of black queer people, the participation of black queer people, without really centering the voices of black queer people at the table,” she said. She’s very hopeful that changes are coming for all of the groups and organizations.

PRIDE MONTH

Like Hoge, Kaminsky has mixed feelings about pride right now. “I want to take this opportunity to think about what Pride events should look like, to shake them up a bit,” she said.

“What we’ve been doing is not working. We’ve gone from the first Prides being protests, to it now being more of a carnival atmosphere. Of course we all love a party, but we are losing track of some of the issues that still confront many of our most vulnerable queer people. If people think marriage equality has solved all of our troubles, they are sorely mistaken.

“We need to take Pride down to the studs and rebuild it, so it is a more intersectional, justice-oriented movement.”

A moment that gave Hinds hope that the future might be different happened when Dana Delgardo, a good friend and a trans man, spoke. 

“Knowing what he’s gone through to be his true, authentic self, and even to come to being able to talk about that from the podium, that was powerful,” she said. “Having him talk about those who came before him and paved the way, and seeing him do the same for other people, was a full-circle transformation.”

PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS

• African-American Office of Gay Concerns
• Bloomfield Pride
• Brick City Mutual Aid
• Circle of Friends
• Garden State Equality
• HiTOPS
• HIM:NJ
• Newark Gay Pride
• Newark LGBT Community Center
• Newark Pride Alliance
• North Jersey Community Research Initiative

LGBTQ
A diverse crowd marches in South Orange to support black queer lives on Sunday, June 7. COURTESY CATHY RENNA

SPEECH BY LAURA HOGE

My name is Laura Hoge. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am a community organizer from Montclair, an activist, and a white cisgender queer mother of a black son. Unity Fellowship Church of NewArk is my church home, and I am equal parts proud and humbled to be standing here with members of my church family today.

Friends and family, I stand before you with the privilege of rage. I am ENRAGED. And I want to share with you specifically the rage I feel toward my white family here today. And while there is a part of me that wants to apologize in advance for how uncomfortable this might get, if I’m truly honest, I am not sorry. Black people have been unsafe for centuries. We can be uncomfortable for a few minutes.

It is time that white people sit with some harsh facts. For our work to be truly radical, it has to be self-reflective. And white people, we have a LOT to talk about.

When I think about my own role in queer activism in N.J., I remember well lobbying for marriage equality with Garden State Equality. I remember attending marches, going to the State House in Trenton and organizing community meetings in my county. What I did not know is that we intentionally recruited the help of my now Newark family, and then abandoned them after marriage equality was passed. White people here today, when was the last time you celebrated Pride in Newark? Take a moment and ask yourself why that is. Garden State Equality, what is the message you’re sending when you publicly say that you stand for black lives, and at the same time continue to champion your Law Enforcement Liaison program?

You see, we in the white cis queer movement say we are radical, and at the same time we tokenize and exploit the pain of black people to our benefit. And now that the world is erupting, we want to say that we are for the liberation of black people!??! No. I’m sorry, but no. We don’t get to say that we are for liberation without first acknowledging that our activism has a history (and current pattern) of climbing our way to freedom on the backs of the people I love most – my black queer and trans family. My son.

White people, your signs are impressive and I know they reflect your heart, so I say this with radical empathy. I don’t care about your signs. I don’t want to hear that you’re not racist. It’s not true and it serves no one. I want to hear what you’re willing to do about your racism. Because this work never ends. This work means we look for where racism shows up in our world EVERY DAY and we commit to action. Who is at your dinner table? Who has power where you work? WHO DOES YOUR ACTIVISM SERVE? There are opportunities for black liberation everywhere. A failure to act is a failure in priorities. So no, I don’t care about your signs. I care about us finishing what we are starting here today and backing those words up with actions.

We must:

  1. Research who we are voting for and prioritize queer and trans black lives.
  2. We must stop gentrifying neighborhoods.
  3. We must confront our racist relatives. Nobody is “too old” to learn.
  4. When we buy our books about racism, don’t buy from Amazon. Buy from a black-owned bookstore. Buy books written by black authors. Google it.
  5. Support black industry.
  6. Those of you in a board room or executive suite – diversify your hiring.
  7. Pay a living wage to essential workers – all workers.
  8. Stop with the DEI initiatives and hire black trans leaders, for god’s sake.
  9. Stop dismissing black consumers – respect their dignity and individuality.
  10. End security practices that criminalize black people.
  11. Stop profiling as a policy.
  12. We must put our money and our time where our mouths are. It’s not enough to just write a check. Get involved. Prioritize getting involved! Be willing to sacrifice, because it’s that important.
  13. White people – teach your children something better. Our kids are not TOO YOUNG to learn. Don’t let them grow up to murder black people. Don’t let them grow up absent of the responsibility to stand up for queer and trans black lives.
  14. Do it now. Do it with conviction. Do it unapologetically and uncomfortably. Do it when the work is no longer trendy. Don’t let this work be a hashtag. Black lives are more than a hashtag.

I believe that you all have wonderful intentions. They’re not enough. We need action today and every day until all black people are free.