Members Of Milwaukee's Black LGBTQ+ Community On Having Safe Spaces In The Fight For All Black Lives To Matter
As Pride month comes to a close, many LGBTQ+ people across the country have come together to celebrate who they are and continue to push for change. In Milwaukee’s LGBTQ+ community, there has been more support of the push for all Black lives to matter coming from people of all backgrounds.
Broderick Pearson, better known by his drag name Montell Ross, organizes the city’s annual March with Pride for Black Lives Matter. He says while it took some time for white leaders in the LGBTQ+ community to recognize the struggles Black people in their community were facing, he’s glad to see more white allies supporting the movement.
“Our biggest supporters and allies are out there and they are part of every culture that you can think about,” Pearson says. “I'm proud of being who I am because I'm a part of this community and this community has shown me how much they care about me.”
Many Black members of the LGBTQ+ community say having the support of white people in the community can help push important issues, but some would like to see more spaces where Black LGBTQ+ people support each other. Annia Leonard works as a housing advocate for people in Milwaukee’s LGBTQ+ community. Leonard says there are times when they would like to see white allies take a step back and let Black people lead the way.
“What would happen if we didn't have as many white people to show up to our events?” Leonard asks. “Especially when we're saying this is for Black Lives Matter and more white people show up than Black people or we have a Pride march and more white people or more white queers show up than any other race. It is a little sad. I want them to show up in a different space, be agitators outside of this space.”
When Leonard talks about spaces for Black LGBTQ+ people, that means marches, places for the community to gather and more examples of individuals supporting each other on a daily basis.
There are organizations in Milwaukee that create those safe spaces. Osha Towers is director of community organizing at Diverse and Resilient. While Towers says it’s important to make sure all members of the LGBTQ+ community have the support they need, Diverse and Resilient’s priority will always be Black people and people or color. This includes creating safe spaces for transgender and non-binary people.
“The reality is those are folks that need the support the most and face a greater sum of barriers because of anti-blackness, because of racism, because of these additional levels of oppression,” Towers reflects. “If we're able to tackle and address that then everybody is going to have their needs met ideally.”
Towers says having safe spaces can empower Black people and people of color in the LGBTQ+ community and remind them of everything they have to be proud of. For Broderick Pearson, organizer of the March with Pride for Black Lives Matter, it’s important to be true to who he is.
“Pride to me means having a moment to really stand in the spotlight and own it. I am a gay Black man and I own every part of it. There's nothing no one can take away from me. And I'm so proud to be able to announce that. It means just having no barriers or no walls up or no fears or no hesitancy and being you," Pearson says.