SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — A few hundred people filled Spiotta Park in South Orange yesterday to make sure LGBTQ Black people are not forgotten in the Black Lives Matter messaging of this month’s unrest in search of racial justice.
They had walked as part of Walk for Black Queer Lives - LGBTQ+ March for Racial Justice, nearly three miles from their start in Ivy Hill Park in Newark, with signs that said “Black LGBT Lives Matter” and “All Black Lives Matter” and “With Liberty and Justice for ALL.”
When they got to downtown South Orange, the overwhelmingly masked but hardly socially distanced crowd heard from a variety of speakers. Sign language interpreters accompanied those at the microphone.
“I’m sure you’ve heard ‘no justice, no peace,’” said speaker Theodore Longlois. “Well it’s time we said ‘no justice, no pride!” And the crowd enthusiastically took on the new chant.
“The mandate of not being killed for being Black should not be controversial,” said Beatrice Simpkins, Director of the Newark LGBT Community Center, reading from a letter of support from the National Association of Black and White Men Together. Simpkins also made an ask for volunteers at the center.
Rev. Kevin Taylor of Unity Fellowship Church in Newark said he did not come to the rally wearing his robes or a suit, so he would not appear separate or above the assembled. “The truth is, I’m a fat, Black, asthmatic, gay nerd from the projects,” he said to a roaring crowd.
His voice was nearly drowned out with cheering as he listed with passion, “If we are saying anything in this place, in this space, it is that all Black lives matter! Black gay lives matter! Black lesbian lives matter! Black bisexual lives matter! Black trans lives matter! Black queer lives matter!... If you’re not with all of us, then you’re against all of us…and if you don’t believe that, you’re not part of the conversation.”
“The entire LGBTQ spectrum — it’s intersectional,” said Maplewood Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis at the rally. For him, the message of the day will carry on: “No justice, no peace for any of us, unless it exists for all of us.”
"Today's event shows the beauty of our community," said Frank McGehee, himself the first African-American mayor of Maplewood. He also noted the fullness of the day's simple message: "If you're Black, you're Black, and you matter. And that's very important."
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