Content warning: discussion of racist, anti-Black violence and murder
Given the news of the past week, it hopefully comes as no surprise that as a choir, we too would like to add our voice of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Even though we are known for putting on shows that emphasise happiness and joy, we must not forget that our origin, as a choir and as a community, lies in a resistance to legislative violence against a marginalised group: the Pink Singers were formed at a time where Pride was still a protest, rather than a celebration, a time where LGBT+ people were explicitly targeted by the state, by legislation, and by the police.
While for some things have changed for the better since 1983, this does not mean that the fight is over. Police and state violence continues to target marginalised groups around the world, and in particular Black people. Now is the time that we ask our members and friends, to reflect on and learn about the protests happening around the killing of George Floyd. Floyd was killed through strangulation by Minneapolis police officers, and his death has sparked a resurgence of protests under the banner of Black Lives Matter, a campaign which started in 2013 after the acquittal of the police officer who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
It is particularly important for non-Black LGBT+ people to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, as our struggles are inherently intertwined. This Pride month marks 51 years since the Stonewall uprising in New York, an uprising which was explicitly in response to continued police harassment of LGBT+ people, many of whom were Black LGBT+ people.
Important Black figures during the Stonewall uprising include Marsha P. Johnson, a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, as well as a campaigned with ACT UP; Stormé DeLarverie, whose resistance to police harassment has been said to spark the uprising; and Miss Majors, who was present during the night of the uprising, and has since been instrumental in HIV/AIDS activism and campaigning for trans rights. If it wasn’t for Black LGBT+ figures, we very literally would not have Pride today.
Despite news outlets focusing on the US at the moment, it is important to remember that this happens in the UK as well: police violence against Black people is disproportionally high, as are Black deaths in police custody. Particular targets are victims who have mental health issues, a disability, or are struggling with addiction. Particularly in London, the rate of being stopped and searched soars for Black individuals, as well as other ethnic minorities. The targeting and scapegoating of marginalised people is not over yet, and for many it is becoming worse.
Regardless of whether we are currently directly affected by this, regardless of our identity or background, it is everyone’s responsibility to work towards a world in which nobody is subject to police or state violence. Whether that is through protesting on the streets, donating to charitable/community organisation, or educating ourselves on the ways racism (in particular anti-Black racism) is embedded in society. We have a duty to do all that we can, to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
If you have any money at all to spare, please consider donating generously to any of the following:
The Bail Project – an organisation combating financial discrimination in the justice system.
Black Lives Matter – A global network fighting against white supremacy.
The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust – A UK-based organisation set up in memory of Stephen Lawrence. The organisation works through education of young people, and campaigning for a transformed justice system.
The Movement for Black Lives – A platform for Black organisations and individuals to share strategies and visions, in order to radically transform society for the benefit of Black people.
Pippa Sterk, Alto