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An important dialogue between members of LGBTQ community and Minneapolis Police

By KATHLEEN SULLIVAN

Out In the Backyard (OIBY), All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church and Minneapolis South Rotary recently hosted an event to help reduce the gap of understanding between the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer-plus communities and the Mpls. police force. A special community event was organized with the showing of a documentary called STONEWALL UPRISING as a catalyst to raise awareness and conversation about the many complex issues with the police and policing system.

Jeff Hayes, the Minneapolis Police Department’s new LGBTQ community engagement liaison attended the event and dialogue. He is a civilian gay man recently hired by the police department for this position.

Many questions were asked and discussed: Was it reasonable to use the June LGBTQ+ Pride march as a time to protest the killing of people of color by police? After all, the history of Pride beginning in 1969 IS protest and uprising—protest against violence by police and protest against a social structure that trampled all rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ individuals. How could the Pride organizers better communicate what was happening for those along the line-up route to the many hundreds in the parade who had no idea what the long wait was about? Should this protest have been expected by all, given that there was press leading up to the Pride parade about this?, Or been expected because last year groups protested the “whitewashing” of the LGBTQ+ community at Pride, as well as protesting the inclusion of police at Pride celebrations*? Are frustrations about waiting in the heat for the Parade to get under way equal to frustrations of the murder of loved ones by the police? When groups lack equal access to power, how can they be heard, and what are the costs and benefits of various approaches?

All of these questions continue to be important. Out In the Backyard’s documentary and dialog event on Friday Sept 14, an attempt to increase awareness of the history that led to the first Pride march in NYC in 1970, was well-received. Organizers noted that this film, while extremely valuable, over-emphasized the voices of white individuals. Event attendees were referred to documentaries centered on people of color who were important leaders in the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 that led to Pride Parade as a form of protest in 1970. Two important names are Sylvia Rivera and Marcia P. Johnson.** A documentary was made called, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson. This recent dialog OIBY event was a step into new territory for OIBY and led to some experiential learning. Some perceived the event as moving to “solution” without a shared perspective on the “problem”. Some questioned having MPD staff at the table at this stage if the goal was emotional safety and openness, particularly by LGBTQ+ people of color and allies.

Friday evening was a good start. Let’s continue the dialog, hopefully with representation by those who were protesting, and continued excellent facilitation by community leaders and educators who can guide an exploration and increased understanding of these important and complex issues.

*https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/25/us/no-justice-no-pride-protests/index.html

** https://equalityarchive.com/history/transgender-women-of-color-at-stonewall

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