Opinion: Stonewall’s “100 Days of Listening” is an Empty Gesture
It has almost been two years of negligent behavior and relative silence from Stonewall Columbus (SWC) since Columbus police officers used excessive force against queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) at the 2017 Stonewall Pride Parade. Stonewall’s silence is in response to QTPOC asking, since the incident, to ensure that we would not endure this violence again. Their silence has polarized the community in ways that we all didn’t expect. Each day of silence has meant another day of pain and trauma.
Since then, members of BQIC and countless other QTPOC have expressed — with urgency — the need to repair the community by addressing the harm caused and naming the violence that occurred.
Stonewall Columbus told us several times that they planned to release a statement addressing our pain and trauma so we could all move on. On Feb. 4, 2019, SWC finally released said statement to share how they plan to move forward in order to heal the harm they caused by refusing to respond to the demands of the communities they have historically marginalized and silenced. That four-minute video statement, however, had only seven seconds that barely addressed what happened at the 2017 Stonewall Pride Parade.
Weeks prior to the statement’s release, Helen Stewart, a core organizer within BQIC, took care to meet with AJ Casey, the new Executive Director of SWC, for 90 minutes to reiterate, again, the changes that are needed for SWC to begin to repair the damage they have done to QTPOC in the community. Helen outlined the following needs to begin this community repair:
1) An apology for refusing to provide aid or support to the Black Pride 4 and others who were brutalized during Columbus Division of Police’s attack at the 2017 Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade
2) An admission that Columbus Division of Police officers brutalized Black queer and trans people at the 2017 Columbus Pride Parade
3) An outline of steps Stonewall plans to take to show that they take seriously the need for inclusion and the well-being of QTPOC in Columbus
We made clear that Stonewall’s statement must include all of these elements in order to at least signify that they were committed to begin a transformative justice process. Instead of accepting these final points of feedback, Stonewall Columbus ignored the voices of Black queer and trans people yet again; rather than utilizing the input, AJ released a mealy-mouthed video that made only vague reference to “2017” before transitioning into her plans for 100 Days of Listening, a far cry from the active change needed for SWC to show that they care about QTPOC.
This disingenuous attempt to sweep their wrongdoing under the rug yet again is insufficient and insincere. Clearly, Stonewall is still not listening if they remain incapable of naming the wrongs that they did, let alone adequately repairing them. AJ’s/Stonewall Columbus’ 100 Days of Listening is meaningless without them taking seriously the concerns of the most marginalized in the LGBTQIA+ community.
We encourage Stonewall Columbus to reassess their video statement and do what has been asked of them for 19 months now. We believe this would be the most important step in beginning a transformative justice process where our entire community can heal. The silence regarding the Black Pride 4 and the refusal to apologize is harmful, regressive, exclusive, and prevents us from moving forward.
It’s nice that Stonewall Columbus thinks that they are moving forward, but, unfortunately, once again they’re leaving behind a significant part of their community. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, an uprising led by QTPOC against a violent police raid that galvanized the modern LGBTQIA+ movement.
After allotting them our time in attempts to improve their abilities to support QTPOC, Stonewall Columbus has ignored our voices, disgracing their namesake time and again, and we say enough is enough.