Stonewall Releases Video Calling for Unity in LGBTQ Community
Stonewall Columbus (SWC) is “on a path forward,” says Executive Director AJ Casey in a video released by the organization on Monday, Feb. 4.
The four minute video, posted on SWC’s Facebook page, seemed aimed at addressing the arrests of four black queer and trans individuals — the BlackPride4 — during Stonewall’s pride parade in 2017, though specific reference to the incident wasn’t made.
“In 2017, it became all too apparent that Stonewall had not yet lived up to its highest aspirations of being a place where all of us can thrive,” says Casey. “So many people have a deep-rooted, longstanding passion for this organization, and they’ve been telling me that, but it’s also clear to me that Stonewall has a long way to go to make sure that we’re a community center where everybody feels they belong and everybody know that they can thrive.”
Directly following the arrests of Wriply Bennet, Kendall Denton, Ashley Braxton, and DeAndre Miles, and throughout the rest of 2017 and into 2018, members of the community — primarily the group Black, Queer and Intersectional Columbus (BQIC), of which the BlackPride4 are members, and their supporters — called on Stonewall to follow through with a list of demands.
Those demands included a public apology from SWC; an official call for charges against the BlackPride4 to be dropped; an investigation by the DOJ into the Columbus Division of Police’s “use of force against people of color,” and for payment of the BlackPride4′s legal fees. None of those demands were met, though board members of SWC did testify against the BlackPride4 while they were in court for the charges leveled against them.
Former executive director Karla Rothan did step down in March last year, and after a slight board shake-up, Casey was selected to lead the organization from there.
In an interview with Columbus Underground shortly after taking her position, Casey said her plan for mending a broken community starts with conversation, which she referenced in the video on Feb. 4, calling on members of the community to reach out to her directly to hash out any unsolved frustration.
“2019, for me, is going to be focused on connecting the LGBTQ community, and I’ll start that by continuing what I’m calling my “100 days of Listening,” Casey said. “I’ve invited people from the community to sit with me and talk to me about your experiences with Stonewall, and today I’m here to invite you to contact me and invite me to come and listen to your group.”
Casey has offered to meet groups in the community or for them to come to SWC’s newly renovated facility, which reopened in January.
Read BQIC’s response to SWC’s video here.