A Black Gay Day In NYC: Black Lesbians Beaten By NYPD, RIP Octavia St. Laurent, Prop 8 Protest

The last few days have been strange.Perhaps it was not so strange, as it was a series of events that got me thinking alot about Black gay life in New York.

RIP! Octavia

Last week, we lost Octavia St. Laurent, singer and Ball scene legend and icon, who most would remember from the documentary Paris is Burning, and she also appeared in the 2003 film How Do I Look? Octavia was a really outspoken advocate for transgender and “third gender” people. In How Do I look? she describes herself as being third gender, and how she remembers seeing more third-gender people in the Black community years ago, but how violence and HIV/AIDS had taken many away from us. This is a really great interview of Octavia. Rest in Peace, Sweetie.

NYPD Beating of Two Black Lesbians in Brooklyn

On Saturday I got an email from my ex forwarded to him about the  NYPD beating and arresting two Black lesbians outside of a nightclub in Bed-Stuy–right down the street from me. Audre Lorde Project’s SOS Campaign is taking the lead on organizing a response–which includes a rally on June 6th. Here’s the email in its entirety:

Hey ya’ll…

I am writing today with a heavy heart. And for me no matter how much the world seems to dissappoint me I always want to bounce back. But this time is a little different.

I and another lesbian in the community were involved in a BRUTAL BEATING by ALL MALE COPS the 77th PRECINCT of the NYPD.

It took place at the IFE LOUNGE, corner of Nostrand & Atlantic in Brooklyn. I know for a fact there were at least 100-200 woman outside at the time and I am hearing rumors of video footage. LOOK LADIES… IF YOU FIND CAN FIND A PARTY SO F-IN IMPORTANT, THAT YOU HAVE THE TIME TO TELL A FRIEND TO TELL A FRIEND TO POST BULLETINS TO EMAIL FLYERS.  THEN I WOULD HOPE YOU WOULD HAVE THE TIME TO ASK A FRIEND TO ASK A FRIEND TO ASK A FRIEND TO FIND PICTURES VIDEOS, WRITTEN TESTIMONY TO SUPPORT THE FACT THAT TWO OF YOUR OWN WERE BEATEN IN THE STREET BY POLICE!!!

NOT ONLY WERE WE BEATEN, COPS HURLED ANTI-GAY STATEMENTS AS THEY RAISED THIER NIGHT STICKS IN THE AIR. LIKE “YOU FUCKIN BITCH ASS DYKE”… AND THEN HAD THE AUDACITY IN FRONT OF THEIR OWN SEARGENT AND THE REST OF THERE BROTHERS AND SISTERS SAY “WE ARE HAVIN SOME DYKE PUSSY IN HERE TONIGHT”

Really ladies… This crime wasn’t about me or about the other female involved. As I laid there and I felt the night sticks hit me, I thought of Martin Luther King, and what he had to endure just for us to have the freedoms we do today. I immediately relaxed my body, put my arms up where they can see I wasn’t resisting, and screamed at the top of my lungs for someone to hit record on there camera. As they pulled me into the car I knew then that they picked the wrong quote unquote “DYKE”, to mess with.

TODAY!!! ITS TIME FOR US TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!! I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely tired of the way police, club owners & bouncers treat us. If you didn’t know what they think about YOU. I hope you RECOGNIZE NOW, what it really is.

THIS IS WHAT WE NEED:

1. VIDEO FOOTAGE
2. PICTURE FOOTAGE
3. WRITTEN TESTIMONIES W/CONTACT INFORMATION

PLEASE EMAIL ME ASAP!!!

DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU IT ISN’T YOUR BUSINESS, IT IS. IF YOU HANG WITH US, PRAY WITH US, IF YOU PARTY WITH US, IF YOU SHOW YOUR PRIDE WITH US, THIS CRIME WAS COMMITTED AGAINST YOU AND MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY. Email me @ civilrights@LadiesLoveLadies.com

Prop 8

As many of you know, the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, which placed a state Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage but declared the 18000 same-sex marriages that occurred between May 15 and November 5 to be legal marriages. A mess. Anyhoo, I was passing the NYC protest and March that happened last night protesting the decision and got some photos. Some of the posters are, well, I’ll let you decide.

Prop 8 Protest May 26 2009

Prop 8 Protest May 26 2009 #2

Prop 8 Protest 3

Prop 8 NYC Protest 4

Beating a Dead Horse: Prop 8 & Race

So finally the new data on the exit polls on what voters helped pass Proposition 8 in California has come out. And it shows about a 58% pro-Prop 8 voted amonf Black voters in the state of California, which is only slightly higher than other racial groups, but far less than the 70% once stated. What’s interesting is that the original exit polling data was reported by CNN, and I have yet to see a story on CNN about the new data, or retracting their intial projections. Anyhoo, the stories written by the San Francisco Gate and The Advocate. But here are a couple comments by readers of The Advocate, a gay magazine. It really speaks to how non-Black members of the community are committed to believing that “Black people hate gays” more than other groups, despite data in this case to prove pretty similar vitriol to other groups.

Name: Pedro
Date posted: 2009-01-07 2:49 PM
Hometown: San Diego

Comment:

People LIE about knowing a gay person. There is no way more than 30% of the population KNOWS a gay person in real life. I believe the CNN and AP polls were correct or close to correct in the actual numbers of black voters casting their ballots for discrimination. I think this survey is an attempt to rollover to blacks who do not want to take responsibility for the overwhelming anti-gay hatred in their community and instead want to blame gay people for Prop 8.

Name: Alan Pires Ferreira
Date posted: 2009-01-06 8:00 PM
Hometown: Belo Horizonte, MG

Comment:

So 57% of the blacks voted against full citizenship to homosexuals. Will they be considered gay-friendly now? Will they win a GLAAD nomination?

Black Vote for Prop 8 57%, not 70%!!!

Sorry I have been away. I know I promised several short pieces on Prop 8, but life got the better of me.

Anyhoo, in a story that came out last week in the Washington Blade, there is some new data soon to be released by David Binder that will show that 57% of Black voters in California supported Prop 8, not the 70% CNN originally reported (though it is buried in the Blade story) This is significant because it was this number that made Dan Savage and many white gays act as though Prop 8’s passage was as bad as the Dred Scott Decision, and black people were particularly to blame for its passage. I guess lip-synching along shirtless to Beyonce and Deborah Cox remixes at the club got confused with real political coalition with actual Black people. Whatever.

It’s not that I am happy that 57% of Black voters voted for that dumb shit, but can we get a little perspective here? Furthermore, it IS signigicant to point out the lies and flawed assumptions that led us into this conversation anyhow.

I, along with my co-editor Lisa Duggan from NYU did a show on Prop 8 for KPFA Pacifica Radio in Berkeley, CA that aired two weeks ago, where we talk about Prop 8 and the marriage issue in general. LISTEN to it here.

Thanks for pointing this out to me, Cole!

Prop 8 #1: A Material or Moral Defeat?

I know I am late on this one, but initially I thought that my essay from 2004, Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black, would be enough to help people think about the racial dimensions of the same-sex marriage debate. I can tell it’s getting alot of traction again, people have emailed to say it is circulating on listservs and it’s in the top 10 blog entries here for the last week. Sometimes, it’s better to be late than to be quick and not comprehensive. I think there are lots of things to say about this particular situation, so I am going to be blogging on this all week with short blog entries, while I work on a longer analytical piece. But I will use this series to talk about some of the flawed assumptions of the people upset about the ban.

One of the things that has been bugging me is the pro-marriage (and marriage ONLY) gays and straights have been talking as though this were the same thing as the Dred Scott decision–a total loss of rights tantamount to second class citizenship, or no citizenship at all. But is this true? Though it is a setback, in terms of cementing heterosexist law on yet another state in the union, is it really the loss of “rights” as is being framed by the advocates?

Something to consider: California already has a domestic partnership law on the books, that was signed into law in 2003, and took effect in 2005. According to the California domestic partnership law, “Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the sameresponsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.”

In essence, the benefits of domestic partnership are very similar to those given under civil marriage, which are pretty similar to straight married couples, with the exception of federal recognition to get the different benefits under federal law. The US government does NOT currently honor state marriages of gay couples.

Did the California Supreme Court decision which lead to default legal marriage for same-sex couples, end the domestic partner benefits already afforded under the 2003 law?

NO. According to the state website, “The Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriages did not invalidate or change any of the Family Code statutes relating to registered domestic partners. Until a Notice of Termination is filed with our office, a registered domestic partnership will remain active on California’s Domestic Partnership Registry. This office will continue to process Declarations of Domestic Partnership, Notices of Termination of Domestic Partnership and other related filings as permitted by the domestic partnership law.”

That would mean that same-sex couples could still get the domestic partnership benefits, even though there is now a ban on marriage, per se. Is there a qualitative difference between domestic partner benefits and marriage, if neither are recognized federally? I think not.

So I don’t think that the idea that gays in California somehow lost some substantive rights (though I don’t support the ban, obviously) in the few months where they were allowed to get a slightly differently worded piece of paper, makes not a whole lot of sense. This to me is more a moral debate than it is a material one, but I will get into that issue when I write a full piece…Stay Tuned.

Read American University Professor Nancy Polikoff’s Blog to keep up with the best legal mind on these issues.