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LGBTQ Inclusive 'All Black Lives Matter' March To Take Place In LA

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This Sunday, a new group called All Black Lives Matter plans to march to West Hollywood to protest police brutality. The march is meant to include black LGBTQ-plus people. But as NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, the backstory of this event reveals longstanding tensions.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Fifty years ago, LA Pride celebrated gay rights with its first parade; what it says was the first officially permitted parade of its kind. It's become one of the largest such festivals in the country. But plans for a golden anniversary celebration were canceled when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Then as street protests against police killings spread, the group that produces LA Pride announced it would host a protest march in solidarity with black lives matter.

ASHLEE MARIE PRESTON: Please don't conflate saviorism with black solidarity.

DEL BARCO: Transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston called out the group for not having first consulted with black leaders. Blogger Tyesse Jackson also took issue with Christopher Street West, the nonprofit that produces LA Pride, for applying for a police permit.

TYESSE JACKSON: Knowing what Black Lives Matter stands for, why would you even think to say, let's get the LAPD involved in a Black Lives Matter solidarity march? Like, are y'all serious?

DEL BARCO: After mounting pressure, LA Pride announced it would no longer host the march. Christopher Street West didn't return NPR's calls for comment. But in a statement, LA Pride apologized, saying, quote, "we realize we did not first collaborate with enough key leaders and activists in the black community." The group also admitted that filing for police permits, quote, "clearly goes against the demands for systemic police reform."

BRANDON ANTHONY: Let's just be real. It has nothing to do with pride. It's to deepen the conversation of why black lives matter. It's a bigger picture.

DEL BARCO: Event planner Brandon Anthony is co-chair of a newly formed group called All Black Lives Matter. The other co-chair is on the board of Christopher Street West. Anthony says they're planning to march without a police permit this Sunday and without corporate sponsorship. He says LA Pride agreed to let All Black Lives Matter take over the planning.

ANTHONY: They were willing to listen and willing to learn. One thing I do give credit to LA Pride is I know that their original efforts were not in, you know, ill will.

DEL BARCO: But longtime black LGBTQ-plus activists are skeptical. Jasmine Kanick, a political strategist and writer, says the new All Black Lives Matter is just LA Pride in disguise.

JASMINE KANICK: You have a pride organization that has, basically, a 50-year history of having a bad relationship with the black LGBTQ community. For many, many years, black people did not even feel comfortable going to LA gay pride. And when they did go, there was a lot of racism that they experienced at the bars and the clubs and also within the Pride events themself.

DEL BARCO: This week, Kanick moderated an online forum with prominent black LGBTQ-plus leaders. They said they were leery of any more dealings with LA Pride and the mostly white gay West Hollywood. Jewel Thais-Williams, who opened LA's first black gay disco in 1973, said she and her friends have been fighting discrimination and abuse for decades.

JEWEL THAIS-WILLIAMS: There's been many of us that have been murdered over the years, not only by police but homophobes of various types. And let us create our own black queer lives matter because they do.

DEL BARCO: Thais-Williams says protesting violence is important, but she doesn't support this new All Black Lives Matter group. She says she plans to stay away from this Sunday's march.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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