Like many other large-scale events during the coronavirus era, the Dyke March will not go on as planned — but the group is not simply going virtual as with a good number of other Pride traditions. Instead, the march’s lead planners are placing an important spotlight on racial justice, beginning with a Juneteenth march on June 19.
Dyke March organizers, led by Black queer women, are producing a socially-distanced Break the Chains With Love March on June 19 that will begin at Brooklyn Bridge Park at 6 p.m., continue across the bridge at 6:30 to the African Burial Ground on Lower Broadway, and conclude at City Hall with a celebration and rally.
Valarie Walker, a member of the NYC Dyke March Committee who took the lead on bringing the Juneteenth march to life, told Gay City News that the idea for the march stemmed from a conversation she had with a white friend who was experiencing a sense of loss regarding what to do in response to the protests targeting police brutality and racism.
Committee members explain origins of June 19 march, plans for later film festival, digital action
“He recognized he could turn off the news media and get a break from it without fear, so he understood his privileges,” Walker said. “I felt so much love for him in that moment and I realized, ‘Wow, love is going to be my way.’ I had felt anger, rage, and retaliation, and that’s not really me. Soon, the idea of love hit my brain.”
Between that idea and further collaboration with other Dyke March organizers, a rapid turn of events led to the formation of the Juneteenth march. Speaking of how quickly the event was organized, Dyke March organizer Terry Ferreira credited Walker’s years of past organizing efforts and described the sudden shift in approach as a no-brainer in light of the direction of today’s political landscape.
“Rather than have a Dyke March and have people come in and call it a solidarity protest,” Ferreira explained, “why not support things in our community we are already doing?”
The event is one of multiple revisions to the original plans for the Dyke March, which is usually a major event that disavows sponsors and takes place without a police permit the day before the Heritage of Pride LGBTQ Pride March. After a virtual Dyke March was originally planned in response to the coronavirus pandemic, that June 27 virtual event has been canceled. Instead, the team will be organizing a digital action and Black dyke film festival on the same day. Details on that are forthcoming, and organizers are stressing that this is only the beginning of much more to come in the future.
Robyn Ayers, another member of the committee, stressed the importance of community collaboration and the sharing of resources as she emphasized the point that there must be a focus on maintaining the campaign for the long haul.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Ayers said. “There’s so much to be said to be playing to your strengths. One of the strengths is that we can get to the people who do not know how to safely protest or participate, and we can equip them better… Everybody has something to bring to the table.”
Committee member Stephanie Garces spoke candidly about the ongoing process of redirecting the original plans for the Dyke March and configuring the path ahead, saying that those leading the Dyke March “decided not so much to cancel, but more to adapt and evolve… and to continue on with amplifying Black voices and hold a Black film festival, which we are currently in the middle of compiling.”
But before moving on to future events, the team is concentrating efforts on ensuring a successful Juneteenth event. Walker said there will be balloons on display, T-shirts for sale, and a lollipop giveaway for the first 1,000 attendees. Organizers are further keeping inclusivity in mind by including a wheelchair bank for those who need access to accommodations. Masks and hand sanitizer will also be available, and trained marshals will be on hand to keep marchers safe during the event.
When asked what to expect at the march, including the anticipated turnout, Walker smiled and said, “The beautiful thing about it is that we don’t know.”
But, above all else, Walker has one important request of those who are in attendance.
“I want this to be a fun and loving event, and I’m going to challenge people to love someone that they did not love or know of before the march started,” Walker said hours before the event was set to begin. “It’s a spirit of joy. I thought I would wake up and be so nervous, but I’m super excited.”
To learn more about the march, visit breakthechainswithlove.com.
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