Dyke March for Black Lives Draws Thousands

dyke blm cover
Thousands joined the NYC Dyke March Committee’s Break the Chains With Love Juneteenth March on June 19.
Donna Aceto

Thousands of women who traditionally participate in the Dyke March the day before the Heritage of Pride’s LGBTQ Pride March were joined by members of the Revolting Lesbians, Rise and Resist, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, Gays Against Guns, and other activists in a Juneteenth Break the Chains With Love March.

The June 19 evening event, organized by queer Black women, placed an important spotlight on racial justice, with marchers traveling from Brooklyn Bridge Park, over the bridge to Manhattan, past the African Burial Ground on Lower Broadway and from there to City Hall.

Organizer Valarie Walker negotiating with an NYPD officer as the march proceeded.Donna Aceto

Hours before the march stepped off, four of its organizers spoke via Zoom to Gay City News about its planning — as well as other events the NYC Dyke March Committee will stage over the next week.

Break the Chains With Love Juneteenth event focused on racial, social justice

Valarie Walker, a member of the 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.

“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.”

The throngs of people on the Brooklyn Bridge.Donna Aceto

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 was one of multiple revisions to the original plans for the Dyke 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.

One participant displayed the names of Black folks, including a transgender woman, Nina Pop, and a trans man, Tony McDade, killed in violence by police and others recently.Donna Aceto

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.”

The event was devised and imbued with a spirit of love and unity, in addition to urgency.Donna Aceto

But before moving on to future events, the team concentrated efforts on ensuring a successful Juneteenth event. Organizers kept inclusivity in mind by including a wheelchair bank for those who needed access to accommodations. Masks and hand sanitizer were also be available, and trained marshals were on hand to keep marchers safe during the event.

When asked what she expected for the march, Walker smiled and said, “The beautiful thing about it is that we don’t know.”

Marshal Jo Macellaro and her team helped participants navigate their entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.Donna Aceto

But, above all else, Walker had 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 began. “It’s a spirit of joy. I thought I would wake up and be so nervous, but I’m super excited.”

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Organizer Valarie Walker in a more light-hearted moment of the march.Donna Aceto
One marcher emphasizing the need for Black women to hold their space.Donna Aceto
Eve Proper of Rise and Resist and Kimberly Miller of Gays Against Guns.Donna Aceto
Activist Betsy Malcolm.Donna Aceto
Artist-activists Michael Sylvan Robinson and Dan Fisher-Berger.Donna Aceto
Hucklefaery Ken and Jay Walker of the Reclaim Pride Coalition prepare to join the march.Donna Aceto
Members of Rise and Resist, greeting marchers as they arrived in Manhattan, pointed to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, which ignited the recent wave of racial justice demands.Donna Aceto