In the Midst of Grief, Hope
It has been a month since the brutal murder of George Floyd. Over these past few weeks I have felt incredible grief over what transpired in those agonizing and grueling 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Since then, I have been overcome with sadness that often feels like rage. I think a lot about the complexity of this moment when the need to reach out, be in community with, and hug those dearest to our hearts is not possible. We are not only experiencing police brutality and anti-Blackness, but another public health crisis—COVID-19. I’m not sure which is worse, the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Black communities and other communities of color, or the far too long epidemic of systemic racism that stains our collective history?
As a Black and Indigenous transgender man, I am also sitting with the realities of how my race, gender and sexuality intersect and what it means to bring all of me in this pursuit for liberation and justice. As communities across our country hit the streets to protest police brutality and anti-Blackness, June is also Pride month. The history of the LGBTQ movement isn’t far from what we are seeing today. Last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Riots, where Black transgender women, femmes, and other LGBTQ folks of color stood up and fought back against police brutality and harassment for simply being who they were.
This is all important because two days after George Floyd was murdered, Tony McDade, a Black transgender man was killed by police in Tallahassee, FL. Two weeks later, two Black transgender women were killed within twenty-four hours of each other. Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells of Philadelphia, PA and Riah Milton of Liberty Township, OH. Already in 2020 we have seen 16 transgender people murdered, a rate that will most likely pass the 27 murders we saw in 2019 of transgender people—the majority of whom were Black transgender women. Black names that are far too often left out of the national conversation of violence and anti-Blackness.
Black Lives cannot matter unless All Black Lives Matter, including Black transgender people. This means our movements and efforts need to be intentionally intersectional. Ijeoma Oluo, a Black writer and author of, So You Want To Talk About Race, defines intersectionality as, “the belief that our social justice movements must consider all of the intersections of identity, privilege and oppression that people face in order to be just and effective.” I believe we can do this, because my Black trans life matters and the lives of all of our Black trans brothers and sisters.
In the midst of all this grief I also feel hopeful. I have been in awe of the collective movements across our country and the Pacific Northwest. A collective demand to end police brutality, anti-Blackness and racism in all of our communities and institutions. Across social media I see friends, family and peers of all race and social identities share their outrage and cries for systemic policy changes at the local, state and federal level. Collective calls to defund police departments and put money into Black communities and other communities of color to support community centers, public health programs, housing and education.
As someone who is in the role of a funder, I think about what this means for me and my peers in philanthropy. How does the history of philanthropy and the nonprofit industrial complex reinforce harmful policies and systems that impact the communities we say we want to support? Now more than ever I believe our world will never go back to what it was. This means philanthropy, now more than ever will have to radically shift our funding priorities in ways that directly support the intersectional work being led by Black and Indigenous organizations. The people closest to the issues are the best equipped to find solutions for those issues.
Lastly, this will take deeper work than implementing Racial Justice initiatives or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs. These things are important, but individually and within our organizations we will have to grapple with the ways that shame shows up in our work. We need to be intentional with equipping our organizations with tools to build shame resiliency and to be able to continue in the right direction when our impact does not match our intent. Dismantling racism and anti-Blackness will be hard and we’ll need courageous leaders and institutions that are able to identify, acknowledge and apologize for areas of harm and create new pathways where that harm no longer exists.
–Jeremiah J. Allen, he/him
Director of Programs