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Sunday, September 27, 2020

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UH LGBTQ community recognizes Black Lives Matter Movement, coronavirus this pride month


Psychology senior Dane Ashton acknowledged how the LGBTQ+ community has historically benefitted from Black individuals' efforts. | Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Psychology senior Dane Ashton acknowledged how the LGBTQ+ community has historically benefited from Black individuals’ efforts. | Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

In the midst of continued nationwide protests over police brutality and the intensifying efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement, psychology senior Dane Ashton celebrated Pride Month through community action. 

Ashton, who is a Peer Mentor Program Assistant at the LGBTQ Resource Center, planned to recognize the holiday at home this year, but instead took to the streets to attend as many Black Lives Matter protests as he could. 

“This year, Pride was a reminder to the LGBTQ+ community that Black trans women were the ones who kickstarted the fight for equality,” Ashton said. “They got us here kicking and screaming and we should not be leaving them behind so easily.” 

Black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson was most likely among the first people to resist law enforcement during a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City, on June 28, 1969. The six-day period of violent clashes between protestors and police that followed served as a tipping point for the gay rights movement in the United States. 

Ashton is not alone in taking Pride Month as a time to uplift and support Black voices. 

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic postponing or canceling celebrations nationwide, some Pride organizations have returned to the activism-focused origins of the holiday to stand up for the equality and rights of black and brown people. Many have integrated Black Lives Matter-related content into their remote programming. 

Pride Houston, the not-for-profit organization that oversees the city’s annual week-long celebration and parade, will be hosting a virtual rally on June 27 in lieu of the typical festivities. The grassroots event, dubbed It Started with a Riot, intends to address the topic of systemic racism and bias in policing and criminal justice policies nationwide. 

While the organization has not set a future date for the postponed events, Pride Houston plans to monitor the situation and comply with guidelines from local and federal authorities to ensure the health and safety of attendees, according to a safety preparedness statement on their website. 

At the University, the LGBTQ Resource Center hosted a series of virtual community events acknowledging Pride throughout the month of June. 

While she says it’s hard to predict the future, LGBTQ Resource Center director Lorraine Schroeder said she expects in-person Pride celebrations to return even stronger once a coronavirus vaccine becomes available. 

“Pride is so important for our community and for youth especially,” Schroeder said. “Being all together is so validating and contributes to our self-acceptance like nothing else can. Our world has not completely figured out how to make us feel like we belong and until that changes, we will continue to uplift ourselves for the sake of our own well-being.” 

Ashton recalls feeling safe and celebrated as his authentic self at Houston’s Pride celebration in 2019 but acknowledges that not all attendees share a similar positive experience. For some, police presence at Pride festivities raises concerns for their well-being. 

“Hopefully, this month will inspire leaders of Pride Houston, Inc. to consider (black and brown) community members as well as other members of our community who have been vocal about their needs and the way the event has made them feel unwelcome,” Ashton said.

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