Black queer and trans officials lead fight against white supremacy and state violence

As we enter this year’s Pride month, Black LGBTQ leaders are fighting for intersectional police reform solutions as Black Lives Matter protests advocate across the nation against police brutality and violence. In addition to their legislative and activist responses as part of the movement, these elected officials have called attention to the particular issue of police violence against transgender women of color and have recounted the history of Black LGBTQ activists’ leadership through the history of the LGBTQ rights movement. We want to highlight the ever-important activism and achievements Black queer and transgender elected officials have affected as part of the movement, supporting in their calls for justice and reform.

Atop his legislative work fighting police violence, Shannon Hardin, Columbus City Council President joined Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty at the protests against police brutality in the Ohio state capital. Protesters including President Hardin faced tear gas and mace, after which the councilman called for police reform and encouraged Ohio’s other local leaders to do the same. His city council has started to affect change, declaring racism a “public health crisis,” and Hardin has advocated for the city to adopt the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission’s eighty recommendations, including changes pertaining to “recruitment, training, diversity and inclusion, community engagement and independent investigations.”

Minneapolis City Councilman Phillipe Cunningham has also joined his local citywide protests and spends his time shifting the narrative from reforming current police systems to one of transforming the idea of public safety on the whole. Alongside the eight other members of Minneapolis’ City Council, Cunningham signed a statement pledging a dismantling and reconstruction of the city’s police force focused around “people having their needs met.” He intends to ensure the new system’s public safety approach centers public health. Further, Cunningham has fought to spare the city’s Black-owned businesses from destruction, working with community members to “protect essential assets and resources” for local companies.

Shevrin Jones, representing Florida’s 101st district in the state’s House of Representatives, similarly marched with Florida’s protesters, declaring the Black Lives Matter protests a fight “for the soul of the nation.” His passionate speech invigorated fellow protesters, in which he reminded them “the people run the house.” Representative Jones called upon state and national legislatures to hold law enforcement accountable by holding hearings on police violence, a proposition he is currently pushing for within his own state House.

New York City’s Councilmember Ritchie Torres joined NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson investigating the police misconduct of leaking confidential arrest records, leading the Department of Investigations on the matter. He has also publicly held NYC Mayor de Blasio accountable for under-staffing the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates complaints of police misconduct.

As a member of Colorado’s House of Representatives, Leslie Herod has been hard at work enacting legislative change for the Black Lives Matter movement. The Police Accountability and Integrity Act advocated for by Representative Herod will implement a multitude of key changes to the state’s policing systems, including ending qualified immunity for officers. She spoke powerfully at local Black Lives Matter protests encouraging residents to make clear their support of the bill, a move which helped it pass through the state’s Senate almost unanimously.

Representative Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia’s House of Representative has brought the voice of protesters to the State House floor, voicing their demands and stopping the legislative body from vote proceedings without taking action to address police violence. “We demand that we get meaningful police reform passed out of the Pennsylvania House,” Representative Kenyatta stated. “It’s the people’s house, and if we aren’t doing the people’s business, then we aren’t doing business.” In addition to his advocacy within the state’s legislative body, Rep. Kenyatta worked alongside community members to rebuild the city, both physically and structurally.

We must highlight the experiences and voices of Black LGBTQ individuals and activists, and these elected officials’ work is just the beginning. Victory Institute works to help these influential and inspirational leaders campaign successfully, enabling them to create legislation to protect communities of color and hold systems at each level of government accountable.

Current Events, Elected Officials