John St. Louis, Guest Writer
Saturday, February 11, I woke up early to meet up with other friends and organizers at the Food Lion near the Coliseum to caravan to Raleigh for the NAACP’s 6th annual march. From there, we planned to rally with its coalition partners, Historic Thousands on Jones Street. HK on J and is organized around a fourteen-point agenda that focuses on racial justice, environmental justice, education for all, worker’s rights and migrant justice. You can read the 14 points here.
This was my first year going to HK on J, and I marched with the “Dream of a North Carolina with Dignity for All” contingent, made up of various social justice organizations: All of Us North Carolina, Southerners on New Ground, Immigrants and Allies United for Justice, NC Dream Team, Fund for Democratic Communities, Bread Uprising and Greensboro’s own radical drum corps, Cakalak Thunder.
Some of us who marched live in North Carolina’s cities like Greensboro, Durham and Chapel Hill, while others who showed up live in rural areas, such as Goldsboro and Asheboro.
Together we were an intergenerational, multi-racial, fierce group of queers and straight allies, undocumented folks and folks with citizenship. Some of us were decorated with glitter on our faces, and others of us resolutely hated glitter, excited to be with each other and to embrace the power of being around so many people fighting for justice.
One of our chants that we did in collaboration with our friends who struggle for immigrant rights and migrant justice was, “No papers, no fear! And guess what, we’re also queer!”
I went to be a part of my contingent, and specifically with All of Us NC, but I had also heard about this gathering for years, specifically from the organizers at the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro when I first moved here in 2009.
It not only lived up to my expectations, it exceeded them. It was an amazing, powerful, and necessary reminder that these expressions of multi-issue queer organizing and being fabulous in public happen here in the South.
We were 200 people deep, decked out in our matching blue “Dream of a North Carolina With Dignity for All” shirts, in a mass of 15,000 other marchers in the streets of Raleigh. There were so many people there from so many organizations: NAACP chapters, fraternities, unions, faith-based organizations and more. We were showing up for each other, that breezy Saturday morning in Raleigh, demanding nothing less than having each other’s full humanity recognized.
And also, at least in our group, there was a commitment to being fabulous. What being fabulous looked like was sharing the glitter I brought with a new friend, Cakalak Thunder bringing the music and the rest of us dancing as we marched, and passing out bread to help feed our hungry mouths. It looked like running to the sidewalks to pass out literature to inform bystanders about Amendment One, and then running back to join our contingent, competing, but in a silly way, always smiling to one another.
At the rally, where the march ended near the North Carolina State Legislature, there were so many amazing speeches being made in support of the 14 point agenda, resisting division from one another, constantly affirming and reaffirming our solidarity with one another.
One of those speakers was Bishop Donagrant McCluney, from Shelby, NC. Bishop McCluney is SONG’s NC field organizer and an All of Us NC member and organizer, and the first out LGBTQIA person of color ever to cross that stage and speak. You can watch the video here:
It was a powerful speech, a declaration of solidarity for all families, for the realization of all fourteen points in the agenda. Our contingent was making noise; we were all so proud of our people – I know I was.
After his speech, a group of us went to the YWCA in Raleigh for a community lunch. We were all very hungry by this point. The food that was served to us was made by one of our lead organizer’s mother. In a very literal way, her food refueled and fed our movement. We mentioned the parts to the march that was inspiring or noteworthy for us, and then we spent the rest of the time talking to old or new friends, sharing lots of smiles and hugs.
By the end, I was somewhat exhausted, but excited and so glad I went, because this is what movements can and do look like. This is why I do the work I want to do. This is the work that reduces isolation. This is the work that can make us feel just a little bit less alone. It builds individual power and our collective sense of power as we build the world we need.