Amid the ongoing protests and concerns over systemic racism and excessive force in policing, a coalition of D.C.-area LGBTQ+ organizations has announced it will host a conversation and educational webinar examining calls to divest or “defund” police department budgets.
The coalition is led by the Capital Pride Alliance and The DC Center for the LGBT Community, which recently postponed some of their virtual Pride-themed events in response to the demonstrations being held across the nation, choosing instead to focus on centering the concerns of LGBTQ black Americans at a time when that community is disproportionately impacted by racism, racial profiling, police brutality, and even the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Given that Pride was born from an uprising sparked by police brutality against the LGBTQ+ community, particularly Black and Brown Trans women, we feel this discussion is a fitting way to honor Pride this year,” Ashley Smith, the board president of the Capital Pride Alliance, said in a statement.
The virtual conversation, scheduled for June 15 at 5:30 p.m., was sparked by participant questions at the first installment of Capital Pride Alliance and The DC Center’s Pride Talks monthly discussion series. Organizers realized the hunger for more information on this topic, and decided to launch a second, more in-depth conversation on the push to defund police departments.
Panelists participating in the conversation include DC Council Ward 4 Democratic nominee Janeese Lewis George; Preston Mitchum, an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center; and psychotherapist Beth Wheeler, a white anti-racist advocate and director of Edges Education and Consulting. Other panelists will be named as the date of the event approaches.
The discussion will center around how the divest and defund proposals being floated by reformers would impact police departments, dispelling myths about what defunding means, and how those concepts apply to the specifics of D.C. politics.
For instance, attendees will be encouraged to engage in the upcoming D.C. Council budget hearings and weigh in on a proposed $18.5 million increase in the Metropolitan Police Department’s budget, even as other programs are at risk of being cut.
“I’m glad that we have the opportunity to host this event to clarify what activists and community organizations are asking of the D.C. Government, and why it is so important,” Rehana Mohammed, board chair of The DC Center, said in a statement. “The LGBTQ+ community must continue to step up and support these efforts to keep our communities safe, not over-policed.”
The other community groups or organizations participating in the discussion include the Advisory Neighborhood Commission Rainbow Caucus, Casa Ruby, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, GLAA, HIPS, the Latinx History Project, KhushDC, Rainbow Families, SMYAL, Stonewall Kickball DC, Team DC, The Wanda Alston Foundation, Whitman-Walker Health, the Whitman-Walker Institute, and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.
“As an LGBTQ+ community, we have done heavy engagement and have leaned heavily on the Black community on issues of importance such as marriage equality or nondiscrimination laws, many of which had little public support in the beginning of those efforts,” Sultan Shakir, the executive director of SMYAL, said in a statement. “Now it’s important that the LGBTQ+ community listen and learn about issues that are literally life or death for Black people, including Black Queer people.”
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