Black Lives Matter “Reclaims MLK” with Powerful Parade Takeover
(APN) ATLANTA — On Monday, January 20, 2015, Atlanta’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Day parade was imbued with a spirit of resistance this year, as local members of the Black Lives Matter network took action to “Reclaim MLK.”
As protests have continued nationwide, in response to heightened awareness surrounding police murder of young people of color, community leaders planned Reclaim MLK actions across the country in order to honor and reenact King’s de-sanitized, truly radical legacy of fighting for racial and economic justice.
Halfway through Atlanta’s MLK Day parade, over one hundred people stormed the procession from the sidelines, overtaking the event with a massive demonstration.
They held banners and signs condemning police brutality and patriarchy, and carried three puppets on poles: a tank with APD (for Atlanta Police Department) emblazoned on its sides; a cop with a Ku Klux Klan hood over its head; and a model of the Georgia Capitol building stickered with corporate logos.
The group was led by members of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), Gen Y, #It’sBiggerThanYou, and Malcolm X Grassroots Network (MXGM).
At three points along the march from Woodruff Park to the Martin Luther King Center, demonstrators sat down in the road, forming a circle around Black women leaders who read a statement of purpose:
“On this holiday we want to ensure we uplift Martin Luther King’s legacy the way in which he intended it before he was assassinated. We will not allow those that actively subject us to an oppressive lifestyle to lead the parade or be in the parade. We hold true to our ancestors and their fight and will ensure that their legacy is upheld to accurate truth and light. Martin Luther King Day will be a day to not only honor the man, but all those who gave their lives for our advancement.”
The action centered on Black women and also queer and transgender Black people
whose legacies, demonstrators said, are too often overshadowed by those of cisgendered men [cisgendered is defined as identifying with the gender that one was assigned with at birth].
When the group reached the Martin Luther King Center, three leaders took to a stage that was set up in the middle of Auburn Avenue. A speaker was in the middle of addressing the crowd that had already congregated there, but a Black LGBTQI activist, Micky Bee, deftly took control of the microphone.
“This is the power of the Black LGBTQ Community,” Bee told the crowd, who cheered with surprised enthusiasm.
“Ain’t I Black? Are we not Black? Our blackness is under attack just as much as yours and we stand here today to fight with you… I will not believe the lie that the White community wants to tell us, that the Black community is homophobic. I know who my people are. I know who my churches are. I know who my parents are. I know the power that we walk in. Don’t you forget that. Know your history. If you don’t know these names: Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, Ella Baker, research these names… When we say Black Lives Matter, we need to mean All Black Lives.”
A parade organizer confronted the young leaders, but ultimately acquiesced to another young leader speaking at the podium. This time it was Aurielle Lucier, founder of #It’sBiggerThanYou:
“There are thousands of people in the streets today to lift up [King’s] name, but when we were marching for lives of Black men and women three weeks ago, when we stood in resistance during the shutting down movement that happened in November , where were our brothers and sisters to stand with us? Where were the clergy people to stand with us? Where were the politicians to stand with us?… We need you every day,” she said.
“We are shot down every day. We are strung up by our necks every day. It is not about lifting up Martin Luther King on this day, it is about lifting up Martin Luther King every time the call rings out. Every time it’s time for freedom to ring, we have a job to do… What side are you on? What are you willing to sacrifice to save our children from the auction blocks again?”
By this time, the crowd was ecstatically supportive of the young people speaking out. A third and final speaker followed Lucier.
“I just saw the movie, Selma,” Yoehzer Yeeftahk, a member of #It’sBiggerThanYou, said.
“And you know which Martin Luther King was in that movie, Selma? It wasn’t the I Have A Dream Martin Luther King. Not the Martin Luther King they shoved down our throats every year this time of year. This was a man who was certain of the urgency of the fight. This was a man who was certain that for his children to be safe, that he had to act…”
The Reclaim MLK crew then filed away from the stage to gather at a nearby pavilion, where young Black women leaders held a quiet ceremony for Black, female victims of police brutality and murder.