For decades, Bedford-Stuyvesant (more commonly known as Bed-Stuy) has been a cultural hub for Brooklyn’s Black population. While White faces trickle into the neighborhood and quaint coffee shops and wine bars pop up along the brownstone-lined blocks, one thing that has always been here and will remain is its Black queer community.
“There’s a misconception in Bed-Stuy that queer folks are gentrifiers, which is completely untrue,” explains Chelsea Johnson-Long, coordinator for a program of the Audre Lorde Project called the Safe OUTside the System Collective (SOS). “There are plenty of queer people who grew up in Bed-Stuy,” she adds. This is one of the many myths SOS, an anti-violence program that operates and serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirit, trans and gender non-conforming (LGBTSTGNC) people of color in central-Brooklyn, seeks to dispel with Bed-Stuy Pride.
Bed-Stuy Pride, which will take place August 21 at Herbert Von King Park 12pm – 6pm, is also an effort to address the harassment that often occurs against LGBTSTGNC people in Bed-Stuy. “Our community members experience a particular kind of violence here,” Johnson-Long explains. “Not just violence because of their sexual identity but also because of their race.”
Often individuals don’t feel safe walking home at night or publicly holding hands with their partner out of the fear of being taunted or physically harmed. This violence is not only from community members, but also from police officers. Transwomen are sometimes stopped and frisked by cops because it is assumed that they’re sex workers. Johnson-Long believes that it is becoming normalized to these every day acts of violence that leads to more heinous hate crimes like murder. “To affect that kind of stuff, you really have to affect the culture of the space,” says the SOS coordinator.
And that’s exactly what Bed-Stuy Pride intends to do. The neighborhood is known for having block parties and free public space where kids can ride their bikes in the street. That’s the culture the Audre Lorde Project is trying to embrace. It’s about celebrating Bed-Stuy and its accomplishments as people of color and as queer people simultaneously. The goal is to be inclusive without compromising the safety of the queer folks that come out to partake in the festivities.
To ensure safety, part of their campaign is to recruit businesses and organizations in Bed-Stuy and educate them on how to stop violence without relying on law enforcement. ALP plans on having the event on a street where there are multiple safe spaces that have a sense of the neighborhood and also a sense of ownership over the space. Additionally, there will be community members that are trained in de-escalation.
“It doesn’t feel right to have to go to another neighborhood to feel good about yourself, especially because people have so much pride about living in Bed-Stuy,” explains Johnson-Long. “It’s really about creating a cultural shift—part of that shift has to do with how we celebrate ourselves in the space.”