Nearly 20 people attended the forum, which focused on the coalition’s plans for the inclusion of educational groups, youth participants and the larger Chicago LGBT community.
Since 2008, the march has been held in two city neighborhoods, Pilsen and South Shore, staying in a neighborhood for two years at a time.
Liz Thomson, assistant director of the University of Illinois at Chicago Gender & Sexuality department, urged Asian American Studies students to get involved by making presentation on how the march could become more integrated into diverse communities. The presentation posters were displayed in the back of the room.
The coalition’s focus on youth involvement was highlighted with a performance by AJ Tran, and 18-year-old poet and recent graduate from Northside College Preparatory High School.
“I’ve never heard of [Dyke March] before,” said Tran, who performed a poem, “Dear First Grade Teacher”.
The organization’s focus on bolstering diverse interests in the march comes after difficulties organizing in various communities, often due to language barriers and tensions among participants in the march, organizers said.
Emilia Chico, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance board member, explained the apprehension to moving the march to the South Shore neighborhood.
“Someone asked me how we were going to make sure they did not get shot,” said Chico, who added that this kind of attitude shows precisely the need to engage with other communities.
Kevin Kumashiro, faculty at the UIC Asian American Studies program, expanded on this idea and pointed to stereotypes that often circulate in some areas of the LGBT community which ultimately perpetuate this division.
“Safe spaces are often only safe for certain people in the community,” Kushamiro said in reference to the Chicago Pride Parade and the racial tensions in Boystown. These tensions are part of the “more homophobic people of color” stereotype and results in those communities being looked at with increased suspicion by largely white LGBT communities, according to Kumashiro.
“Maybe it’s just that homophobia looks different in different communities,” he added.
Even with these difficulties, Dyke March organizers are pleased with the response from city officials and police. The proposed march route goes through two wards and organizers have met with both Ald. Harry Osterman (48th Ward) and Ald. James Cappleman (46th Ward), as well as local police representatives.
Thomson described the response by the officials as enthusiastic and welcoming.
However, organizers said they have logistical issues to overcome. Last yea’s march in South Shore was supposed to remain on the sidewalks but eventually spilled into the streets and across Lake Shore Drive. The march permits for Uptown this year are similarly restricted to the sidewalks.
“We just cant go into it thinking we’re going to march in the streets,” Thomson said.
Volunteer safety marshals will be in place to deescalate any tensions with the police.
“[We need to] control ourselves so that the police don’t have to control us,” Thomson said, and added that police mentioned that if there are safety concerns, exceptions can be made.
The coalition also hopes to put hold fundraisers to cover the cost of the permits, entertainment and food costs which they estimate at over $4,000.
The 2012 Chicago Dyke March is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 23 with a step off at 3 p.m. as organizers are waiting for the city to confirm.