Inclusion was the name of the game at this year’s Dyke March, which kicked off the first of its two year stint in the Uptown neighborhood on the city’s North Side.
“This march is about inclusion, not just in some shallow way – everybody’s welcome here,” said Leesha Anne, longtime supporter of Dyke March Chicago.
Many shop owners, residents and passers-by joined in the crowd’s songs and chants in a show of solidarity with attendees. The crowd wound its way along the five block route, which included busy Broadway Street. Nearing the end of the march, Chicago Police officers blocked off streets to help the march safely conclude in Margate Park.
Ryne Poelker and Alysa Guyer attended the march for the fourth and first times, respectively, this year. They also felt that the march was much more inclusive, and that, “…it’s sort of like, the more political form of pride. It’s not as corporatized as [the] pride [parade], which is more like a celebration,” said Poelker.
“The march is more than about gay and lesbian pride, and represents another part of the queer community that isn’t normally represented,” said Guyer.
Juana Paola Peralta has been with the organizing collective since the year after Chicago’s first Dyke March.
For an event that was as large as this year’s march turned out to be, the largest in quite some time, the number of people working hard to make it happen was relatively small. There are about eight core members with about nine volunteers that helped to bring the march to fruition.
Organizers started the groundwork in March of this year, months after the location had been decided. Visiting the neighborhood on a regular basis and patronizing area shops was one strategy used to help foster a sense of camaraderie with community organizations and business owners.
“It was the right time for the march to go through an Asian community,” said Liz Thomson, long time organizer of the march. “We already had some connections with Asian organizations, and we really wanted to see what was on the pulse of Asian Americans regarding gender identity and gender expression.”
This year, the Dyke March Collective partnered with Chicago i2i, the community anchor organization to connect with other groups and business owners in the Uptown community. Creating posters in English and in Vietnamese was instrumental for planners. They felt that it was important to showcase their willingness to work alongside the community.
“Early on, I wasn’t sure if [community members] quite got it, but we did get good feedback from the people that read the letter. We told them that it was an empowering march, an anti-racist march, an anti-sexist march … their response was nothing overtly negative,” said Thomson.
“Some people didn’t know what it was, but lots of people were honking horns, clapping and smiling as we walked down the street,” she said.
A great lineup of performances included such artists as poet, Red Summer, Look Alive of Between Women and Tras de Nada. Kokumo, who plans to hold the first ever transgender march and festival on July 29 in Union Park, performed for the audience as well.
“I chose to sing ‘Somewhere’ by Barbara Streisand because I am inspired by the work that [the collective] is doing,” Kokumo said. “Somewhere out there, there’s a place where trans people and queers can belong — and the Dyke March is where we’ve been able to find that space.”
“When we decided to move the march out of Andersonville, and to take it to another community, we thought, ‘You know, we are queer, Black, Latinas and this neighborhood doesn’t reflect us or our identities…’ We operate in a transformative justice model. We believe in people’s right to self-determine and we believe in transformation, so we try to be very intentional about [planning],” said Peralta.
Thomson says that the collective plans to start organizing for next year immediately following an organizer’s retreat scheduled this summer.
“I’m already excited to plan for next year. We’re gonna engage the community, connect with Truman college, and we’ll do a call-out in the Fall, especially if people are interested in the 2014-2015 march,” said Thomson.
Possible sites for 2014 Chicago Dyke March includes Humboldt Park.