By: Tom Parker
On Thursday, September 26, Cycles for Change Operations Coordinator, Tom Parker, attended the 6th Annual Minneapolis Tran Equity Summit at the Walker Art Center. The event started with an opening plenary session during which Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey pledged his allegiance to the Transgender community here in the Twin Cities. He acknowledged that while Minneapolis has often led the way nationally in creating trans-positive legislation and policy, there is still so much more work to be done. Mayor Frey then introduced City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins. Vice President Jenkins was an absolute inspiration and began her address by naming the 19 different trans women of color who have been killed in the U.S. in 2019. She not only listed their names, but their ages, where they lived, and their race, bringing attention to the fact that while the quality of life for many trans folks has improved in the last decade, violence towards Black trans women, especially, continues to escalate due to systemic racism, anti-blackness, and police/ICE brutality.
After Vice President Jenkins’ address, a panel of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) transgender, gender non-conforming, and Two Spirit folks spoke to their own experiences and encouraged the crowd to pay reparations to Black trans women. This important call to action closed the address and attendees were then able to attend educational breakout sessions of their choosing which covered a wide array of topics including a BIPOC caucus, a listening session with the Trans Equity Council, a DIY Oral History project, a poetry workshop for queer and trans youth and many others. Simultaneously, in the Walker pavilion, there was a job fair and healing tent offering free massage, acupuncture, and Reiki.
All in all, the summit was an interesting contrast of inspiration and oppression. Held at the Walker, an institution known historically for its racism, classism, and colonial structures, it felt a bit incohesive to be a part of a group of individuals who would most likely not find themselves welcome or safe at the Walker otherwise. Meanwhile, many BIPOC trans folks led immensely impactful panels and breakout sessions which further solidified the necessity for action from allies and white folks to do our part in taking reparative action against the forces of white supremacy and colonialism that perpetuate transphobia and to give up power and policy making decisions to our Black and Indigenous community members. As an organization by and for BIPOC, queer, transgender, and disabled folks, Cycles for Change will continue to grow and strive in lifting up ourselves and our community members.