Drag March for Change hits pavement on June 13; protest racism, bigotry in 'Boystown' and Chicago

Mon. June 7, 2021 9:32 AM by Gerald Farinas

joe lewis (center in blue) leads 2020 drag march for change

photo credit // steven koch

“The sparks we ignited last year with our actions were able to create meaningful change that bettered our community,” says organizer Joe Lewis

Drag March for Change, an annual event that highlights the Chicago LGBTQ community of color, takes over the streets of Lakeview on Sunday, June 13, 12:30 p.m.

Demonstrators will march from W. Belmont Ave., along N. Halsted St., to W. Grace Ave.

The event will culminate with soapbox speeches in support of the larger Black Lives Matter movement and demand justice against police and other aggressors of who target people of color, LGBTQ persons, and stand up against anti-transgender violence and deaths.

This is the second such event which organizers hope to continue as an annual affair—led by the Chicago drag community.

Last year, the event blasted what is popularly known as the 'Boystown' community for its own racism—in events, programming, policing, and neighborhood attitudes toward people of color and transgender persons.

It also stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement nationwide in the wake of George Floyd's murder at the hands of a police officer.

Organizers claim they had 15,000 participants at that march.

Photos: 2020 Drag March for Change

What were the results of the demonstration?

Community leaders engaged people to convene a Chicago Black Drag Council as a watchdog for change.

A petition calling on the “racist” owners, operators, managers, and supervisors of Chicago's popular LGBTQ bars and nightclubs was circulated.

Support for LGBTQ performers of color became more visible.

“The sparks we ignited last year with our actions were able to create meaningful change that bettered our community,” Joe Lewis, who performs in drag as Jo Mama, told GoPride.com in a statement.

“Now we need to continue to stoke the flames of change and hold those who have oppressed our community accountable with continued action.”

Organizers have made clear the demands of this year's action.

They want to maintain the momentum of the George Floyd aftermath.

They want justice for Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, among other victims.

They want a reclassification of violence against transgender persons as a federal hate crime.

They want the Chicago City Council to defund the police department by 75 percent and reinvest that money into social services and community programs.

They want Chicago Pride Parade organizers to ban Chicago Police Department from marching as a unit in the annual million person attended event.

They want immediate release of all protesters arrested and are facing prosecution for Black Lives Matter-related demonstrations.

The list of speakers include personalities well-known within the Chicago drag community—and their support systems and circles.

They include Dida Ritz and The Vixen, both RuPaul's Drag Race alumni; The Miss Toto; Lucy Stoole; Drag Council co-founder Lil Nicki; Molasses Collective member Cae Monae; and organizer Jo MaMa.

Related: Chicago Pride Parade a no-go for June, set to step-off in October 2021