All I Want is Collective Liberation

Samer Owaida

A speech from this year’s Pride Without Prejudice march connecting the struggle against anti-Black racism and transphobia to the liberation of Palestine and the destruction of capitalism.

This year in Chicago, the canceling of the corporatized Pride Parade due to COVD-19 along with the rebellion against racism and police terror created the opportunity for local organizers to take pride back to its riotous roots in the Stonewall rebellion against police violence and center on Black and brown trans voices. In streets usually filled with floats and corporate sponsors a diverse crowd marched, chanting “Black Trans Lives Matter” and “defund the police.” The following is a speech from that demonstration. 

My name is pronounced Samer. Brown and Black names are beautiful, and we need to honor them and pronounce them correctly.

I was born in Palestine and I want to tell you that israel is not a country. It’s a military base. The largest one in the world. When you turn eighteen in israel you’re required to serve in the israeli military. From Gal Gadot to Rahm Emanuel, every famous israeli you know has killed Palestinians. Is that just? Is it just that we live in a system where people who kill Black and brown folks are rewarded with power and prestige?

Is it just that white gay men get to vacation on stolen land in israel while Palestinians in the West Bank starve and while Black people on the South Side are murdered routinely  by police?

America maintains over eight hundred military bases when most other countries have less than ten. We have more military bases than the rest of the world COMBINED. And israel is their biggest one. America is not policing “dangerous” neighborhoods, they have been policing the world, especially Black and brown nations, for years on end. And by policing I mean spying, infiltrating, abusing, killing, stealing, and destroying.

Is it just we live in a system that structurally depends on our murders to reward capitalists?

Policing is a form of violence and violence can not be reformed. These fancy buildings get to exist because my people starve. These buildings get to exist because the South Side is being choked of resources. We have to wake up, people. The world is burning.

I turn twenty-four in a month. All I want for my birthday, and for your birthdays, is collective liberation. Collective liberation won’t come without Black liberation. All I want is to live in a world where my friends can live loud, Black, brown, queer, radical lives without living in fear. I want to live in a world where we no longer need mutual aid because none of us are hungry or unhoused; in a world where (primarily) white men aren’t allowed to hoard wealth through exploitative labor practices, extraction from our earth, or any other means. I want to live in a world where we talk about white supremacy like we talk about the dinosaurs: extinct. I want it to be difficult for us to imagine what it was truly like. Though actually, I don’t even want the fossils to remain, I want a world where white supremacy has rotted, disintegrated, and left our lives and imaginations. I want to live in a world that looks like my friendships: loving, challenging, kind, and generous. 

Collective liberation won’t come without Black liberation

I know that world is coming, because people are building it already. But today isn’t a happy birthday. My wish remains unfulfilled, like the dreams of many. Until they are, I take Angela’s words seriously: “You [we!] have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world, and you have to do it all the time.” I am so grateful for all the people in my twenty-three years who have pushed me to live and act in this way, you are a blessing to me. Another world is possible, probable, on its way.

But today we protest. We protest for Black lives. These protests around the country are happening in cities controlled by Democrats. Democrats ain’t shit and don’t represent our values or needs. Nothing short of abolishing the police can even come close to justice for George Floyd and the hundreds of Black people murdered by police. 

Derek M. Chauvin, Floyd’s murderer, had twelve police brutality complaints against him in the Minneapolis Office of Police Conduct complaint database. These complaints were listed as either “no discipline,” “closed,” or “non-public.” In 2005 Chauvin and other police officers were involved in a car chase that led to the death of three people. Chauvin was one of the cops involved in the murder of Wayne Reyes, a Latinx man who police shot at forty-two times, hitting him with sixteen bullets. Chavin shot Ira Latrell Toles, an unarmed Black man, back in 2008. He was placed on leave in 2011 for an “inappropriate” police shooting of a Native American man by the name of Leroy Martinez. Now he is being represented by a lawyer, Tom Kelley, who is the same lawyer that got Jeronimo Yanez, the murderer of Philando Castile, acquitted. Chauvin is a straight-up serial killer who was armed, funded, and uniformed by the state. Even if Chauvin is prosecuted the systemic mechanisms of racism remain in place. For as long as there are police there will be those like Chauvin.

For as long as there are police there will be those like Chauvin

The killing of Black bodies is systematic and organized, carried out and supported by armed security forces, by the media, by the education system, and by every major institution of power. It’s supported by the israeli military, which we also fund with our taxes. You cannot expect justice from this system. Any act towards justice is merely tokenization designed to end protests.

Black Lives Matter also applies when Black people are alive. It means supporting their work. Seeing them for everything they are and everything they deserve. Buying their art, streaming their music. It means you putting your body between their body and a cop’s violence.This is especially true for white people. Step the fuck up, cause prison isn’t a death trap for y’all the way it is for us.

Have we not been through enough pain? Now we fight to visualize a reimagined world—where Black people can be Black, where trans people can be trans, and people can identify as whatever gender they feel.

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.

It is our duty to win.

We must love each other and support each other.

We have nothing to lose but our chains.

Samer Owaida is a community organizer and a research assistant at the University of Illinois at Chicago.