“There will be no liberation without queer and trans liberation.”
Vincy Chan, The Gamut Project
Activism takes many forms. It can be a physical, bodily act, like a protest, performance, or physical organizing, or it can be something practical, like advocacy, petitioning or fundraising. Activism involves putting something of yourself, physical or emotional, on the line. Grassroots activism is the mobilization of people on a community level to fight for a cause or issue. It involves collective action to affect social and political change, led by people rather than traditional power structures, like the government.
Brooklyn Brewery has been proud to partner with the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative (SIGBI) since 2017. SIGBI provides assistance to grassroots non-profit organizations that work with LGBTQ people in communities where progress toward equality has been slow and the toll of ignorance and hate has been high. Through our partnership with SIGBI and the more we learned about the urgency of the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights, the more we knew we needed to do something. Businesses have a responsibility to the communities they serve. We want to do more and use our power and our privilege to create space for those who need it, especially grassroots LGBTQ+ activists.
The Stonewall Inn Riots in 1969 sparked waves of LGBTQ+ activism across the world and the very first Pride march through New York City the following year. But now, over 50 years later, LGBTQ+ activists are still fighting tirelessly for their rights: the right to come out without fear, the right to be in public spaces without violence, and the right to exist on their own terms and be respected for who they are.
These activists are often surviving with very little resource or recognition. For some, like Amir Ashour of IraQueer, it’s not even safe to live in their own countries. Many voices within the LGBTQ+ community are marginalized further still – it’s often the case that mainstream narratives about LGBTQ+ rights privilege whiteness and exclude of queer people of color. Trans folks today are facing extraordinary levels of hostility, violence and exclusion in the world. The fight for LGBTQ+ rights has made terrific progress, but there is an incredible amount of work to be done before all people are equal.
We have been talking — and more importantly, listening — to grassroots activists over the past year, to understand their views on corporate engagement in LGBTQ+ communities and how an organization like Brooklyn Brewery can support their work. The activists we spoke to were clear: they don’t need corporations to sweep in and rescue them. They are already doing the hard work fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. But they do want to see more companies being better employers of and allies to queer people.
Through this work we have developed a clear set of working principles:
- No rainbow-washing. LGBTQ+ activists are already fighting these fights. They tell us they don’t want employers occupying their space, but they do need sustained support and funding that lasts beyond Pride month.
- Being led by LGBTQ+ communities. Listening to the needs of LGBTQ+ communities and supporting work that is already underway is key, which we can do by creating space, amplifying voices and channeling funding and resources where they are most needed.
- Getting our house in order. We will continually educate ourselves, our people and our partners on LGBTQ+ history, rights and issues, and ensure that our day-to-day business practices are actively inclusive of LGBTQ+ people.
We are committed to being led by LGBTQ+ activists wherever we take The Stonewall Inn IPA.
We recognize that for many LGBTQ+ people, capitalism sits uncomfortably with queer liberation and we understand that our support may not always be needed or wanted. But there are vital projects out there in urgent need of financial support, such as My Sistah’s House Memphis, which provides emergency housing and advocacy to trans and gender-nonconforming people of color, or ULTRA, which has been providing emergency food and financial support to marginalized trans people living in Brazil. We want the world to know about these incredible projects and to join their fight.
Brooklyn Brewery is proud to support the work of five grassroots LGBTQ+ activists:
- Amir Ashour, founder of IraQueer
- Dom Holmes, Co-Director of Forest Gayte Pride and founder of SherHerTheyThem
- Kayla Gore, Co-Founder and Executive Director of My Sistah’s House Memphis
- Lua Stabile, Director of International Relations for ULTRA
- Vincy Chan, Founder of The Gamut Project
They are all fighting to make the world a safer place for their communities. Each of them challenges us to reflect on what more we can do to engage in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights – whether that’s telling their stories in the spaces they are excluded from or financially contributing to grassroots activism.
We can all do more to create space for queer grassroots activism. All our human rights depend on it.