When we were planning All of Man’s “Grand Opening” for Pride Month, it was already a strange year. Largely deprived of touch or intimacy, a visual year. Part of what we’ve hoped is to provide a little relief, some skin or beauty or just some men in paint or print to enjoy while we’re all sequestered in our mutual isolation.
All of Man is an online art shop, but we do have a physical office. That office is located in South Minneapolis, just off Lake Street, an eight minute walk from the first police precinct in America to be taken and burned in a riot – a historic moment, right around the corner. After the initial riots, which targeted symbolic structures or predatory businesses friendly to the police – the precinct, “pay day” loan agencies, Target, phone stores, drug stores, pawn shops – something shifted in the city. What the mayor and governor called “outside agitators” were burning gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, a post office, etc. Then they began targeting houses, leaving gas canisters in alleyways and dumping incendiaries in garbage cans. We began organizing with our neighbors, forming a night watch, placing buckets of water within reach, checking to see who needed what. The Minneapolis police and the national guard patrolled the streets during curfew, screaming at those watching from their porches to go inside. People trying to get to their houses were shoved to the ground and threatened with arrest. For a few days, we weighed our options: abandon everything, and perhaps lose it, or stay and fight if we had to. Ultimately, we stayed – and luckily didn’t have to fight.
Needless to say, we weren’t exactly working during this period. And to be fair: Why would we? How could we? Fortunately, things are settling into a pattern. Neighbors are meeting on a regular basis to discuss public safety, and what it will take to reimagine our lives and our streets without police as we’ve known them. We’re proud to live where we do, and proud to be even a small part of something new, a small but important step toward justice.
The riots began in May. It is June now. Not only is this year’s Pride unrecognizable from recent years because of our isolation – because we’ve grown used to enjoying our bodies in dense, highly visible public spaces – but because, now, to say “Happy Pride” and tweet a rainbow emoji is laughable. But this year’s mood isn’t new by any means; it’s closer to what “Pride” symbolizes than any parade float or jock strap or poolside or Folsom Street fucking ever could. The riot we call “Stonewall” began with a simple impulse: To say, “Enough.” Black trans women, in 1969, had had enough. Nobody else had listened. Nobody else had held up their end of the bargain.
Black Lives Matter. Unequivocally. The Minneapolis Police Department – and police departments around the country, not to mention the country itself after 400 years of genocide, cruelty, torture, oppression, neglect, and murder – owes Black Americans justice. White Americans owe Black Americans justice. Unequivocally. This country’s institutions – from police departments to courts to housing authorities to the offices of Congress and the White House – have failed in almost every capacity to provide justice. In only a few weeks, protestors have gained more concessions from city councils, mayors, and legislators than organized groups or individual citizens have gained in decades of voting and petitioning. A staggering 54% of Americans believe protestors were justified in burning down the precinct – again, something that has never happened in this country. That is possibly the loudest “Enough!” we’ve heard in years, and for those who’ve heard it there is a great hope.
This isn’t a marketing pitch. We’re not offering a special discount or holding a “Black Lives Matter” sale. We’re also, after so many weeks out of work, not in a position to make a huge contribution of our own. So if you can, please donate to these organizations, shop at black owned businesses, support black artists every chance you get, and challenge racist words and actions wherever you encounter them – and support others who do the same.