On July 16th, the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society (WES), partnering with Saint Louis Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC), hosted a DIY (do-it-yourself) benefit concert in support of the Orlando LGBTQ community. The concert was in observance of the horrific attack at Pulse Nightclub on June 12 resulting in 49 deaths and dozens wounded.
The convening organizations brought four bands and five speakers together for the event which drew a diverse crowd of nearly 100 and collectively raised $750 dollars, which will be matched by WES – thereby making the total $1,500.
All concert proceeds will go to Orlando-based LGBTQ rights organization, The Center. Their mission is “to promote and empower the LGBT Community and its allies through information, education, advocacy and support.” Additionally, The Center conducts clinical services, counseling and community events for the LGBT community.
WES regularly hosts political punk shows in a series called Start Today. The objective of the series is to raise money, to build solidarity among young artists and musicians who frequent DIY rock shows, and to call people to action for local progressive causes, like solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
Stand With A Pulse speakers included a diverse group of local leaders, each selected for their unique perspectives and experiences.
The keynote was given by KB Frazier, a trans and Black Lives Matter community organizer. In his speech, he laid bare the threat of violence that the LGBTQ community of color faces daily. He concluded by leading a resounding collective chant, authored by Assata Shakur.
Late in the night, dozens of voices collectively cried:
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.
Shuron Jones, WES board member and local labor and LGBTQ advocate, demanded an end to the violence that queer and people of color face. The specter of the last several police involved killings hung in the room as she shouted, “I am not asking for safety anymore. I am not saying please. I am so tired. I am demanding that my queer, trans and siblings of color stop being targeted for violence.”
Nicholas James, WES board member and performing musician remarked that many states do not offer protections against discriminatory practices in the workplace for LGBTQ employees.
From his experience as a collective bargaining representative for Service Employees International Union-Healthcare, he talked about how unions provide those protections. Working to improve access to good-paying union jobs can protect communities at risk by providing economic stability and union security, he added.
Stephen Houldsworth, a renowned Saint Louis LGBTQ rights and HIV activist, and local punk-scene legend, recited a choked up mantra, titled Revolution will not be coming soon:
“When gay bars, the only place that queer folks can feel secure, are routinely attacked, revolution will not be coming soon. When trans women of color are murdered at unconscionable rates in this country, revolution will not be coming soon. That revolution must occur in your mind. You must change your thoughts, your words, your actions, your habits, and your culture, and challenge those around you when they exhibit hatred. The revolution must start with you.”
Other speakers included Nisveta Fejzic, a queer Muslim progressive activist who spoke about the intersection of homophobia, misogyny, and Islamophobia.
Tony Pecinovsky, WES president, challenged straight and white allies to resist hatred and violence.
He said, “The Workers’ Education Society was founded to create community, to share space, to collectively challenge oppression. We actively work towards a mission of inclusion and understanding by focusing our efforts within the immigrant, African American, disability and LGBTQ rights communities. We call this our WES family and we hope all of you will consider WES your home. Together, we can build something powerful.”
The Workers’ Education Society plans on having its next Start Today political punk show in October to correspond with WES’s two-year anniversary. The theme will be women’s rights in Missouri – the assault on choice, the on-going wage-gap and domestic violence are just a few of the topics to be covered.