“At the front of the movement”: activist shares experience organizing a protest

“At the front of the movement”: activist shares experience organizing a protest

Story and photos| Jacqueline “Sunrise” Luttrell

Tatyana Chante organized their first protest in seventh grade. A “Day of Silence” was held two years in a row and raised awareness about LGBTQ students getting bullied by staying silent all day.

As a child, Chante was surrounded by activism; their mom has worked with nonprofits throughout their life and brought them to more protests.

And at the age of 23, their experience led to leading one of the largest protests on Chicago’s North Side amid the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. Floyd’s death during a police arrest on May 25 sparked protests around the country and a national reckoning on racial inequality and police brutality. 

With Chante leading, more than 5,000 people marched from the Belmont CTA station in Lakeview to Uptown calling for justice. Chante said organizing the June 2 protest was simple.

“I wanted to show we are angry and wanted to talk while being around each other to share our stories and have people listen to what is going on right now,” they said.

The protest allowed people to grieve together and not feel ashamed about it, Chante said.

“I think it inspired people to not treat these protests as though there is no direction or action,” they said. “I had a very clear plan of where and why we stopped at certain places so no one could hijack the protest.” 

Chante said they were emotional about accomplishing the protest, which they considered to be a success.

“I think people listened,” they added. “It’s different from reading from social media or seeing the news to share the same space with people describing their stories, heartache and energy. It inspired people to action.”

Chante said the protests are losing their meaning in the media with too much focus on violence and looting.

“I think the media is portraying [the protests] as violent, showing the protestors as agitators,” they said. “The police with full gear and you are intimidated with someone with an umbrella or a skateboard? So you are going to beat the crap out of them?”

Chante said people should consider the reasoning behind looting, rather than the act itself. They suggest the looting is happening because the resources or material objects they get from it creates a sense of financial security and stability.

“Why are we judging someone for wanting the things we have and can afford?” They said. “We have people looting the Nike store and the people judging them have 10 pairs of Nikes.”  

Chante said they thought there was a lack of empathy for people in a society that prioritizes material items. 

“We love to blame the poor and say ‘why can’t they work harder?’ There is so much wrong with the system that keeps Black and brown people poor,” they said.

It was ultimately decided to hold the protest on the North Side of Chicago for two reasons; The bridges were raised downtown which limited travel and the overwhelming privilege and misunderstanding by the residents in the area.

“Unlike the South and West Side where we know the shit is going, the North Side people are in their own little privileged world,” they added. “It’s easy to disconnect from what is really happening because it is not happening in front of them.”

Chante added that as a leader in activism, it’s important to remember the mission of the Black Lives Matter movement which is “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Chante also wanted to emphasize that the movement is entirely inclusive. 

“All Black lives matter,” they said. “Not just Black men, but Black women, queer, disabled…it’s important to put that at the front of the movement in fighting for justice for us and not forgetting us.”

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