Residents gathered at the September 8 rally in response to a violent robbery, now being investigated as a hate crime, that took place at a Bushwick bodega.

The rally and march, organized by community mobilizer Gia Love and founder of Black Trans Liberation Qween Jean, was a response to the rise of crime against the Black and LGBTQ+ community in New York City, with the stabbing at the Borhan Food Mart bodega being one of the most recent crimes in the Bushwick area. 

Abimbola Adelaja, a gay former marine and his friend, who were mistaken for a couple, were attacked after a verbal altercation where perpetrators made “anti-gay statements.” Adelaja says he wants the bodega to be held accountable for refusing to provide aid.

“It was heartbreaking,” he told Gay City News. “There was a total disregard for my life…they wouldn’t even let me use the phone.”

According to Love, this isn’t something unfamiliar to the city. “A few years ago, a young kid in the Bronx was stabbed up,” she began, referencing the murder of 15-year-old Lesandro ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz, who also sought refuge in a bodega, “and the store did nothing to save his life, and I think sometimes being a bystander and just minding your business equally perpetuates the violence against us.” 

Gia Love (center) speaking at the rally with Qween Jean (left).

The rally began at 1559 Broadway in front of the bodega. Protestors waved Black Lives Matter and Pride flags as the organizers spoke. Police and their vehicles were present. 

“We are here in solidarity because our family members could have been killed. That is the reality…We could have been standing here with two posters that said ‘Say His Name,’” Qween said at the start of the rally. “So we have called for our community to come out and stand with us today — and march with us today — to let the entire neighborhood know that gay people will no longer be pushed out, will no longer hide. We deserve respect,” she continued.

“We should not be afraid to go to the store. We should feel protected. We should feel loved and safe in the neighborhoods that we live in,” added Love, a Bushwick resident herself.

Qween confronts Borhan Food Mart as many take photos or record, including District Leader Samy Nemir-Olivares (left) who helped organize the event.  

Before the march began, Qween addressed the bodega directly. “1559, hello,” she said into the microphone, “Yes, we’re talking to you. Because as a pillar in this community, we all come in and frequent…so we are expecting that same level of camaraderie, that same respect to be reciprocated, and we honor everyone in this establishment. And yet, we are not honored…You do not even call us by our pronouns. You do not ask us. You just assume.”

In a statement made after the march, Love told Bushwick Daily that it is just as violent to be a bystander, especially when the victim participates in the community. “That is the epitome of neoliberal capitalism where, like, I’m coming into your store every day — I’m supporting your livelihood — but someone can be stabbing me, and you can’t even call the police.”

Protestors marched to Myrtle Avenue and Broadway, making a turn at the intersection to end on Myrtle and Central avenues, a strip Love refers to as “party row” for the number of clubs where hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community have been most prevalent. The assault of Aoki Lee, a Black trans femme non-binary individual, and other LGBTQ+ people in the area was only one of many such crimes in Brooklyn during that Fourth of July weekend. 

The sounds of a drum accompanied the protestors’ chants.

Black trans and queer individuals marched in front. Some of the protestors wore backpacks with speakers inside so everyone could partake in the call-and-response chants led by Qween. Cyclists went ahead to block off incoming vehicles. 

According to Qween and Love, the rally was a celebration to raise awareness and establish the queer community’s presence. Halfway through the march, an impromptu catwalk performance began, with protestors and community members dancing and posing for the cameras. 

A protester posing as they make their way to the cameras.

“I just want to thank my incredible family — sister, I love you so much — and most important, I want to hold space in this moment, in this time, for our two siblings who truly had to be on the receiving end of violence,” Qween said at the end of the march in reflection. “Are you all committed to creating safe spaces?” she asked the crowd, which responded in cheers.

Music played from the speakers and as the crowd dispersed, some continued to dance while others entered Izkina for some food and drinks. 

Final remarks were made by Qween in front of restaurant Izkina

District Leader and queer Latinx activist Samy Nemir-Olivares, who helped organize the event, kept in communication with Love and was supportive of the cause through social media. 

“This rally was a powerful example of what happens when the community comes together in love and solidarity against hate. It was a beautiful way of our communities saying we will not tolerate homophobia, transphobia or racism,” wrote Nemir-Olivares to Bushwick Daily in a statement in regards to the day’s events.

He continued, “It was also a stark reminder of the work that needs to continue to happen to educate people and eradicate bias and prejudices against LGBTQ+ and Black people…For me, as a queer elected official, this is a moment to remind lawmakers of the importance of passing legislation such as the Equality Act and policies such as gender and race school curriculums to educate our next generations.” 

One of the alleged assailants was caught on September 8. Police are still looking for the other perpetrator and an accomplice who held down one of the victims as they were stabbed and robbed.

Top photo by Nereide Kluger. All other photos by Allie Herrera.

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