As we continue through the blazing heat of the end of summer, it’s time to take stock and reflect on recent events. This is even more true this month because this is Black August. Black August is a time of resilience and remembrance of Black resistance against racial oppression, especially in the prison system. 

Black August began in 1979 following almost two decades of organizing and resistance by folks like George Jackson, James Carr, Hugo Pinell, W.L. Nolan, Khatari Golden and others while within the walls of the California penitentiary system. These men took it upon themselves to form a brotherhood that solidified a collective consciousness surrounding the unjust treatment of Blackness by the American judicial system and the horrific atrocities they experienced as Black individuals experiencing incarceration.

We know that it’s crucial to celebrate this important work — so let’s take this time to celebrate our wins in the struggle for justice. And let’s spotlight one in particular — Charlotte passed a nondiscrimination ordinance. 

On the evening of Monday the 9th, the Charlotte City Council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance, creating protections from discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, natural hair, veteran status and much more. It was an incredible moment for our communities, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the incredibly powerful coalition in Charlotte which has been working towards nondiscrimination for almost 30 years, well before I became ENC’s Executive Director. This fight was all the more important, given the dangerous situation for Black trans women in the city — Charlotte has been identified as one of the most dangerous cities in the country for the trans community. 

The struggle began as far back as the 90s. More recently, Charlotte voted on nondiscrimination in 2015 — but due to some last minute changes, the ordinance failed. In 2016, Charlotte was finally able to pass a comprehensive NDO — but it unfortunately became the target of backlash at the N.C. General Assembly, resulting in the infamous House Bill 2 and its later partial repeal in House Bill 142. With House Bill 142’s ban on local ordinances sunsetting in December 2020, local advocates and activists were poised to push through nondiscrimination legislation on the local level. A coalition assembled, with Equality NC and the Campaign for Southern Equality, the Carolinas LGTBQ Chamber of Commerce, Charlotte Black Pride, Charlotte Pride and Transcend Charlotte. 

Our coalition worked and lobbied the city council hard — and in the end it was successful. Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina, now protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in many walks of life. 

The lesson of the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance is one of the importance of coalition building. In the face of unpredictable and powerful opposition, advocates fought for nondiscrimination through thick and thin, eventually achieving a resounding victory. Charlotte was able to accomplish this because of all of you — the people who wrote letters to city council, the people who came out to protests, the people who said that they were ready for nondiscrimination. This spirit of collaboration and mutual aid in the struggle against oppression is what Black August is all about. 

And Equality NC is working to build on this tradition of resistance this month. In celebration of Black August, Equality North Carolina is selling Black Resilience t-shirts — and donating proceeds to the QTIPOC Survival Fund, a mutual aid organization which gives money to queer and trans people of color in need in the Piedmont of North Carolina. You can donate here.

We strongly encourage you to honor the spirit of Black August this month by taking a stand against anti-Blackness and the carceral state in your community, whether it’s through helping out a bail fund, participating in a protest, or donating to mutual aid work through the QTIPOC Survival Fund. 

We all have a role to play in the struggle for racial and social justice — let’s join together and make some change.

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