San Fransico Dyke March Organizers
3 August 2001
Dear March organizers,
We are writing to protest about the way we were treated by Dyke March organizers. We set up our table at the Dyke March in the same area where we have set up for several years. Half way through the event we were approached by a woman from the organizing committee who said all tables should be at the other side of the park, away from the Dyke March table because they didn’t want any competition with their T-shirt sales. We explained it was hard work to set up and a number of women we knew were expecting to meet us at our usual location. She became increasingly hostile, kept insisting we move and finally left, returning with two other women wearing wireless headsets.
As a group they continued to press us about our table location. We explained that we are not a business but an international multi-racial grassroots network of lesbian women with a 25 year history in SF. One of the women competitively yelled "I’ve lived in SF for 25 years also" not hearing our point about being organizers. Another woman told a Black woman in our group "I’ve never seen you around before". We are surprised to be treated in this way especially since one of the Dyke March organizers is quoted in the Chronicle saying they don’t get a permit for the Dyke March and "we aren’t going to ask anyone’s permission to be here". We would hope that the organizers would extend that spirit to Dyke March participants.
Later we looked at the area proposed for tables and found it very unacceptable. It was an awkward spot because the hill slants down to the sidewalk and there were no trees. This means we could only set up a banner if we had some fancy equipment and also it was so near the stage it was impossible to hear yourself speak – this makes it pointless from the view of a group interested in talking with and connecting to women. Also the crowd was so dense the tables were being squeezed.
As unfunded grassroots activists, we are very aware of the problems of organizing with no budget which the organizers described. We understand fundraising by selling T-shirts but we don’t see our table as competition – our t-shirt sales are few, we sell some buttons and we use the occasion mainly to distribute our literature and connect with women who want to get involved in or support our organizing work. Also, given how successful the Dyke March has now become, we’d expect that having over 70,000 women must produce some cash flow to fund your costs.
We’ve always liked the Dyke March because, unlike LGBT Freedom Day, there have been no permits, fees, designated areas etc. and it’s a great opportunity to network with other dykes. We very much hope our treatment this year doesn’t mean the Dyke March is moving in the direction of the LGBT Freedom Day, which originally started as a grassroots action too. Over the years we have spent energy fighting with parade monitors about setting up a table where we choose, having them threaten to evict us and even to call the police. We are very familiar with "movement managers" who get on a power trip because they want to keep others in "order". Many people of color, women and grassroots groups are now excluded as a result of LGBT Freedom Day policies and regulations. Now we face a day of commercialism on all levels and the reduction of the celebration of our struggle to an all-day marketplace, an expensive party with only a window dressing of political content.
This year we were at the Dyke March spreading the word about Dykes on Strike – to make clearly visible the participation and demands of lesbian women in the Global Women’s Strike actions on March 8, International Women’s Day. There is so much censorship here in the US and we are so cut off from the rest of the world that the Dyke March has become an annual opportunity for us to connect with lesbian women from many places and situations including rural women. We urge the Dyke March organizers to carry on with this event in the grassroots spirit of openness and protest on which it was founded.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Power to the sisters to stop the world and change it!
Wages Due Lesbians