Today we celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and in the same message, we grieve the early loss of Cherish “Chance” Houle. Both the anniversary of the assassination of our nation’s great leader in racial equity and the death of a 12-year-old victim due to bullying is an important reminder that our work continues. Fifty years later, we continue to honor the leaders who have led the path for us and we honor the lives we have lost along the way. We continue to push ourselves to work harder, with even more intentionality and urgency so that no life is taken from systems of hate and violence.
In the face of such overwhelming racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia, a sense of hopelessness may weigh heavily on our hearts and minds. Today, we ask our community to hold close our values and collective dream to build a more equitable world. Today, we remember that our victories and our struggles are intricately linked – that the resiliency and efforts of our inter-connected struggles are integral to the liberation of our communities.
From the vision of our LGBTQ elders to the leadership of our youth today, we are here to continue the struggle for the liberation of all marginalized people; whether undocumented or indigenous, whether women or transgender and gender non-binary, whether atheist or Muslim, whether able-bodied or disabled, whether struggling to make ends meet or experiencing homelessness, we are all together in the work for liberation.
As a Queer Hmong Refugee, I look to both the works of Dr. King and Bayard Rustin, who shaped much of our movement work. In their time, Dr. King and Rustin were vilified by those who thought they were too bold and too radical to affect real change. The reality is they set one of the paths of our liberations as marginalized people forward as leaders who understood the intersection of our struggles and liberation – that bold times called for bold leadership. We honor and thank them for their leadership as LGBTQ and Queer People of Color, as we are the beneficiaries of their lives’ work today. We also thank those who are working in state legislatures, school district meeting rooms, talking to their neighbors, and simply living their lives to create a more fair and just community for all to live and thrive.
In this moment, we remember our fight for progress and strides forward and we remember the lives of Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow of Sioux Falls, S.D. who was killed in her home last year and our region’s most recent loss, Cherish “Chance” Houle who died by suicide after experiencing transphobic bullying during her transition. We remember our beloved friends, family, coworkers and community members whose lives were claimed because of their simple desire to be free and to live as their truest – and most beautiful – selves. It is in their memory that we continue to commit ourselves to our work.
PFund Foundation remains committed to advancing our Elevated Priorities for Queer People of Color, Transgender and Gender-Non-Confirming Communities, and LGBTQ North Dakotans and South Dakotans. As the region’s LGBTQ grassroots community foundation, it has been our honor and privilege to support the work of our communities over the last 31 years and we will continue to do so for the years to come. Because our work for freedom and prosperity, to have the same opportunities and joys as all other people, is far from over. It is our resilience that defines our movement and in the memory of our elders, like Dr. King and Bayard Rustin, and the memory of all those we have lost along the way, we continue forward.
Interim Executive Director