Tip Brooks remembers the day last year they were driving down Interstate 75 and noticed a whole lot of commotion.
The Ku Klux Klan was in Stone Mountain, Georgia, for its annual convention.
“I saw a black helicopter flying pretty low and I was like, really, what is going on? I saw three more helicopters. I saw police cars had exits blocked off and they had the highway blocked off. The amount of police enforcement that was there to protect this group was discouraging,” Brooks said. “It was more protection than the president of the United States had — and I watched two presidents come into Atlanta. I was like, I didn’t even realize we had this many police officers.”
Thinking about the number of police on the roads made Brooks wonder who was protecting the city in the meantime.
“How is it OK that we can have the people we pay in the state protect this group of people, who dislike so many groups of people — and I fit into a number of categories this group is not fond of,” they said. “Who’s going to protect me? I felt horrible. I felt like my family was vulnerable.”
That incident, coupled with the Pulse shooting, led to the founding of Tiger’s Eye Collective in Atlanta. Tiger’s Eye, which launched June 12, is a queer security, cultural and educational project that aims to build “an intergenerational kinship base” of black LGBT individuals, and help develop a South where they can thrive and live with dignity. Brooks serves on its support team.
“Our hearts were broken after Pulse,” Ashe Helm-Hernández, co-founder and coordinator, said. “Tiger’s Eye came about because we were already together in this collective volume struggle, but more importantly after the aftermath of seeing our people gunned down and our community broken … we were facing the reality that this gender-based violence is happening and is going to continue to happen unless we stop it.”
Tiger’s Eye partnered with Southerners On New Ground to convene and talk about these issues of community safety and education.
“It hit me so hard that I realized I couldn’t do this work alone,” Helm-Hernández said. “It was time for us to step up, and I felt like that was what I was doing: stepping up to create a team that desired to collectively keep our community safe.”
They said the goal is to train and develop leadership to empower fellow black LGBT Atlantans to be safe.
In its infancy stages, Tiger’s Eye is on the hunt for more people to join its community, as well as partners in public safety occupations.
“There aren’t many places we are safe and we need to cultivate and transform relationships with each other, especially at places we are often at,” Helm-Hernández said. “What we’re seeing is an uptick in emboldened-ness and people feeling like they can take people’s lives, and they can walk and trample on people’s dignity, and we know that’s not true for all of us. We want to be able to de-escalate those things.”