Chris Bilal organizes and mobilizes marginalized community members at Freedom 2 Live (F2L). F2L is a New York City-based group of individuals doing support work for queer and trans people of color facing time in the New York State prison system.
Bilal's past advocacy work has found him lighting the way as the Policy Co-Coordinator and Social Media Director at Streetwise and Safe, a multi-strategy initiative that taught New Yorkers there rights and realities during police encounters, designed tools and campaigns that reduced the harm of police interactions for LGBTQ youth of color and passed the landmark No Condoms As Evidence bill. Bilal participated in Cop Watches in LGBTQ communities to ensure his community’s safety and well-being, spoke in public service announcements, painted know-your-rights murals in hyper-policed communities, and co-designed street-safety guides, videos and condom cases for transgender and gender non-conforming youth of color under attack in NYC.
An ever active challenger of broken windows policing, surveillance, gender violence, state-sanctioned violence and the school-to-prison pipeline, Bilal sat on the Steering Committee, Policy Working Group and briefly co-led the Community Empowerment Working Group of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR). Bilal was instrumental in passing the landmark Community Safety Act. He co-organized LGBTQ participation in the historic Silent March Against Stop & Frisk and worked with families of slain community members and The Justice Committee to establish a Special Prosecutor’s Office in Albany to investigate police-involved shootings statewide. With “A Seat at The Table” sipping Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” Bilal organized community members and lobbied elected officials to pass the Community Safety Act, historic legislation that established an enforceable ban on profiling and discrimination by the NYPD. The cutting- edge bill famously increased law enforcement oversight by establishing the Inspector General's Office of the NYPD a long deferred dream of Martin Luther King and Ella Baker. The legislation, opposed by powerful police unions and law-and-order authoritarians, vastly broadened the categories of communities protected from discrimination. In addition to race, ethnicity, religion and national origin, categories protected against discriminatory profiling would include: age, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability and housing status! This model legislation, spearheaded by LGBTQ advocacy groups, set the precedent for anti-discrimination laws across the country that are so powerful the Trump administration is doing every thing they can to roll this tide back.
Bilal has also lobbied and educated elected officials about the need for passage of the Right to Know Act in the New York City Council and the Police-STAT bill in front of the New York State Assembly and Senate. Committed to inside and outside strategies and change at all levels, Bilal provided technical assistance to President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force.
Bilal provided guidance and technical assistance as a member of the Independent Advisory Committee (IAC) established by Judge Ariel Belen. The committee was formed after a federal judge ordered joint judicial remedies and immediate reforms after ruling that both New York City’s Stop and Frisk practices and the city’s Clean Halls programs were unconstitutional. Bilal worked tirelessly with other grassroots organizations and community stakeholders to ensure that LGBTQ youth voices were central to the Joint Remedial Process ordered by the court in Floyd v. City of New York. He helped organize town halls, focus groups, deescalated tension, championed restorative justice and suggested changes to the NYPD’s forms, training curricula, stop criteria and Orwellian pilot body-worn camera programs.
Bilal was the youngest member of the NYPD’s LGBT Advisory Panel. The advisory panel is tasked with helping ensure that police officers treat transgender and gender non-conforming people with dignity and respect laid out in the patrol guide.
Formerly-homeless and formerly-involved in economies of survival, Bilal sat on the Board of Directors of Ali Forney Center’s “Host Home” Program and The Homeless and Runaway Youth Task Force. This innovative program invited people to open their hearts & homes to host homeless LGBTQ youth. Bilal was awarded the center’s “Place At the Table” Award in 2012. Bilal’s sought-out expertise has been featured in The New York Times, The Gay City News, Fox News, Out-FM, Cuba in Focus, and The Tenth Zine. Cash him ousside. How bow dah!