Submit! Nearly There is a zine project meant to address the serious absence and silencing of stories about the experiences of queer people of color.
QWOC Week: Activism Meets Diversity
In approximately three weeks, Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston) will be hosting one of the most diverse festival celebrations in the city – QWOC WEEK 2010.
Our “3rd Annual Multicultural Pride Celebration” kicks off on July 31st with Feminist Friday at Caprice Lounge, a social networking event for feminists, womanists, and those who love them, and ends on August 8th with an appreciation brunch for QWOC WEEK’s organizers, volunteers, and collaborators.
Many of you must be wondering, what is QWOC WEEK about, anyway? A handful of you must be going, duuh, it’s a week full of fun activities for queer women of color and allies. Sure, but is that all it is?
When founder and organizer of QWOC+ Boston, Adaora, decided to produce QWOC WEEK in 2007, she did so after noticing that Boston’s queer women of color community remained, for the most part, invisible within the larger, male/white-dominated gay community, and as a direct result, pride celebrations as well — even ones that celebrated people of color.
In Adaora’s words, “QWOC Week is QWOC+ Boston’s take on what a pride week (for LGBTQ people of color) should look like; a variety of art, music, discussion, and social events that appeal to all kinds of people — older, younger, partnered, single, people of color, immigrants of different cultures, the politicians and activists among us, artists and educators, feminists, transpeople — all of us.”
However, the recipe for producing the ideal QWOC WEEK hasn’t yet fallen from the sky; QWOC Week organizers have spent the last three years tweaking (and adding to) an important list of criteria which they use to create the draft calendar; there’s always plenty of social networking and community-building (both of which are at the core of our mission), so other stipulations include having as many all-ages events as possible, facilitating a “Diversity Speaks” discussion, hosting a family-friendly/outdoor event, presenting either a visual art exhibit or film screening, and incorporating a community/direct service component into the week.
Diversity and Activism
This year, inspired by the politically-heavy nationwide Harvey Milk Week, we’ve decided to work with collaborators who exemplify different kinds of activism — health, youth development, arts and music, support groups etc — such as Fenway Women’s Health, Boston GLASS, and Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance, to name a few. This is because the lead organizer believes that “Diversity is about more than just people’s backgrounds. It’s about what issues we care about, and being aware of the different ways people give back to their communities.”
For example, we are hosting an event entitled “Activism and Karaoke: Sign Before Your Sing!“ This event takes place on Wednesday, August 4th at Club Cafe. Activism and Karaoke may be two things which seemingly have nothing to do with each other, except that both involve a little courage, putting yourself out there, and sign-up sheets! BlackandPink.Org a website that creates awareness around prison abolitionist issues and promotes advocacy for our oft-forgotten LGBTQ community members in prison, will be helping us host this letter-writing drive to folks who have no support system behind bars, and signing peeps up to be pen pals if they’re up for it. We’re super excited to finally see this event come to fruition (it’s been in the works since Harvey Milk Week in May!) We’re also really excited to co-host this event with Men of Color Creating Change, a social networking group for gay men of color and allies in the area, whose members will be present to make sure new connections are made, and — no doubt — will lead us “altogether now” in karaoke-song at least once during the evening.
On Saturday, August 7th, we’ll be hosting our first Youth Open Mic in Stony Brook Park, as part of a collaboration with Boston GLASS, an outreach and support group to LGBTQ youth aged 13 to 25. Incidentally, last year, an MIT student who attended OUTSPOKEN — our queer people of color spoken-word and live music showcase — remarked to an organizer that the experience had “changed her life.” So when Precinct (this year’s 21+ venue for OUTSPOKEN) reiterated that it could not admit youth to the event, QWOC+ Boston pitched the idea to Boston GLASS of creating an entirely separate event (in alignment with the lgbt youth writing contest) geared towards the younger generation. Thus, as we enjoy the outdoors, sports, food, and pickup sports games, we’ll also be given the opportunity to hear a few brave, “outspoken” youth stand up and speak for themselves.
Stand Up for Kids
In addition to providing various platforms for young people to speak their minds — the writing contest, open mic at stony brook, even our intern’s weekly blog — we’d like to provide for others who aren’t as fortunate; many young people are without a lot more than just a place to speak and be heard; many young people are without a place to sleep, clothes to wear, or food to eat; many of our youth are homeless.
In response to this, we’re partnering with Kappa Psi Kappa Fraternity (KPK) to run a clothing and survivor supply drive for Stand Up for Kids, an organization well-known on the west coast for providing support to homeless youth, and who recently opened up an office in Boston.
Says Elijah Dear, the North Atlantic Regional Director of KPK, “[QWOC+ Boston] has been a wonderful role model, and resource for the LGBT community… Assisting with this charitable drive was an opportunity for myself, and my chapter to work alongside QWOC+ and be a part of QWOC week.” In case you didn’t know, KPK is an organization comprised of gentlemen who believe that irrespective of background, “[men] can come together and change not only [their] community, but the world.”
As part of the QWOC Week Clothing and Supply Drive, we will be collecting (newly packaged) underwear and tube socks. Elijah asserts that Stand Up for Kids is “one of a select few youth organizations extremely dedicated and connected to its mission of assisting at-risk kids – especially in Massachusetts,” which was enough for the QWOC Week organizers to get on board and work with KPK on this project. While many of us are familiar (and have participated in) clothing drives, this seemingly simple initiative is unique in that it aims to bring attention to something which is often overlooked (our M.O.). It’s easy to forget that underwear and socks, are just as important – if not more important — than pants and shirts. You might wear the same pair of jeans three days in a row – but what about your underwear?
The drop-off days for the clothing drive are:
- Sunday August 1st (Old School Meets New School T-Dance)
- Monday August 2nd (Out of the Box: Media and Literary Artists Studio)
- Wednesday August 4th (Activism and Karaoke: Sign Before You Sing!)*
- Saturday August 7th (Family Day at Stony Brook Park featuring Youth Open Mic)
*As you can see, donations will be accepted at multiple events all week, but we are dedicating the Activism and Karaoke event specifically to this cause – rather than pay us an admission/door fee to attend, we’re asking all guests to purchase/bring newly packaged underwear and socks to gain entrance.
QWOC+ Boston hopes to make a big difference this summer, and we’re pretty confident that our partnerships with organizations like BlackandPink.Org, Kappa Psi Kappa, Stand-Up for kids, and more will aid us in our efforts. As Elijah says, “activism begins with understanding the needs of the community, and acting on those needs,” and QWOC WEEK’s mission is to respond to as many of those needs as possible.
“QWOC WEEK itself is a direct-service event…,” says Adaora, “the week brings people together, creates awareness across issues that are relevant to queer/LGBT women of color; it includes our allies and supporters, and as a direct result, we are stronger and more unified as a community. I feel fortunate to be a part of it.”
So, when you’re out there enjoying yourself at QWOC WEEK, whether it’s playing Frisbee at Family Day in Stony Brook Park, listening to a queer youth speak up at the Open Mic, listening to your sister sing at Karaoke while letter-writing at Activism and Karaoke, or ‘checking yourself’ during what’s sure to be a thought-provoking QWOC Film Night — just remember that you’re doing something good, you are part of this movement, your voice and participation are equally as important as the platforms we’ll be providing to contribute them.