QWOC+ Boston is a group that promotes diversity by creating and sustaining safe spaces for LGBT people of color in the Greater Boston area.
Posted By QWOC+ Boston on April 19th, 2012

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.


(Erika’s Blog) We’re Already Speaking Out; Time to Speak UP

Posted By Erika Turner on July 23rd, 2010

As is common for most college undergraduates, I recently had a brainstorming session on what I should do with my life, whereupon it came down to two possibilities: writing or real estate development. Two very different career paths – one of which happens to be potentially more lucrative and thus more practical than the other. (Can you guess which one?)

Then, I read Adaora’s blog, “To Hell With Mainstream Press Coverage: Women, People of Color, and Trans People Should Create and Control Their Own Media Stories.” (Long title, no?) And I thought to myself, “Well damn. Tell me how you really feel.”

It was written at the perfect time and really made me think about how I could contribute to the community by speaking for myself. (Note: Not speaking for the community – but myself as a member of many communities –queer, people of color, women, queer women of color.) As opposed to, say, people who are a part of none of the above.

But this post really isn’t about me – rather, it’s about us: all of us, as a community of people with unique stories to tell, whose voices are not being heard. And the reason why our voices aren’t being heard is because 1) many of us aren’t even speaking and 2) those of us who are speaking, aren’t speaking loudly enough (in the arenas that need to hear it).

Ah, and thus, we turn to QWOC WEEK. As a newcomer to QWOC+ Boston, I’m still learning about all of the components that go into the organization and the different ways in which we contribute to the community for which we’re named. QWOC WEEK, which is in less than two weeks, is the perfect embodiment of just that: arts, music, activism, performance – and most of all, the opportunity for us (thus, meaning you) to speak for ourselves.

One of our newest events is OUT OF THE BOX, a Media and Literary Artists Studio, in conjunction with Rising Voices Press and co-hosted by Somos Latinos and Massachusetts South Asian Lambda Association (MASALA). This studio is meant to feature artistic and literary work by queer people of color and will give guests the opportunity to meet with the creators of the content and provide feedback. The studio is an exciting venture for us, because, though we have always featured performance-based writing, we are exploring and presenting other ways in which people express themselves; many writers aren’t ‘performers’… so we’d like to give writers who ‘read’ their work, a chance to share their words with us during QWOC Week.

As a person who doesn’t feel like she has enough soul or rhythm to roll out a rhyme, I’m happy to see this event come into fruition. I excel only at stick figures, but the literary medium is my personal passion. It’s important that we also recognize the voices of those who do not speak verbally, but through pens and paper; paint and pastels.

Then, of course, many of you already know about OUTSPOKEN. This premiere spoken word and live music showcase produced annually by Spectra Events, is popular for many reasons, one of which is this: some people just seriously love spoken word.

I’ve mentioned the event to several of my friends who have fallen over themselves trying to find out when and where it is, just because spoken word is, quite frankly, the sh*t – if done right. It’s also popular however for the same reason it’s important – it gives people a way to speak their mind about important issues that affect them. It’s different than penning a blog post or ranting on Facebook, though those things can be pretty effective too. (At least I hope so, since I tend to both quite a bit.) It’s visual as well as auditory – it’s more than just the words that express the feeling. It’s how the person speaks, the rhythm of the phrase, the movement that manifests itself with the moment in which the words are being spoken.

The performances we feature each year at OUTSPOKEN are proof that the issues we speak of (whether love or politics, social issues or the everyday mundane) affect us wholly – physically, emotionally, spiritually. And you can hear it. And you can see it. And thus you, too, can feel it.

Unfortunately for many of my friends, OUTSPOKEN is located at a 21+ venue – thankfully, QWOC+ Boston’s got your back. As mentioned in the last post (QWOC WEEK: Activism Meets Diversity), we’re having a Youth Open Mic during Family Day at Stony Brook Park, co-sponsored Boston GLASS. As a queer youth myself, I stress the importance of this event because I know how hard it can be to swallow your fear and speak up. It doesn’t even have to be in reference to performance – we’re young. We think we know everything. Then people ask us what it is we know and we freeze. Panic. We become silent. Often times, it’s because the question “What do you know” can be patronizing; other times, it’s because we don’t even know if we can answer it.

However, it’s important that we do speak. For one thing, we have to start somewhere. For another, we must speak for ourselves, for the same reason that the queer community as a whole must speak for itself.

If you’re an adult and you’re wondering if Youth Open Mic is something you’d be interested in, consider the words of one of our QWOC+ Boston organizers, Ana:

“Youth find ways to speak out, they find ways to create platforms for themselves. So it is not so much that we (adults or QWOC+) give them a platform/venue but that we give them our attention. They will know coming into our space that we appreciate, acknowledge and support their voices and will encourage them to continue being innovators and leaders. And it is important that they speak for themselves because it is their experience that needs to be articulated, not our perception of their experience, along with the solutions to the inequalities they face as a marginalized group.”

And thus we come to the “and friends” of our name. OUTSPOKEN, Youth Open Mic, and OUT OF THE BOX are all platforms for queer people of color to speak. It goes without saying that, generally, we are not given this opportunity every day; these outlets of self-expression were created for just that reason. Therefore, we don’t have specific events for allies to speak at. However, the love and support of our allies is, always, extremely appreciated. Their attention and recognition is one of the things that gives us courage to speak up, that lets us know that people are listening. We encourage their continued support and attendance during QWOC WEEK.

These three events reach out to the diverse talents of queer people of color – but you don’t have to be a performer, writer, or artist to contribute something. In regards to QWOC WEEK events, even showing up counts. Sharing what you’ve seen and heard is almost as important as the performance or piece itself. Either way, you’re increasing visibility and you’re doing something. And that’s all that matters. There’s a voice in action too.

So, then – review the dates below:

OUT OF THE BOX: Media and Literary Artists Studio
Monday August 2nd @ 6PM-9PM

OUTSPOKEN: Queer People of Color Spoken Word and Performance Showcase
Thursday August 5th @ 7PM-10PM

Family Day at Stony Brook Park Featuring Youth Open Mic
Saturday August 7th @ NOON-4PM

We’ve got two weeks; I can’t wait to see you.

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    • Rosalind

      Erika, I think you would be great at anything you choose to do. You are obviously a very gifted young woman.