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The Peculiar Kind
Brooklyn, NY – (February 20th, 2012) – The Artchitects are proud to announce the premiere episode of The Peculiar Kind, a monthly web series about queer women of color featuring Jade Foster(CereusArts.com), Ivette (Marimachobk.com), Milly (Lezfactor.com), and more! The Peculiar Kind is directed by Alexis Casson and Mursi Layne (The Artchitects.com).
The Peculiar Kind is a web series that candidly explores the lives and experiences of queer women of color with eye-opening and unscripted conversations. Episode one of The Peculiar Kind explores “Party Etiquette” i.e. Jealousy, Flirting, One Night Stands, Using Protection, Getting Home Safely, & Hate Crimes. Included in this episode are “OUR NEWS”, a segment brought to you by Kimberley McLeod (ELIXER.com) and The Peculiar Kind Spotlight Presents which features Kimmie David (RightRides.org). The Peculiar Kind can be viewed on www.youtube.com/ThePeculiarKind or www.ThePeculiarKind.com/episodes.
About The Artchitects
The Artchitects is an artist collective serving those who seek more creative control and want to see their vision become a reality.
Our Passions range from filmmaking and music production to challenging social issues and charity event planning. We love working with creatives who strive for change through their art.
Never take your friends for granted.
As an activist, this will first and foremost forever be rule number one.
I have traveled long and far to come to this conclusion, ending up in a crowded Starbucks near a busy Tokyo train station and shopping center, sipping a grande café mocha, ignoring the pretentiousness of this scenario, to share with you my insights.
It has been three months and I have never felt this alone. For a writer, it is absolute torture to be sent to a country in which I cannot fully express myself because my writing and speaking skills in this country’s language are below the level of that of a three year old. (Every time a child speaks without stumbling over their words, I cry a little.)
Because I cannot properly express myself, it makes it difficult to connect with any person on a deeper level, which severely sprains my ability to make friends. Unfortunately, this problem goes further than linguistics, for I have found that even when I find people who are able and willing to communicate in English (or in very, very slow and patient Japanese), it turns out that we still don’t speak the same language.
From junior high to college, I have always been surrounded by people who ‘got’ me, because they too were of color, queer, of lower socio-economic statuses, and/or deeply interested in social activism. It was not necessarily that all of my friends were gay, brown, poor, or activists – but I had plenty who were and that was enough. We were able to create a community of constant understanding and comfort in the face of a largely white supremacist and heterosexist world that did not often bother to look in on itself. By having this community, this basic source of self-affirmation and love, it was easy to then branch out and connect with others outside of this community, to share in other mutual interests.
Ironically, having become accustomed to its nourishment, part of me longed to exist beyond my community – to find aspects of myself that did not have to be defined by my race, my sexuality, my gender, my social economic class, etc. I longed to just ‘be,’ and coming to Japan, a country that had no direct role in my social history, was sure to be the ticket to that escape.
It’s quite funny, really, how much you understand how essential your identity is to yourself when others don’t. How impossible it is to exist ‘beyond’ being queer when every person you meet asks if you have a boyfriend in America and actually cannot fathom the concept of homo-romantic love; how impossible it is to exist ‘beyond’ class when your family members still call you for money; how impossible it is to exist ‘beyond’ race when white people you meet in Japan say to you, “Goodness, it must be so hard for you to get your hair done in this country! They don’t even know how to do my hair!” It’s impossible to be anything other than whom you are, no matter where you are. You cannot exist beyond yourself.
Furthermore, once you’ve become aware of oppression and privilege, you can’t unlearn it – because I still cringe when I hear the word “retard,” I still flinch if I hear the word “bitch,” I still become angry or hurt if I hear a joke about a minority from a person of privilege. I cannot hold a conversation for the sake of conversation if the conversation itself is riddled with privilege and ignorance, unless I bite my tongue – in which case, I’m not enjoying the conversation at all because I get nothing out of it, except a nearly bloody mouth. Once your eyes are opened, you cannot close them again – because even if you do, the image of what you’ve seen is still burned into your memory, still flickers in the darkness behind your eyelids.
I had similar interactions when I lived in the States, but it was far easier then, because I always had a place to go home to. Like a child, I had guardians and now that I am on my own, after having asked for my freedom, I am realizing that being an adult is not so easy.
It’s difficult to not be disillusioned. Once you learn that you cannot exist beyond yourself, in the context of this world, it is difficult to not then shut yourself away in your own mind and curl into yourself as your only comfort. Once you find that you cannot leave yourself, it becomes difficult to even try.
These are the growing pains of activism and social justice.
The first step for me has been to recognize my privilege as someone who had a community – and to remember that that community still exists; it is just not as close as it once was. The next step will be to find the balance between existing within myself and yet outside of my own head.
Today, on the 6th day of September, I am celebrating my 30th birthday! *include claps and applause here, please*
This past year has, per usual, been filled with growth, uncomfortable and welcomed. I learned, for instance, to harness the power of vulnerability, that people relate to the journey more deeply than they do the lessons learned, that practicing self-care literally makes you a stronger leader, and that this strength is much needed because — in the words of one of my artist friends — “haters love to comment.” For real, I had to learn that lesson this year and not take things personally.
But what I’m most happy about on my 30th birthday is that I’ve learned to love myself, deeply, through both praise and perdition. After 30 years, I realize that self-love is the most important kind of love everyone needs, and I am no different.
My writing and creativity are deeply connected to my spirituality. Hence, as I prepare for my upcoming year — yes, my new year begins on my birthday — it is part of my process to look back and reflect on the past 12 months via all my writing and every single bit of media I have created. (Sidenote: I’ve written something nearly every single day since last September, so I’ve been reading and reflecting for the past several days!)
I can’t describe how powerful and affirming the experience of looking through pages and pages of words has been; from stream of consciousness prose to pensive morning reflections, from photo-poetry to snippets and chapters from upcoming book projects, I really am blown away by how far I’ve walked, mentally and spiritually. This blog alone is a testament to how much stronger and more confident my ‘voice’ has become and I feel so lucky to have gotten the support and engagement of my readership that I have.
So, for my birthday today, I ask that you indulge me, and share at least one post that truly resonate(d) with you from the list below.
If you are relatively new to my blog, welcome! I encourage you to pick one or two (or go for it — read all five) posts to get to know me a little better. I plan to update this blog a lot more frequently this Fall now that my summer staycation is over, so there’ll be more to come.
If you have been following this blog and/or my work for a while, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support, for affirming my need to speak, and for listening and engaging me on some very important, and often times, divisive issues, especially when we don’t agree. I hope these Top 5 Posts from Last Virgo Year serve as a reminder of the power of using online media to raise our own voices in order to change the world, one conversation at a time.
So here’s my Year in Review, My Top 5 Posts from Last Year:
+ Preventing LGBT Youth Suicides: A Case for Diversity — As new students (as well as returning) begin their fall seasons, it is worth reminding school officials, policy makers, and activists everywhere, that it’s going to take more than single-issue politics to create safer spaces for young people of color. This piece, published in Color Magazine, contains a personal account of my experience with bullying and depression as a young immigrant LGBT student.
+ In Memory of David Kato: We Will NOT Abandon Hope for Fear — When David Kato, a prominent African LGBT activist was murdered in his home earlier this year, my world stopped spinning. The only way I could push through the sadness I felt was by writing. The popularity of this post and the support I received for it was a reminder that even one person, one blog, one moment, can have a profound impact on people’s lives.
+ The Birth of Kitchen Table Converations Podcast: LGBT Africans Speak on Culture, Queerness, and Media — The post contains a link to my very first podcast in the Kitchen Table Conversation series, and includes the voices of four really inspiring LGBT Africans. The podcast itself has been downloaded ~250 times by people in the US, Europe, and Africa, many of who have reported that it’s sparked dialogue and action in their own local communities. I am so very proud of how it turned out, and will forever be grateful to the panelists (who I know call friends) for that life-changing conversation.
+ We Will Not be Unwritten: Preserving Queer Women of Color History — As someone who writes about media and the importance of documenting our own histories often, I couldn’t have asked for a better teaching moment. Bay Windows, New England’s Largest LGBT Newspaper, posted a factually incorrect article that erased the contributions of local black lesbian activists (myself included) re: an annual women’s health fair. Needless to say, I wasn’t having it.
+ A Creative Piece about Gender Roles That Caused So Much Controversy: Hunting Boi — I rarely post creative pieces on this blog. So when I was asked to contribute something to Bklyn Boihood’s site, a collective which calls for conscious masculinity through socials, dialogue, blogging, and other projects, I was thrilled, and jumped at the opportunity. What ensued was the most controversial comment thread my work has ever incited. To borrow from Erykah Badu, I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit, but the positive and negative feedback reminded me that art has the power to spark really important conversations across divisive lines (i.e. race, class, gender presentation etc), which the typical blog or “critical” essay would alienate. For the richness of conversations that followed, I am so grateful for the experience of sharing this piece and look forward to sharing more creative pieces with you all this upcoming year.
Again, to you all, thank you for your continued support of my work and my writing! There are tons of blogs on the internet, so I am grateful for every single time you take a few minutes to read one of mine. I am so looking forward to sharing and learning with you all as I embark on this next chapter of my life. Please stop by often, and remember to leave me a comment so I know you’re reading!
Happy Birthday to Me!
Founder’s Note: In the spirit of partnership-building, we wanted to highlight a community organization that has helped us make our purple pride extravaganza possible.
Through partnerships with other institutions that also give voice to members of the LGBTQ community of color, QWOC+ Boston has been able to extend our outreach efforts to include other sub-communities and networks over the years. In so doing, we’ve in turn provided frequent opportunities for other organizations to offer valuable resources and provide critical services to community members they may otherwise have been unable to reach. We believe this is an important part of community building, which is the core of our work. This is why, even when collaborating is challenging — which it often is — we believe it’s worth the discomfort to push through and find ourselves united in solidarity on the other side.
In the case of working with communities of color, and specifically, women of color, it should come as no surprise that many organizations end up doing more talking than actually working towards efforts to provide more culturally competent resources, increase multicultural diversity, or address gender inequities within their leadership. So when an organization extends themselves to us in the way that the Bisexual Resource Center (BRC) has this year, with no quid-pro-quo stipulations, no catch, no hidden agenda, just simply because they believe in the importance of the work we’re doing (and know first-hand how hard it can be for grassroots groups to get support), it’s like discovering a natural spring in the middle of the dessert, and then waiting to see if it’s a mirage…
Except it isn’t — the kind of support we have received from the BRC is the kind of support many marginalized groups are in serious need of and thus, deeply appreciate. I have been fortunate to meet and get to know a few members of the Bisexual Resource Center this year. And what has struck me about their leadership is that they continually extend their hands to us year-round; not just when they need co-sponsorship of an event or need us to sign some petition, but to offer words of encouragement after learning about trials we’ve experienced (i.e. racist venues during pride), and similarly, to congratulate us on our successes, and of course, let us know that they were down to help and support QWOC Week in whatever they could.
But what I really want people to know is this: As the co-sponsors of our Open Relationships and Polyamory discussion this past weekend, the Bisexual Resource Center remained enthusiastic and supportive even after the QWOC Week planning committee decided that the discussion would be closed to just people of color.
This meant that most (if not all) of the BRC board couldn’t attend the very event they were co-sponsoring. But they didn’t all of a sudden become lukewarm (something that we’ve seen happen time and time again once we relay that the kind of support we need is the less visible kind). They didn’t withdraw their support simply because they couldn’t be the center of attention and take credit for the discussion. They stayed on board with complete understanding of why it is that we — as women of color — needed to have the discussion in a safe-space for people of color. In fact, not only did they pay for appetizers for the post-discussion social, but they showed up after the event was over to check in with us and congratulate us on its success. I wish every other organization in Boston could be as gracious, and could push themselves to understand — as the Bisexual Resource Center does — that sometimes, the greatest support you can give communities of color is to take a back seat, and still cheer.
This is part of why we wanted to take a moment to say Thank You, to the Bisexual Resource Center. Beyond also providing valuable resources and support to bisexual women who are part of the QWOC communtiy, we have really appreciated their allyship during QWOC Week. Even though this is a relatively new partnership, we’re excited about continuing our work together and want other organizations to know that our experience so far has been overwhelmingly positive. We may run into hiccups along the way — it’s part of collaborating and learning about each other — but I’m confident that because we’re each coming from a place of real support, we’ll be able to push through any barriers and continue to create bi- and trans- safe spaces for women of color in Boston.
“QWOC, as we run in many of the same circles. My friends who are queer women of color get a lot out of her events; it fulfills their need for community, connection, and mutual understanding in a way that they can’t really find anywhere else. The Bisexual Resource Center has been providing resources to the bi community for over 25 years, and getting the message out about QWOC is a boon to the many folks we serve.”
– Jennifer Bonardi, Bisexual Resource Center
So please read about the Bisexual Resource Center below, and leave them a comment saying thank you on our behalf!
About the Bisexual Resource Center
The Bisexual Resource Center (BRC) is an educational organization that was founded in 1985. Originally known as the East Coast Bisexual Network, the organization is headquartered in Boston and provides education about bisexual and progressive issues. It also provides support services by hosting bi-positive events, promoting bi visibility, and welcoming all to their support group. The organization is the most active American bisexual advocacy and resource group. “The Bisexual Resource Center envisions a world where love is celebrated, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression.”
This summer, we were delighted to collaborate with the BRC to put on our QWOC Week Kickoff Event: A Discussion about Open Relationships & Polyamory in Queer/Trans Communities of Color.
Other fun facts:
- The BRC is part of a state wide coalition of organizations led by Mass. Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) to help push the adoption of H.R.1711, which outlaws gender-based discrimination and hate crimes.
- The organization joined an NGLTF-coordinated coalition of over 360 groups from across the country in ’07 to advocate for a trans and gender expression inclusive Employment and Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
- It is also the only bisexual organization in the National Coalition for LGBT Health
You can learn more about the Bisexual Resource Center by visiting their website: http://biresource.net/
The “It Gets Better” project began in September of 2010 when columnist and author Dan Savage sought to create a powerful way for individuals to support LGBTQ youth experiencing bullying and harassment. In response to the alarming number of young people taking their lives as a result of verbal and physical abuse, Dan and his partner Terry made a video meant to inspire hope. Since that initial video, the campaign has grown to thousands of videos and a book that was released in March of 2011 – It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living. The partnership between this project and The Trevor Project has become an important source of help and inspiration to people worldwide.
The complexity of being a member of the LGBTQ community and a person of color often results in harassment and rejection from many different angles. Members of the QWOC + Boston community have experienced this first hand and use inspiration and lessons from their stories to further the mission of the organization – “creating and sustaining a truly diverse social space for LGBTQ women of color” to ultimately bring about positive change in our society. With this in mind, we have decided to create an “It Gets Better” video – QWOC + Boston Edition. By sharing our stories through this powerful social media outlet, we hope to reach out to those, from any generation, stuck in the struggles created by the many facets of their identity. Many of us can now speak from the other side of the giant hurdles, so we want to let others know that this side does exist. It is essential to send a message that will resonate with the unique challenges of people of color. We also cannot forget our siblings abroad, living in countries where they fear for their lives because anything outside of heterosexuality and gender roles is not only taboo but also illegal. With this project, we hope to provide a glimmer of hope to queer and trans people of color everywhere.
What would you have wanted to hear during your toughest times? Knowing what you know now, what would you say to a young person struggling to hang on? In the spirit of QWOC Week, we hope you join and support us in this endeavor. It is a chance for all of us to engage in activism that will have an immeasurable affect. Diversity speaks, so lets make sure everyone can hear it.
As the QWOC+ Boston summer intern, the majority of my duties this summer have been related to the planning of this year’s purple pride extravaganza – QWOC Week! This has been a challenging and heartwarming journey. I have had the pleasure of working with a diverse and committed group of people. Each one of the volunteers and organizers welcomed me with open arms. As we approach the culmination of all our hard work, I am anxious to see the outcome unfold – to see this great community come together to connect and grow.
Just like in any grassroots work, the going is not always as smooth as one would like it to be…actually, it’s never as smooth as one would like it to be. During the brainstorming phase of planning, we had sheets filled with ideas for each day of QWOC Week and the best venues everyone could think of. However, as each planning meeting came and went our choices were often fewer and fewer. At times we were limited by high costs and a lack of communication from venues or collaborators, just to name a few obstacles. It is certainly frustrating to see amazing potential be limited due to lack of funding or support from other community organizations.
However, all of the challenges have been outweighed by the enthusiasm and hard work of a great team of volunteers. Most of these individuals have full time jobs and many other responsibilities. Yet, week after week they have happily attended our meetings and put their best effort into the project. Just when I would resign myself to the idea that something was simply not going to come together, one of our caring supporters would step in and save the day.
The most amazing aspect of this whole process has been the environment that QWOC + Boston creates. It is wonderful to sense the unanimous cheering and support when someone announces that they had the courage to come out to their family. No matter how long or draining, ending a meeting with news that someone will soon be marrying their beloved partner is exhilarating and provides a great deal of perspective. It is extremely rewarding to see new friends look forward to their first queer anything like a “kid at Christmas.” Ultimately, each one of us is working to reach out to queer people of color with the goal of creating more spaces like this one; to encourage personal connections that result in a strong commitment to support each other and to tackle the issues that affect the QWOC community.
As a college student, this experience has renewed my faith in the world outside of my world. I realized, for instance, that although everyone involved with QWOC + Boston has real world responsibilities and challenges, an organization like this one can still be strong and effect change.
So to those individuals that have been critical to the success of this process I say, Thank You! You bring comfort and hope to those, young or not so young, who are often afraid of and disappointed by the world.
To those of you who have the opportunity to attend QWOC Week, I invite you to enjoy the product of this labor of love.
As is the case with queer people of color, the experiences of many queer Latinas living in the U.S are filled with challenges; identifying with anything outside of heterosexuality and the gender binary remains largely taboo in the Latino culture.
As a direct result, it is most common to face hurtful and offensive reactions when we come out to individuals in our community. Most of us have something to contribute to the list of outrageous reactions and theories from friends or family members. Statements along the lines of – “you have shamed your family…” , “you are simply experiencing a phase…”, “you clearly need to invest more of yourself at church…”, and my personal favorite – “we did not immigrate to this country so that you could live like this… do our years of hard work mean nothing to you?!”
These words would break anyone’s morale. Despite how much you have prepared, imagined and re-imagined all possible scenarios in your mind, chances are that you will be emotionally affected by this crucial moment – for better or for worse. As for me…
In the beginning of my process, I was actually very hopeful about the reactions of some of my family members. But when I made the decision to come out, to be on the safe side I chose to start with a parent whom I believed would ultimately support me. Of course, I expected some initial shock and parental concern about how I would be treated by outsiders. This person was a member of my family – mi sangre – so I innocently believed I had a good shot at a positive outcome as long as I assured them of my safety and well-being. Nevertheless, I considered every scenario – good, bad and everything in between. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by the world’s most supportive people, so as my friends cheered me on, I felt ready, convinced that bond and unconditional love would prevail and my absolute happiness would take priority over anything else.
I was visiting my parents’ home during some time off. Everyone was off to bed and he came in to the room to check on me and wish me a good night. I thought to myself, “This is it. It’s never going to feel like the perfect time so this has to be it.” I prefaced the conversation as best as I knew how, thinking it would soften the blow. However, my over-contextualizing only seemed to alarm him. The tension began to make me nauseous and lightheaded, but I pushed through, forcing the words I’d practiced through the barrier I felt building up inside of me. When I finally got to the point, the tension broke, but in the form of an explosive reaction from my father as he interrupted me. I could barely finish what I had to say when my contribution to the list became, “Please don’t do this to us…”
Words cannot describe the disappointment I felt. While I understood the shock a Latino parent might experience, I could not and still cannot, understand how any parent can look at their child in the eyes and pronounce those words. They implied so many misconceptions. “Please don’t do this to us.…” as if I was making an active choice that could somehow be reserved and that would otherwise jeopardize the stability of my family. But most importantly, they invalidated the purpose of that very moment. Rather than being about my emotional health and all it had taken for me to arrive at that moment, it became explosive, and about the harm I’d be doing to my family — I felt cheated. And those unfounded words — “Please don’t do this to us…” became wounds.
In that instance, more than ever before, all the statistics I’d learned about in school — about LGBTQ bullying, violence, homelessness and suicide — became real. I am not financially or otherwise dependent on my family, but I couldn’t help but think about those who are… In preparation for the worst, my supportive and devoted partner had made arrangements so that I could get away from the disrespect and heartbreak immediately, but what about those who have no one else? Who feel alone? My tears and disillusionment joined theirs.
Since realizing my queer identity, I have become even more grateful that my family immigrated and made it in the U.S.. That life-changing decision made years ago now means that, unlike many Latinos elsewhere, I have the opportunity to live in peace, and love who I love without fearing for my well-being. Just like my parents taught me during years of hard work and adverse experiences, I know I deserve happiness and equality despite what others do and say. Those lessons are not exclusively for coping with racism or machismo or labor inequality or ignorance… As I continue to discover the complexity of my identities, all of those experiences take on a whole new meaning. Ultimately, they have shaped me and allowed me to develop the strength to be true to myself – I will always be grateful for that. Now the question is whether my family, and that of many others, will ever be grateful for the same.
While it isn’t enough, there is certainly support for LGBTQ people around the country. However, we cannot forget the marginalization of LGBTQ people of color — Latin@s included — within the mainstream community. Our experiences and struggles are unique, but sadly, often disregarded. I know first hand the pain of feeling shut out from both your Latino and queer community. It creates the feeling that you are yelling at the top of your lungs in a room full of people and yet no one can hear you. Some have a problem with the color of my skin, while the other, with whose hand I’m holding. For some, it’s a combination of the two.
It is a responsibility of both the queer and Latino communities to be inclusive of everyone who comprises them. These are the elements that make up who we are so we must demand the visibility we need. All of my Latino siblings should have someone who will support them and understand precisely what it is like to be accepted or rejected by their sangre.
I cannot describe how excited I am to tell you that our beloved 2010 summer intern, Erika Turner (and my adopted lil sis) has been awarded a 2011 Point Foundation Scholarship! If I’m not mistaken, the Point Foundation is the most prestigious scholarship dedicated to supporting LGBT people in their educational endeavors. Erika, we are SO proud of you.
Erika charmed (and educated) us all last summer via her bi-weekly blog, where she talked about everything from being a young queer woman of color in search of community to activism as an expression of love, and — of course — her experience interning at QWOC+ Boston, which she very generously refers to as what further galvanized her leadership and student organizing on Wellesley’s campus.
Since ending her QWOC+ Boston internship, Erika has been a passionate ambassador for QWOC+ Boston on her campus, spreading the word about our work and really upping our profile with Wellesley students (thank you, Erika!). More importantly, she galvanized BlackOUT (Wellesley’s student group for Black lesbian, bisexual, queer, and/or questioning students), spear-headed an inter-college spring social for LGBTQ students of color (which was such a huge success, they’re going to do it again!), and is currently preparing to study abroad for a year in Japan.
But wait, I’m not done yet! Erika’s new project is creating an online platform for queer students of color living or studying abroad to blog about their experiences. As if being a certified trailblazer on her campus and now nationally isn’t enough.
Erika, I am sure I speak for everyone when I say that we are all so very proud of you. By working as hard as you do, not just for your own gains, but to improve the livelihood of others around you, you’ve inspired me beyond words, and I’m sure others too. As my little sister turned warrior woman, you are way more than just an intern that passed through; you are proof, that the greatest gift we can give to the world is in the form of our authentic selves, to each other. I can’t tell you how honored I am to have met you.
Please scroll down below to read Erika’s bio on the Point Scholarship site. And be sure to leave a comment letting her know that you’re proud of her too!
East Asian Studies
Erika Turner grew up her mother and sister in the suburbs of Las Vegas. While in high school, she was surprised to discover that two of her closest friends identified as queer. Their love and support was key in her acceptance of herself as a lesbian. Though her father, step-parents and older sister were supportive of her sexual orientation, her mother found it hard to accept. She feared that Erika’s sexuality, coupled with her gender and race, might hinder her ability to succeed academically and professionally.
Undeterred, Erika became a leader in her school newspaper and earned over twenty writing awards for her journalistic and creative writing endeavors from sophomore to senior year. She graduated Liberty High School as one of the top students in her class. Upon entering college, she became more interested in social justice issues and become the sex and sexuality chair of Wellesley’s once-homophobic black social organization, Ethos. After interning with Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+) over the summer and forming a close bond with her supervisor and mentor, Adaora Asala, she returned to Wellesley for a second year as the co-sex and sexuality chair of Ethos and formed blackOUT, a social and support group for queer and questioning students of African descent. Currently, Erika is preparing to spend her junior year at Japan Women’s University and Waseda University’s School of International Liberal Studies. She plans to continue working with Ethos and blackOUT while abroad and upon returning to the States in her senior year. She is also working on a blog dedicated to the experiences of black and queer students abroad. With her passion for writing and social justice, Erika hopes to enter the professional world of mainstream media to help increase and diversify the visibility of LGBTQ people and people of color. Her mother is extremely proud of her.
We are thrilled to welcome Lina, our 2011 Summer Intern, to QWOC+ Boston, just in time for QWOC Week Planning Season!
Just two weeks into her internship and Lina has already proven that she’s not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get to work; she was invaluable as we transitioned from one venue to another during pride week, has already gotten the hang of her supporting role during QWOC Week planning meetings, scheduling meeting reminders, taking clear and effective meeting minutes, and even tossing an event
idea into the hat — a panel featuring the experience of Queer Latinas. What! We have already fallen in love with her and we know you will too.
Lina has posted a quick hello for all of you, so please give her a warm welcome
My name is Lina and I am a rising junior Wellesley College. I am originally from Bogota, Colombia but I grew up in the D.C area. At Wellesley, I’m majoring in International Relations with a concentration in Political Science and minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies.
I’m most passionate about issues of social justice as they pertain to communities of color – hence my interest in QWOC + Boston. Through my work as an intern, I hope to contribute to the wonderful team of organizers and to learn a few things that may improve my activism on Wellesley’s campus.
I have a great love of photography, so you will likely see me behind the camera at QWOC+ Boston events this summer, capturing all of the fun! I also love food and find it very relaxing to cook delicious and healthy meals.
I very much look forward to becoming a member of the QWOC + Boston family this summer!
*Applause, Applause* She’s taking kudos, advice, words of wisdom and encouragement while dealing with us purple crazies, and of course, food… all our interns love food.
Originally posted at www.spectraspeaks.com
A few weeks ago, the Fenway Women’s Health Team posted a blog on Bay Windows about their upcoming 2nd annual women’s health fair. QWOC+ Boston had organized and tabled at this event for the past three years. Yet, written in an authoritative third person omniscient voice was the line, “Thanks to the dedication of a single woman, Fenway Health is proudly hosting its 2nd Annual LBT Women’s Health Fair…”
The women’s health fair wasn’t in it’s second, but third year, and long before the dedicated efforts of a single woman, an entire community of queer women of color, myself included, had worked with Fenway Women’s Health Team via a series of conversations and community-building initiatives to delimit access to health resources for queer people of color. This ultimately led to the planning and execution of the first health fair, appropriately titled, “A Little Less Talk, A Lot More Action,” and hosted collaboratively by Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston), Queer Asian Pacific Alliance (QAPA), and Somos Latinos (now Unid@s, under the umbrella of Boston Pride).
But, if you’re one out of the 55,000 people that follows Bay Windows, firmly established as New England’s largest LGBT newspaper, you wouldn’t have known any of this.
A Brief History Lesson: The inaugural health fair took place on Thursday April 30th, 2008, exactly three years ago, during which various organizations tabled at the event, presenting a plethora of resources from free breast cancer screenings, safe sex toys, HPV vaccination information, and acupuncture. The main part of the event, the panel on the impact of stress, addressed health disparities between women of color and white women, from varied perspectives, including public health, mental health, socio-economic status, and more.
Additionally, the inception of the first health fair happened almost four years ago at the inauguration of QWOC+ Boston’s Pride Festival — QWOC Week — during a panel focused on health issues in WOC Communities. The QWOC Week Panel featured inspiring and touching personal stories and perspectives from an older generation of Black Lesbian activists (a few of who are my mentors/sheroes – Lula Christopher, Jacquie Bishop, Reverend Irene Monroe, and Lisa Moris) and was moderated by Dr. Konjit Page, then a Psychology PhD candidate focused on the mental health of queer women of color. The room was bursting with inspiration and empowerment when the panel ended. So much so that Reverend Irene Monroe even published a piece about it called Sisters are Doing It For Themselves
The chronology of these dates, collaborations, and events are important to note as they weave together an important part of history for Boston’s queer women of color community, highlighting the actionable steps that we took together to improve access to health resources for queer and transgender communities of color.
Yet, in one line, history had been omitted, or in this case, un-written.
It is also important to note that even though our initiative had originally set out to empower LBTQ women of color, the language that had been previously used to indicate a conscious targeting of this marginalized group had been dropped completely, however inadvertently, under the umbrella of empowering all women.
Given the context around the origination of the health fair (at a queer women of color festival), and its subsequent success — a small but important piece of history — you must imagine my deep disappointment at the ability of a single blog post to completely erase almost four years of hard work that had actually resulted in a tangible benefit for the LGBT community.
But let me be clear: I don’t for a second imagine that this near erasure of history happened intentionally. The blog about Fenway’s Women’s Health fair sought simply to highlight the efforts of their team to preserve the health fair in the face of funding cuts and limited resources. And, for that, they have my deepest gratitude and support. Without their hard work and dedication, there would be no women’s health fair at all, and the future we’ve worked so hard to create would dissipate right in front of us.
Still, as our community continues to push against the walls of oppression, whether funding cuts, racism and homophobia in the health system, and other social justice fronts, we must remember that preserving the stories of our past is just as important as fighting for a better future; history is the only way the world will ever know about the many battles we have fought, about the battles we have won, and most importantly, the only way we can leave a clear path for the generation behind us to follow. In the words of Audre Lorde, “ It’s a struggle but that’s why we exist, so that another generation of Lesbians of color will not have to invent themselves, or their history, all over again.”
It is from this place that I could not stand by while the contributions to the improved livelihood of queer women of color in Boston by community members — including my own mentors, women whose shoulders I am proud to stand on — were at risk of being erased, and not just due to an inadvertent error with dates. Perhaps Fenway failed to appropriately contextualize the event, but Bay Windows’ carelessness (or complete absence of) fact-checking, and the general callousness that I find in mainstream media outlets when covering issues affecting women, people of color, transgender people etc., isn’t a problem that I see going away any time soon.
So, as a leader I have to acknowledge my own role (or lack thereof) at arriving at this juncture i.e. my neglect for the past five years to formally document gains QWOC+ Boston has made as far as increasing visibility for queer people of color and the movement of embracing diversity we’ve created in Boston, save this blog.
As LGBT people (esp. members of marginalized groups: women, people of color, transgender, disabled etc), we all need to do a better job of telling our own stories, and in effect, writing ourselves (back) into history. As I learned from this experience, we’re not just at risk of being completely ignored by mainstream media, but about having our history being talked over, our pronouns mixed up, our hard work being told in passive voice i.e “It happened.” We do a disservice to each other when we fail to affirm the actions of the generations closely following behind us, when we fail to let them know that “We were here,” and as such, that they can do it better, and get further down the path to equality than we ever imagined possible.
I can’t say this enough: Get to it. Start a blog. Create a Youtube channel. Write a book — you can self-publish. Support organizations like the LGBT History Project who work tirelessly to record our histories (orally if need be). But whatever you do from this point, remember the words of Audre Lorde, “Your silence will not protect you,” or the words of my mentor, Letta Neely, if you like your wisdom plain, “Write that shit, down!”
Spectra is an award-winning activist and writer about all things race, gender, sexuality, leadership, and diversity. S/he is the Founding Director of QWOC+ Boston and host of the new podcast, Kitchen Table Conversations. You can read more about Spectra’s work at www.spectraspeaks.com or follow her tweets at @spectraspeaks.