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For Immediate Release:
Queer Women of Color Week Uses Art, Performance, and Dialogue to Address Segregation in Communities of Color
“QWOC Week is important because it’s the only event of its kind…It recognizes, cherishes, and celebrates my WHOLE identity.”
Boston, MA, July 18th — Join Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston) for their 4th annual week-long pride festival, QWOC Week, taking place this year from Saturday July 30th – Saturday August 6th.
This year, QWOC Week, known for its eclectic back-to-back schedule of innovative art, discussion, and community-building events, is focused on increasing solidarity between LGBTQ communities of color by creating space for a myriad of affinity groups. A highly anticipated annual spoken-word and live music showcase, OUTSPOKEN — The BLACKOUT Edition, will feature an all-black lesbian performer lineup this year, including nationally reknowned black lesbian poet Letta Neely, and reigning local slam poet, Porscha (who will also be competing at the National Poetry Slam taking place in Cambridge the following week).
Founding Director, Spectra A. I. Asala says that whatever the theme, OUTSPOKEN always attracts all kinds of people who are eager to learn about issues impacting queer and transgender women of color in general. “The performers are unapologetically loud and proud, and it’s refreshing, especially since the experiences of LGBTQ people of color are often over-politicized as hot button “issues” or trivialized via “at-risk” statistics. OUTSPOKEN is an empowering celebration of who we are as LGBTQ people, but as women of color as well.”
The intentional focus on women is clear. QWOC Week’s opening panel, “Trans Women of Color Speak” hosted in collaboration with TransCEND and Mass Transgender Political Coalition, brings forth an important conversation about the role of transgender women of color in stonewall in light of their subsequent marginalization within the gay movement. The event encourages both queer and trans communities to work together towards creating safe spaces for transgender women of diverse cultural backgrounds.
But women aren’t the only affinity group being highlighted during the week. This year, QWOC+ Boston has teamed up with Mass. South Asian Lamba Association, Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (QAPA) and MAP for Health to address the lack of visibility of Asians/Asian-Americans within the broader LGBTQ community of color. “At my school, I’ve seen first hand how the queer Asian community is deliberately passed over and seen as ‘the other’, even when they are the most vocal in the LGBT POC community,” remarked Wellesley student organizer (and 2011 Point Foundation scholar), Erika Turner. Turner, who is also part of the planning committee for Family Day in the Park — an all-ages, youth- and family-friendly event in Stony Brook, JP, credits her commitment to creating supportive spaces for LGBT women of color to the positive experience interning with QWOC+ Boston in 2010. “QWOC Week is important because it’s the only event of its kind,” she says, “It has been the only Pride I’ve experienced that recognizes, cherishes, and celebrates my WHOLE identity.”
QWOC Week is being planned and executed entirely by a grassroots group of volunteers and dedicated community supporters. Collaborators include The Network/ La Red, an organization dedicated to ending partner abuse in LGBTQ communities, Black and Pink, a prison-abolitionist organization, The Bisexual Resource Center, and many others.
“All our events are open to everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality, hence the wide range of collaborations,” says Asala, “Plus, they’re fun! There’s something for everyone, whether you’re new to Boston, artsy, political, love the outdoors etc. We want our friends, families, and allies to be part of this amazing week.” For more information about QWOC Week, including the full schedule, visit http://www.qwocboston.org/qwoc-week/ or the official registration page at qwocweek2011.eventbrite.com.
A limited number of spaces for press (and community leaders) to attend the closing reception on Saturday August 6th are available. Please send all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Spectra at 617.871.0431
List of Collaborating Organizations
Bisexual Resource Center (BRC) (Gold Sponsor)
Emerson College, Office Multicultural Student Affairs & GLBTQ Resources
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
Mass. South Asian Lambda Association (MASALA)
Mass. Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC)
Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (QAPA)
Suffolk University, Office of Diversity Services
Suffolk University, President’s Commission on the Status of LGBTQ Faculty, Staff and Students
Suffolk University, President’s Commission on the Status of AHANA Faculty, Staff, and Students
Power Lesbian Network (PLN)
The Network / La Red (TNLR) (Platinum Sponsor)
Transgender Care and Education Needs Diversity (TransCEND)
***SURVIVOR KITS FOR THE NETWORK/LA RED
This year we are also holding a Survivor Drive for The Network/La Red, a wonderful organization dedicated to support services and addressing partner abuse in LGBTQ and polyamorous communities. Please consider contributing one of the items listed below.
Food Gift Cards (Shaws/Stop& Shop/Star)
CVS/Rite Aid Gift Cards
Charlie Cards with stored value
Movie Theater Passes
Lotion (Small Bottles/Travel Size)
Reusable water bottles
These items may be dropped off at the follow QWOC Week Events:
-7/31: A Discussion about Open Relationships & Polyamory
-8/3: Activism & Karaoke* – BRING AN ITEM TO DONATE & GET IN FOR FREE!
-8/6: Family & Youth Day at the Park
*We’re asking all guests to bring donations to gain entrance to this event (or pay a $10).
QWOC WEEK 2011 SCHEDULE
NOTE: All events are open to the public (i.e. everyone) except where specified.
Saturday July 30th 2PM – 5PM
A Discussion about Open Relationships & Polyamory in Queer/Trans Communities of Color
In collaboration with The Network/La Red & The Bisexual Resource Center
Harvard Democracy Center | 25 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Facebook Event |
Sunday July 31st @ 3PM – 7PM
Old School Meets New School T-Dance
In collaboration w/ Spectra Events’ Power Lesbian Network and Boston Black Women’s Health Initiative
Redd’s | 4257 Washington Street, Roslindale, MA 02131
Monday August 1st @ 6 PM – 8:30 PM
Opening Panel – Trans Women of Color Speak
In collaboration with Transgender Care & Education Needs Diversity (TransCEND), Mass Trans Political Coalition (MTPC), and Suffolk University Offices of Diversity Services.
Suffolk University Law School (Sargent Hall Function Room) | 120 Tremont Street, 1st floor
Facebook Event |
Tuesday August 2nd @ 6 PM – 8 PM
Building Bridges: Queer Asian Experiences in LGBTQ Communities of Color
In collaboration with Mass. Area South Asian Lambda Association (MASALA), Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance (QAPA) & MAP for Health
MIT Room 36-112 | STATA CENTER 32 Vassar Street Cambridge MA 02139
Facebook Event |
Wednesday August 3rd @ 6 PM – 9 PM
Activism & Karaoke: The International Edition
In collaboration with Black & Pink and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
(Drop Off for Week-Long Survivor Kit Drive for The Network/La Red)
CLUB CAFE | 209 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA
Cost: Donated Items or $10
Thursday August 4th @ 7 PM – 1 AM
OUTSPOKEN – The BLACKOUT Edition produced by Spectra Events
Queer & Trans People of Color Spoken- Word & Live Music Showcase
Co-sponsored by Salacious Magazine
OBERON | 2 Arrow Street Cambridge MA
Facebook Event | Tickets ($10 Online, $15 at the Door)
Friday August 5th @ 7 PM
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTIVISM: QWOC Film Night
EMERSON COLLEGE | 150 Boylston Street (1st Floor), Boston MA 02116
Facebook Event |
Saturday August 6th @ 12 PM – 4 PM
Family Day at Stony Brook Park
Supporting Organizations: Boston GLASS and Greater Boston PFLAG
STONY BROOK PARK | Jamaica Plain, MA
Facebook Event |
Saturday August 6th @ 8 PM – 1 AM
QWOC Week Closing Ceremony and Dance Party
In collaboration with Spectra Events
The Midway Cafe | 3496 Washington Street, Jamaica Plain, MA
Cost: $5-10 Online, $12 at the Door
Facebook Event | Tickets ($5-8 Online, $10-12 at the Door)
It is with great excitement that we welcome Asha Carter, our first Development Intern, to the QWOC+ Boston family! We first met Asha at our spring social last year, and then right at the end of QWOC Week, when she confessed that she’d been sizing us up via our last intern’s blog posts and bursts of excitement on Facebook. Apparently, we made the cut! She applied to be our intern this year, and we couldn’t be any more thrilled to have her.
This spring, plan on hearing from Asha via our bi-weekly newsletters, blog posts, and of course Facebook and Twitter! She’ll be helping us get ready for the summer by putting together our Spring Social (during which we recruit brand new volunteers for 2011), and blazing the trail as the lead coordinator of our first Youth Development Weekend in May!
Here are a few words from Asha:
Hey, everybody!! My name is Asha, and I’m a sophomore at Wellesley College. I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. I’m a Peace and Justice Studies major, with a concentration in Urban Development and Sustainability. I spend a lot of time working on youth outreach, but when I’m not doing that, I sing, dance, act, and spend *way too much* time with my close friends. I’m bubbly, I love kids, and meeting and talking to new people feeds me like nothing else.
I’ve met a wide range of people in the first two decades of my life, but the more I learn, the more I realize how much is left to know–a daunting, but thrilling discovery to make. I’m really looking forward to working with QWOC+ Boston, and having a fantastic semester!
Please join us in welcoming Asha! *applause applause* Leave her a comment of encouragement, wisdom, warning, or warm welcome
For Immediate Release:
Spectra Speaks, founding director of QWOC+ Boston and award-winning LGBT activist, is interested in interviewing LGBT POC leaders in the US and human rights activists around the world as part of the QWOC Talk Project.
If you’re an LGBT activist/leader based in the US, who is part of the (or works closely with) the LGBT people of community, or a human rights activist working to further the fight for LGBT equality and acceptance in any part of the world, you are invited to participate in this interview series.
The project launches in February, and in solidarity with Black History Month, will feature interviews from Black LGBT Leaders across the country (from New England to the West Coast) and the globe (spanning various parts of Africa and Europe).
Note from Spectra:
“Too often, we lose momentum in movements due to lack of mentorship and access to the wealth of knowledge held collectively by our leadership. I’m interested in speaking with individuals who are working in various capacities to improve the livelihood of their communities because I believe that through these people, we can all learn something, even if it is that we — as leaders — are not alone in the struggle for acceptance and eventually, equality.
So whether or not you’re featured in your local newspaper, part of 501c3 organization or proudly unaffiliated, creating change legally or socially, speaking out via Op-Eds or through your craft as an artist, remember that you are an important part of the LGBT movement. You ARE an important asset to all of us, and I’d be honored to hear from you.”
Please submit some preliminary information HERE and you will receive an email if you’re profile aligns with the mission of this project. This could take anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on interest and interview schedules, which will be conducted via phone, in-person (depending on location), email, or Skype.
Spread the word.
- Spectra Speaks Blog: http://www.spectraspeaks.com/
- Follow on Twitter: @spectraspeaks #diversityspeaks
- Email: warriorwoman (at) spectraspeaks (dot) com
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.
We are very excited to announce that two film students at Emerson have decided to donate their time and talents this summer to creating promo videos and a film documentary about QWOC+ Boston!
Over the past several years, many organizer, volunteers, and ambassadors have helped us (by taking pictures at our events) photo-document a variety of very rich and colorful milestones and achievements; however, due to lack of resources (and know-how), we have barely collected any video footage of our work. In fact, up until last year, when we collaborated with Truth Serum to produce OUTSPOKEN, and we filmed Letta Neely’s very funny, yet thought-provoking piece, “Crazy Stuff White People Say,” we had no videos at all. Hence, this offer to accept the professional capture our ever-evolving contribution to New England’s queer landscape on film is both welcomed and appreciated.
As our savvy filmmakers will be capturing footage during some upcoming events (including tonight at Mixology), and potentially approaching community members for interviews, we thought it made sense to introduce them officially to the community. So, please join us in welcoming, thanking, and encouraging our our two student filmmakers on their skill donation to QWOC+ Boston and on their road to the red carpet, Christina and Sharif! Bios below…
Christina Campbell was born and raised in New York City. Coming from immigrant Jamaican parents has had great influence on the style of her personal work.Growing up in NYC, the city that never sleeps, she developed an interest in photography and film. From the corner bodegas of the Bronx, to the glass skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan, she saw captivating images in all things. However, in time, she chose to pursue an acting career . After many years of acting, she accepted that despite the thrill of the stage, she would much rather work her magic behind the camera. As a sophomore she transferred to Emerson College in Boston, where she is now majoring in Cinematography. She is also currently working on a series of oil paintings, as well as, the QWOC+ documentary. For her, QWOC+ represents a blending of culture and people in an accepting environment, aligning perfectly with the way she envisons the world should be. To see what women as individuals accomplish in QWOC+ has been a very empowering experience for her.
Sharif El Neklawy was born, strangely, in Salt Lake City Utah on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) to his Filipino mother and French/Egyptian father who immigrated and met in that city of all places. For as long as he can remember, Sharif has been fascinated by the images on the silver screen and at home, but it wasn’t until he was introduced to movies like The Usual Suspects and Fight Club in the seventh grade that Sharif knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. He didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but after years past and hundreds upon hundreds of movies were watched, it was the director’s chair that seemed most appealing. So that is the goal for Sharif as he goes into his final year at Emerson College and into the real world. He grew up with movies and now that he’s grown up, it seems fitting that he start making them. When asked about his decision to make a film for QWOC+ Boston, he stated, “When Tikesha [the Director of Multicultural Affairs at Emerson and a QWOC+ organizer] brought forward the idea of a documentary I didn’t hesitate in trying to involve myself. My partner in crime, Christina, and I are looking to do a lot of our own productions this summer, constantly practicing and getting better at our craft, so this was the perfect opportunity to work on a documentary, which neither of us have really done before. I’ve learned that you always learn something new in filmmaking and making this documentary for QWOC+ Boston should only reinforce that notion.”
Recently, a QWOC+ Boston member, Amelia Chew, posted on the facebook wall for the Mixology event on May 14th alerting the community at large of a serious issue surrounding OM Lounge’s management’s violation of labor laws; per the cited testimony, the owners of OM Lounge are guilty of wage theft against Asian and Latino immigrant workers (as recently as last year!), and so alongside the allegation of the facebook user’s experience advocating for these workers came a request to change the venue for OM Lounge. The latter part of this post details our response to Amee Chew and states the reasons why the organizers for this event have come to our decision to refuse this request.
As the QWOC+ Boston organizers and event admins had received no notice of this disturbing circumstance or venue request change beforehand from Amee (note: Amee also sent an email to the facebook alias simultaneously as she posted on the facebook wall), there was some disappointment expressed internally (and even externally – a few viewers of the event post wrote to QWOC+ asking if we’d know about the labor law violations and if we’d already refused to consider the request to change the events’ venue) at the manner at which this issue was presented – publicly, without first reaching out directly to any of the volunteers/organizers of QWOC+ Boston or waiting for an email response from us before posting publicly on facebook.
The event organizers have considered the allegations in greater detail and put forth a response to the community member’s request to change the venue via the email response below; we are in agreement it seems, from Amy’s follow-up response, that it is in the best interest of our community to always raise our voices concerning cross-issues of social justice, but also, and in acknowledgement of other people’s passions, personal causes, and social justice work, to learn to work together on them as well, presenting a more unified stance and stronger network of advocacy. We are after all, individual people, sisters, brothers, volunteers, and peers, before we are ‘activists’ and/or ‘organizers’.
Incidentally, the organizers of QWOC+ Boston would like to take this opportunity to make clear that if any member of the community is concerned about an event, a social injustice issue, or would like to see ‘more of something’ in Boston via QWOC+ Boston’s programming, we encourage you to reach out to us at email@example.com and show up to any one of our OPEN meetings to talk about your interests and/or how you’d like to contribute to help make Boston a better place for us all.
If you are asking volunteers – individuals with complex lives – to be accountable to the multiple number of communities to which we all belong as triple minorities under QWOC+ Boston’s mantra, then you simply must do the same and acknowledge that you also make up QWOC+ Boston. We have no membership rules or fees, and most of our events are free because we’d like to create and sustain social spaces that are accessible to as many people as possible. An invitation to become a volunteer as part of our social group is a unique “opportunity” to connect with others like yourself, build the interpersonal connections that are necessary to convince others in turn that whatever cause you are passionate about is worth fighting for.
Below is the original post, followed by QWOC+ Boston’s response (and decision); both Amee and a few of her peers in this request have agreed to volunteer at QWOC+ Boston and work with us to advocate for more inclusive social change, and acknowledge our inability to change the venue of the event or cancel it. Please feel free to post your comments and thoughts via this blog. We also strongly encourage community members who are interested in working with us to promote awareness of cross-cultural issues to join us as volunteers and organizers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details about how to get involved!
Monday May 4, 2009
QWOC+ Boston’s Response to Change the Venue of “Mixology” on May 14th
Thank you for your continued support of Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston) and for bringing this very important issue to our attention. We are very proud of the activist community we serve, and are confident that community members’ voices (like yours) will always help keep us informed about incidents like this. So, even though we operate more distinctly as a social networking group (vs. a publicly accountable 501c), we are always VERY interested and open to feedback from the community members that support QWOC+ Boston.
As we are volunteer-run and do not receive recurring funding, it is both a blessing and a curse that QWOC+ Boston’s sustainability relies on the collaborative efforts and relationships we’ve built between other local social groups, non-profits, promoters, and, more pertinently, venues. The questionable character of the OM Lounge owners, based on the anecdote that you’ve sent, is very upsetting to us. Many of the organizers are of color, from immigrant families, and thus, were personally touched (and infuriated) by this revelation. However, the timing for a more proactive response couldn’t be worse; we already signed the event contract with OM, many print fliers and email announcements have gone out for the event, which is just 10 days away, and we know from direct experience producing events of this kind that we’ll be unable to find an alternate venue – one that is queer-friendly, open to a large group of people of color, willing to give us a space for free – on such short notice. Moreover, MIXOLOGY is our first overtly trans-inclusive event of the year – part of our 2009 initiative to reach out to more trans people in the of color/ally community – and thus, is an extremely important event to us as a group. For these reasons, we cannot acquiesce to any requests to change the venue, nor will we entertain the only other alternative course of action, which would be to cancel the event.
Incidentally, there are many establishments in the Greater Boston area that are guilty of some social injustice or the other. With the limited resources the QWOC+ Boston core organizers have at our disposal, if we tried to take on every single social issue that affect us as minorities, the hard truth is simply this: we would have no where to go and we’d be playing a passive role in contributing to the social isolation that already exists for queer women of color in the Greater Boston area. Searching for viable spaces to host QWOC+ Boston social events is no easy feat for community members that volunteer their time to organizing for QWOC+ Boston; most venues are not that supportive of small social groups, and require large dollar amounts in down payments and/or costly room reservations for social events; many more are homophobic and recoil at the thought of giving their establishment an unwanted ‘reputation’ by hosting us; and lots more are overtly racist via their strict dress codes and/or conduct (e.g. no hats, no sneakers, no baggy jeans, no hip-hop music etc). The list is endless. However, if through your work, you’ve become well-informed of social-injustice-free venues that are better-suited to host QWOC+ events, we whole-heartedly invite you to join us as part of our organizer committee for 2009 and play a more proactive role in the planning and producing of our events.
We hope that it goes without saying that, in the future, if you have any insights to share with us, we encourage you to reach out to us directly before setting the stage for a public protest. We believe it is in all our interests to engage in dialogue around important issues such as this one and work together with concerned community members to present a more unified stance on oppression and social injustice. In this instance, we realize that you were only trying to make sure that the message reached us as soon as possible so that we could potentially address the situation, and we greatly appreciate your fortitude and initiative. However, I think you would agree that QWOC+ Boston provides a very valuable outlet to many marginalized members of the community via a variety of community-building social events (including QWOC Week in August). So, were our good work to be overlooked and/or painted in a negative light due to lack of communication, possibly preventing future events from being supported/well-attended by any subset of the community, it would do ALL of us a great injustice.
On a final note, we are sensitive to the fact that you worked directly with the immigrant workers that fell victim to this instance of wage theft, and completely understand if you do not wish to support the business of OM Lounge. We’d still like you to consider supporting the idea behind this event by attending, yet abstaining from purchasing any food or drinks; this would be a great way to continue to support QWOC+ Boston but present your disapproval of the management of OM Lounge in a tangible way that hits home i.e. not giving them your money.
If you are dissatisfied with our response to this issue in any way, we are more than happy to have you come to our open meeting on Thursday, May 7th at the Cambridge Women’s Center at 6:30PM, and engage you as a new QWOC+ Boston volunteer so that you can meet the other organizers and schedule a time to discuss possible alternatives were this circumstance to present itself again in the future. Thanks again for your work, your words, and your voice. We hope you continue to support ours as well.
QWOC+ Boston Organizers
Original Email from Amelia Chew
May 1, 2009
For the past few years, I’ve served as staff at the immigrant workers center of the Chinese Progressive Association, a grassroots community organization in Chinatown. The workers center helps immigrant workers learn about their rights and supports them in taking collective action.
I am aware of serious labor violations that the owners of OM Lounge are responsible for. They, Bik Yonjan and Solman Chowdhury, also ran a Malaysian restaurant called Rendang, that shared a kitchen with OM (it was in the same building).
In late 2007, Chinese kitchen workers at Rendang came to our workers center. They reported working 72 hours a week, not receiving minimum wage and overtime pay in violation of labor law, and exploitative conditions including sex discrimination. They also told us that Latino workers worked these same hours but were paid even less, at $1300 per month. Rendang closed last year after issuing the workers bad checks.
While we did help the Chinese workers recover some of their unpaid wages and bounced checks, Yonjan and Chowdhury never took full responsibility for the full wages the workers are owed under the law; they are still owed tens of thousands of dollars. Wage theft is a serious issue for immigrant workers.
In light of this, I was wondering if QWOC would be able to change Mixology to a different venue? I am a queer women of color, and really support and appreciate QWOC’s efforts to build communtiy and create spaces! However, I would not be able to attend this event in good conscience.
I’m glad to provide more information or talk more about the above situation.
Thank you for reading and all that you do,
Follow-Up Response from Amelia Chew
May 4th, 2009
[ ] – info paraphrased for privacy
Thank you for your reply and also taking the time to talk by phone. I really appreciate, and respect, the serious consideration you’ve given to the email I sent, on top of all the event planning and organizing.
It seems that perhaps I caused some offense by posting my message on facebook. I hope you might understand I didn’t mean to attack QWOC+ or dismiss its efforts. My intention was to reach you quickly — and also provide information to more people, whom I believe should know about this situation if they are considering coming to the event. I also did not intend for others to use this info to attack QWOK+ either, but rather, to act in ways promoting social justice. I think QWOC+’s response would do more to paint itself in a positive or negative light than the words I posted — and am glad you have engaged in communication and encouraged collaboration.
Thanks for inviting me and others to the meeting on Thursday. I would indeed like to come — but unfortunately, it’s the same time as a [a prior engagement]. Perhaps I can make future meetings. I do know, though, that [others plan to come Thursday]. Hopefully, there can be a time to discuss how we might be able to stand in solidarity with the workers’ situation — whether as QWOC+ or individuals — even though it’s too late to change the venue at this point?
I have enjoyed coming to other QWOC+ events, like the stress panel and the takeover of Caprice. Thank you again for all that you do.