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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/
A Personal Note from Spectra:
In the spirit of QWOC Week, we wanted to highlight some of the people that have made it possible to create such an amazing calendar of events.
Since we’ve made it our mission to create spaces for women of color, we have found that people often forget about the “+” in our name, which stands for allies. But the truth is that so much of the work we do wouldn’t be possible without the help of others who are just as dedicated to this mission, which, in addition to the women of color community, includes our close friends, families, and allies. One such person is Beth Rubin, a self-described “queer femme ally” and a new member to the QWOC Week organizing committee.
Beth has volunteered for QWOC+ Boston at a number of events — she says OUTSPOKEN will always be her favorite — but this year, she decided to roll up her sleeves to help with QWOC Week 2011. And lucky us…! Beth has been a valuable asset to the committee, working both online and offline to coordinate the closing ceremony and recruit collaborators for QWOC week. She brings great ideas and positive energy to meetings week after week, but most importantly, she gives the BEST hugs, hands down.
We thought you all should know what an awesome person Beth is to us. We can only hope that allies everywhere follow suit, in being as open, humble, supportive, and truly passionate about increasing visibility for women of color as she has been, without the rhetoric, without the dos and don’ts, but rather, with so much heart. Thank you, Beth, for being the fierce queer femme warrior woman that you are.
Read her short interview below — written and compiled by our intern, Lina! — and leave Beth some purple love.
How long have you been involved with QWOC + Boston and what attracted you to the organization?
I have been involved with QWOC for just about 2 years now. I began attending events, and then it came time for QWOC Week 2010, and it was so incredible that I’d wished I could have gone every night. I went to Strut, and Outspoken (and as someone who appreciates burlesque, drag, and most of all spoken word, I was on cloud nine!), and then volunteered as well. Each event was more amazing than the next. When I volunteered, I felt welcome, and as though I was contributing to something important.
What project or event has been your favorite to work on and why?
Last year volunteering at Outside the Box was fantastic. It made me want to be more actively involved with QWOC, and I had an excellent time. I met fantastic people (including the lovely and talented Vivek Shreya who performed that night) and I got the behind the scenes look at all of the little things that make great events come together. I also saw my poet friend Idalia perform her work for the first time on stage that night, which was memorable.
This year as an organizer I’m on the committee for the QWOC Week Closing Party. I’m excited to see how QWOC Week 2011 unfolds, with all of the awesome events that are scheduled, culminating with this party we are planning, where everyone can come back together, and celebrate the collective energy that builds throughout the week.
Could you share any particular moment or anecdote from a QWOC + meeting or event that has really stayed with you?
This is my first year volunteering on the organizing committee for QWOC Week. Friends convinced me that being a part of the planning process would be fun; they convinced me that I could do it, so I took the leap. I’m so glad I did. Everyone has so much going on, with careers, home, family, and their fabulous lives! Somehow, though, they get themselves there. They drag themselves, half-exhausted, with sometimes-empty bellies, to make it to these evening organizer’s meetings. They take on these tasks, which they accomplish somehow, on top of everything on their plates. I have done a bit of event planning, but more so for one event. It is seriously impressive to see how much work goes into making QWOC week happen. There are milestones to be met, and there’s work to be done, but somehow there are enough people invested in the process to share the load. Collaborators and sponsors and volunteers somehow appear when they’re needed. People want to reach out and help. It stays with me that people everywhere I look seem to want to step up to the plate and support QWOC.
What advice/insights would you offer to allies looking to build stronger ties with POC organizations like QWOC+? What do you think makes you a good ally?
It may sound strange, but the best thing I can say is that I have learned about being an ally by seeing examples of the kind of ally I DON’T want to be. People who have a point to prove, or a degree that makes them think they know more about a topic than those who have lived it. People who think it’s about them. Guess what? It’s not. They embarass themselves without even knowing it, by puffing out their feathers, or quoting theory that makes them think they get it. Embrace the not knowing. It’s humbling as hell. That you actually just listen. That is a sign of respect.
We hear you really love your job! What do you currently do for a living?
I am an American Sign Language interpreter, which is the most fantastically un-boring job ever invented for someone like me who loves variety, people, adventure, and language.
What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
I am a social butterfly! Surrounded by friends is how I prefer to spend my time. Artsy, poetic and musical fun most of all. My goals this year are learning to play poker, and also Bollywood dancing.
Feel free to leave a comment for Beth. And when you see her during QWOC Week, please thank her again on our behalf for all the love and support she’s given QWOC+ Boston these past few years. She does love to give hugs, though, so don’t say we didn’t warn ya!
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’re kicking of QWOC WEEK with a one-of-a-kind networking event for local area feminists, womanists, afrofeminists, and non-profit professionals/activists who love them! We want to highlight and remember why QWOC+ Boston started: to empower and increase visibility for WOMEN.
We asked a few of our organizers to share their viewpoints on feminism below — whether they claimed feminism or womanism or both or neither; how they learned about it, etc.
“I don’t use any of those terms to describe myself because there are parts to each one I do not identify with. For feminism, it is the history of white feminism. For Womanist, it is the connection to theology. What I am is very aware of the oppression women of color face because I am a woman of color. Also my education was centered around the United States’ history so when discussing oppression it was very focused on women, people of color, and immigrants, and the every changing “other”. So the organizing work I do revolves on those intersecting identities. Call it what you want. I’m concerned with oppression period.” – Ana C.
“I do call myself a feminist, but it took me a while to feel comfortable with the word. I always associated it with white women, rallies and protests- issues that never felt real to me. But female empowerment/visibility has always been important in my life. My version of feminism looks like my mother working and making her way through school while raising 3 kids – or not focusing on house and husband (gasp!) It’s my friends – male and female included- having conversations in the kitchen/a bus stop/after a movie about the shit we deal with every day or checking and challenging each other on what we believe. It’s me being loud about what it means to be me in my own skin.” – Yari G.
“When I was in high school, I used to call myself a “people-ist” – a person who gave a damn about people. I guess I would call myself a feminist now, but I think I’m too uninformed to really put any sort of title on myself. Every title is so loaded – what’s the difference between a womynist or a womanist or a wombynist? At the end of the day, I don’t want to get caught up in words or phrases or titles. The meaning is what’s important and for me, I care about every person. I care about every person: transgendered, female, male, genderfucked, bisexual, lesbian, queer, black, Asian, Latina – EVERYONE – being treated with respect, dignity, and equality. So, right now, I’m still learning about all this. Meanwhile, I’m good with working toward a belief, regardless of a title.” – Erika T
“I call myself an Afrofeminist because I’m as loud and as militant about gender equality and anti-homophobia in POC and/or male-dominated spaces as when I am with other open-minded, progressives (or privileged conference circles). I’m willing to risk awkward silences whenever I “check” friends in my Nigerian/African/International circles on their homophobia, just as I’m willing to risk losing solidarity under an umbrella issues such as racism by calling out men of color if they happen to be sexist. I’m feminist in Nigerian spaces, in immigrant spaces, in black spaces, in queer spaces — everywhere, not just at conferences, constantly fighting for and against everyone.
“Feminism” will ALWAYS be a word I learned “after I arrived in America”, and thus it’s also been just as important to me to stay conscious of the multiple cultural contexts via which I communicate. At the end of the day, if my parents in Nigeria don’t understand what the heck I’m saying, then I’m doing something wrong.” – Adaora A
How would you describe YOUR personal brand of feminism?