Browse Tag: people of color

Queer Women of Color Still Face Racism During Pride, Among Other Things

In response to mainstream prides everywhere, including both the racism and sexism that pervades the larger gay community, Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston) hosts OPTIONZ — in its fifth year — tonight, a highly anticipated annual pride party specifically created to provide a space for lesbian, gay,bisexual, transgender and queer women of color and their friends, supporters, and allies during pride. But as excited as I am about QWOC+ Boston’s work in ensuring that we — women of color — are celebrated and visible during pride, that this is not the main subject of my post. If you follow QWOC+ Boston, you may have noticed on Facebook or any of our other social media channels, that our OPTIONZ party needed to be relocated to a new venue.

The reason for the venue change is that, last-minute, the previous venue, Caprice Lounge, presented me with some new terms: “No Hip Hop music, because of issues we’ve had in the past.”

Now, QWOC+ Boston has had a long-standing relationship with Caprice; we’ve been hosting events at their venue for the past three years. The reason, they gave, for the new policy was due to some recent violence that ensued after a Hip Hop show they hosted. Besides the fact that we’ve never had a single fight break out at a QWOC+ Boston event, it seemed ludicrous that the management had decided to villainize an entire genre of music based on a one-off incident. Something else that really pissed me off is that after informing us that we could not play Hip Hop at our party, we were offered a slew of other genres we could play as substitute including… (wait for it)… Rock music. So while we’re on stereotypes, it’s okay to play angry white man music, but not angry black man music? Wow.

Racist stereotypes aside, I was also only told that we could not play Hip Hop music on Tuesday (just two days before our event), which also seemed shady and manipulative. There had been no mention of this during our earlier communications. So, despite the fact that they’d been pushing for a large venue deposit to be made and incessantly trying to get me to sign a contract that would guarantee them two thousand dollars from the bar (of which I’d be liable if it was not met), I’m just floored that they had the audacity to limit whatever kind of music we played at our party.

So, guess what I said? HELLLL NO!

Okay. Not exactly in those words. I needed to be realistic. Despite the outrage expressed by community members after I’d relayed the incident — including the collective push for us to say goodbye to Caprice, I wasn’t sure it would be possible to find another venue, not during one of the busiest seasons of the year — weddings, graduations, prides etc — with just TWO days to go before the event.

So, rather than be seduced by the opportunity to give Caprice a self-righteous middle finger — and run the risk of having to cancel our pride party altogether —  I told the event coordinator at Caprice to send me the contract with all terms laid out; I would look it over and get back to her. In the meantime, I reached out to other venues comparable in size, and after just one day of mass emails and phone calls, I got lucky.

Market Lounge was big enough to accommodate us. Moreover, they weren’t going to charge us an arm and a leg to use the space (since they had no competing events during our event time). In fact, they seemed excited about getting the business of over 150 pride-ful peeps on a Thursday night. We had struck gold! Or so everyone thought…so  the applause began.

Great decision. Excellent. Yay for saying no to racism! But what I didn’t tell people, was that the new venue had a similar (albeit less overtly racist) dress code policy; a variation of the all too familiar Boston ‘dress code’ which goes something similar to “No hats, no sneakers, no do-rags, no athletic wear… women in dresses/skirts, men in collars etc” was prominently displayed on the wall by the entrance to their establishment. Here’s the picture on the right.

Making a decision based on who was less racist seemed impractical, so we went with this new venue because they were responsive, accommodating of our group last minute, the management agreed to not enforce their dress code policy during our event, and most importantly, they weren’t going to charge us an arm and a leg to bring them business (vs. Caprice that was essentially trying to make us pay them to go against our ideals).

Here’s the thing folks… I’ve been an event organizer for over five years, and I know first hand that most — if not all — downtown club venues have similar racist policies intended to keep “those people” out of their clubs. It doesn’t take a genius to note that these policies are overtly racist. In fact, as you read through the banned items of clothing, you’re almost expecting to come across, “No Black People,” towards the end of the list.

Venue policies are a stark reminder of Boston’s deeply rooted history with racial segregation, but racism isn’t the only issue queer women of color have to deal with.

If I turned my nose up at every venue that had a racist policy, homophobic and/or sexist staff etc, QWOC+ Boston would never have succeeded in pushing the physical boundaries of our community and creating new safe spaces for LGBTQ people of color in the manner in which we have. I daresay our willingness to push through the discomfort of so many tough, frustrating, awkward interactions has created more “ally venues” today for LGBT people of color — and the larger gay community as well as evidenced by a number of organizations / producers hosting events at venues after we’d done so successfully — than if we immediately walked away whenever we faced policies we didn’t agree with.

But this is not to say that we should ignore blatant signs of discrimination. There are venues that I’ll never send a dime of business (and LGBT organizations that I simply refuse to work with) until they’re willing to meet us halfway on the issue of white privilege/racism, male privilege/sexism etc. However, if we are to charter new territory, we must be patient, and more importantly, we must learn to speak the language of the gate keepers. In this case, that means knowing how to use money to send a message.

You should know that once I told Caprice that I was moving the party to a new venue, they came back with an O.K. to play whatever we wanted. This made for a great opportunity to explain that we would NOT be working with them this time around. And whereas, the loss of business may not result in the dissolution of their policy, the owner will remember that he lost a big event — a pride event, big dollars consumed at the bar, ouch — because he dared to broach the subject to the queer women of color who had been repeatedly giving him business for the past three years. (Incidentally, we first worked with Caprice during the second year of OPTIONZ, because we were in a similar situation; the venue we’d been in talks with slapped us with a racist dress code last minute, and wouldn’t budge on enforcing it. Caprice opened their doors to us then, and we’ve been working with them since. Isn’t it ironic, that the venue that has been the most flexible and easy to work with as far as hosting QWOC+ events, is the one being villainized for being racist today?)

I keep going back to the strong push I felt from our community to say F-U to Caprice and stand against racism, and can’t help but wonder if another ism or form of discrimination would have been met with the same level of engagement (and anger). What if I told you that via my work as an event organizer, I’d run into minority-owned/run venues with similar racist music / dress code policies? Can we remind ourselves that in women’s spaces /feminist circles, there is still so much language riddled with homophobia and transphobia? Shoot, I still pray for the day when sexism will be met with as much anger and outrage as racism from Boston’s LGBT community, when the political war being waged against women (via Planned Parenthood funding cuts, the GOP redefining rape etc.) will be treated as seriously by QPOC as they do AIDS/HIV prevention.

It’s easy to call out isms when the perpetrator is perceived to be a straight white man — the icon of patriarchy, which most of us can relate to wanting to take down. But the reality of being a queer woman of color is that you’re burdened with calling out offenses and violations against multiple facets of your identity, and forced to reckon with the harsh truth that your allies in one arena can be your oppressors in another.

Activism, for so many of queer women of color, is a constant negotiation of which ism to address. We don’t have the luxury of snubbing everyone that offends us, or we would have no where to go. We can’t — and shouldn’t have to — fight everyone. As a direct consequence, for queer women of color, standing up for what is ‘right’ in the face of racism, sexism, transphobia, xenophobia — all issues that significantly impact our community — can sometimes mean drastically limiting access to resources that we need as a community. So, whereas we should never compromise our ethics (as in this case — for the sake of a good party), QWOC+ Boston’s work isn’t just about one event, not just about today. I don’t think that I speak out of turn when I say that we all work our asses off so that tomorrow can be better, for everyone.

So, as we march, rally, dance, and speak out during pride, let us not forget those of us who are marginalized within the gay community, those of us who don’t have the luxury of approaching “Equality. No More. No Less,”, per the 2011 Boston Pride theme, as an isolated single issue. Most of the time, I hear louder, more aggressive forms of activism (against one kind of ism) encouraged and celebrated. But today, I feel humble as I reflect on the patience and perseverance that must have been maintained by my mentors and predecessors against so many injustices, that have enabled me to come this far. I celebrate you. I salute you. And I wish you all a happy pride.

To Hell With Mainstream Press Coverage: Women, People of Color, and Trans People Should Create and Control Their Own Media Stories

For those of you who don’t know, my group – QWOC+ Boston – produces a week-long multicultural pride (LGBTQ) festival every year. It’s an impressive (if I do say so myself) array of art, music, discussion, and social justice events for LGBTQ people of color and diversity-conscious allies. We’ve spent the past 3 months creating these events and now they’re ready to go out via official announcements!

Next Steps: Generating so much buzz that people from neighboring states visit Boston to attend the events (and in so doing, validate our weeks of hard work).

As I prepared to send out the official QWOC Week Calendar today, I paused to take a look at my really long ‘Press/PR’ to-do list and noted the slightly underwhelming list of journalist contacts. Some would call that a #fail on press release day, but where there arguably should be an uppity list of noteworthy press contacts, I have, instead, a list of connectors — bloggers, event producers, community organizers, and crucial tweeps to reach out to for grassroots promotional support. This came as no surprise to me since I’ve been pretty successful leveraging social media to do outreach, promotions, and build QWOC+ Boston’s brand. Plus, mainstream media has routinely pissed me off with their half-ass coverage of issues pertaining to people of color, much less about LGBT people of color.

In the past, the media coverage QWOC+ Boston events have received has been light and fluffy at best — who-what-when just about summarizes the general approach, with opinion or speculation — usually from the lucky friend of a friend of an editor — driving the why-and-how portion (vs any sort of ‘investigative’ reporting). At this point, I’ve become accustomed to the two or three paragraphs (usually a composite piece) dedicated to highlighting “people of color” (usually the male, LGBT, african-american community) during pride, and not much else in terms of press coverage (unless of course it’s around the AIDS epidemic); women’s/feminist grassroots movements are almost always an afterthought (or viewed as ‘cute’  and thus, not ‘news-worthy’), so a part of me has given up on hoping for more.

But it’s not that New England papers don’t know how to cover POC issues (or women’s issues for that matter) — they should be treated as every other subject matter — with tact, professionalism, and thoroughness; it’s that they’re too lazy to challenge themselves to do more than just ‘highlight’ and ‘profile’ and deep down, they don’t think that we’re important enough. However, they’re notorious for shadily snapping photos of the 2-3 brown people at every mainstream event and then featuring them in their next media blast when everyone knows there were practically no people of color present. I’ll never forget the year my friend and I (unbeknown to us) made it the front page of Bay Windows as part of a “success!” news story on the popular Fenway Health Women’s Dinner event (see picture on the right). Great job! You scored a QWOC and a trans guy.

Incidentally, a few years ago, QWOC+ Boston received a front page profile piece in Bay Windows, written by Ethan Jacobs, a former staff writer. It was a well-written article I think because my bestie (who works in PR/Communications) prepped me for the interview; she gave me client-strong guidance as to how to manage the ‘reporter’, how to ‘brief my organizers’, how to make sure I got my ‘sound bites’ in, how to ask for the questions ahead of time etc. The result was a well-rounded story on QWOC+ Boston’s contributions to the local scene and our plans for the future. They did introduce us as “new” (I guess if white and mainstream media isn’t writing about you then you don’t exist, right?) even though we’d been around for two years, but at least it was a start; QWOC+ Boston was given visibility, credibility, and that article, which featured an overzealous quote by yours truly about our future, was the inception of QWOC Week.

Since then, we’ve been covered mainly via pretty pictures and short sporadic event blurbs within which they routinely misquote me, misspell my name, and repeatedly refer to us as “QWOC Friends” or worse, “QWOC” (without the plus, without the f**king plus), no matter how many times we insist on including this symbol (which represents our valued ally supporters) or having our name spelled out — Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston) — so that new people can recognize that we’re an LGBTQ organization that mainly caters to women of color. [Seriously, what does “QWOC” mean to a grad student who just moved here from Tenessee and is seeking community outside her stark and stoic chem lab at MIT?]

I posted an angry Facebook update about this recently, and a friend of mine who’s the director of Villa Victoria Center for (Latino) Arts and Culture sent me some timely words of empathy, along with a sample media kit — a short and simple PDF document that outlines some branding rules which you can make available to press contacts / journalists looking to write about you. It was a godsend — and my intern just recreated one for us. [Please feel free to download and use as a template for your org!].

No doubt, the consistent time and effort I’ve invested in building QWOC+ Boston via partnerships and collaborations has given me a visible position within a strong network of leaders — women, people of color, lgbt, african activists, social entrepreneurs etc. — whom I can not only count on for support, but for professional guidance as well. However, for many people, (practical) tips such as how to work with journalists or even design a press kit aren’t that easy (or cheap) to come by. I feel for non-profit/grassroots leaders who, like me, must often ‘wing’ it, learn by trial and error, or (per the reason of this post), suffer bad press by remaining at the mercy of privileged, mis-informed media professionals.

But as leaders of social change, we aren’t in a position to suffer “bad” press — which in our field, often means mis-informed, mis-quoted, downplayed, and at times, downright inaccurate press coverage on the social justice issues we care about. Our causes — “brands” for the sake of argument —  aren’t celebrities who can afford to say “any press is good press” and wait for the next scandal to hit the stands.

Africa has been receiving a lot of negative press lately around the “atrocities” being committed against queer/LGBT people. But which Africans (I include myself in this) are writing about the spike in homophobia as a manifestation of resistance to bullying from the west? That’s not a narrative you hear or read about everyday, but I assure you it exists beyond the popular argument that Africa is full of barbarians.

Remember the news coverage on the two “gay” men that were facing a harsh prison sentence in Malawi? — they both weren’t “gay”, one of them was a transgender woman. And whereas I do object to the west enforcing their labels on Africa, the fact that many mainstream news outlets blatantly disregarded her gender should be viewed as yet another wakeup call to all of us that taking a passive approach to media will almost always result in the insensitive, inaccurate face-value recounts of events we’re inundated with today (vs. insightful commentary on news stories, which by the way, we really should be telling ourselves).

The great news is, social media is saturated with media consumers, not as many (in fact, in my opinion, too few) media producers; we all have the power to create content in the form of our own stories, and in so doing, make a difference. We shouldn’t have to wait to be ‘given’ press coverage or “be written about”. For what we have at stake, this approach to gaining visibility and expanding influence is too passive to be worth our consideration. This is not to say that mainstream media coverage isn’t worth anything at all; I’m just concerned that if marginalized groups — women, people of color, trans people, immigrants, blue collar, anyone whose voice is always missing/mis-represented — put all their eggs into a basket that’s already filled with a bunch of privileged, cocky, a**holes then our stories are bound to seep through the cracks.

My intern and I worked on a blog post that discusses the concept of “Activism During QWOC Weekin lieu of an official press release. Our words, our vision, our perspective. And it’s been truly liberating to pass the link around to people and receive direct feedback. We’re planning to do several posts about QWOC Week in order to highlight different aspects of the week; inter-generational conversations, music and the arts, etc. See, by creating and controlling your own content, you aren’t subjected to anyone else’s perspective on what’s “important.” Incidentally, we just found out that “Family Week in PTOWN” is happening during QWOC Week and thus Bay Windows Ad prices are for a Special Edition print out that week. I’ve already received several recommendations to pitch a story around our “Family Day in the Park” to see if Bay Windows “decides” to run a story on it. But who cares if Bay Windows wants to cover us or not? We run our own blog!

I encourage you — whoever you are, you’re still reading so you must have something to say — to start contributing your voice to the mass media that’s being consumed by millions of users… every – day. In the short term, we should probably all come together, sit down, and brainstorm  how to proactively gain press coverage for our organizations, movements and causes. But who wants to plan this? Anyone? Not me — I’m too busy changing the world to worry about press releases, and I’m pretty sure you are too. So while we’re waiting for someone else to take this on…

Start a blog. Write an opinion piece — it doesn’t have to be that long. Just make a statement — any statement; celebrities do it all the time. Create a video on your fancy MacBook (so that’s it’s worth the 1000-something-dollars you paid for it) — people love to watch videos. (Did you know they’re the most popularly shared media type on the web?) Write an Op-Ed response to your neighborhood newspaper about an article that pissed you off. Just contribute something. Anywhere.

You are important. Your voice is important. Your content should be shared on Facebook. Damn it.

—-

Update: We win! Bay Windows profiled QWOC Week in this piece here, aaaaand the reporter pretty much copy-pasted the blog piece that my intern and I wrote on our blog. The result? A well-rounded profile on QWOC Week (save a few errors — really, she estimated 2 dozen people showed up because she arrived at the beginning and was POC-shy so awkwardly approached a few people with her notepad, took a few notes, and jetted. Ah, white people… why are POC still so scary to you in 2010?)

A Rant — The Ugly Business of Good Social Causes

I really wish the LGBT and non-profit industry in general would stop hiding behind “good causes” and own their mistakes/shortcomings so we can all move forward. [Free Idea: Someone should create a Yelp.com for the non-profit industry]

Companies in corporate America (yes, those ugly ‘for-profit’ entities) get “reviewed” all the time. And guess what? The smart ones make it their business to incorporate both positive and negative feedback into their marketing campaigns, products, and services. They’ve learned that alienating their customers by guilting or scaring them into silence is a sure way to fail. Moreover, they only ever defend themselves from competitors, which — at least in this analogy — would be warranted if a similar non-profit / group was using internet slander to harm your reputation or to make themselves look better.

I was just perusing some non-profit blogs today, and read a number of disheartening, angry remarks from alleged “community leaders” all across the country. Geez — and I thought Boston had issues. It seems it’s not uncommon for people, who are supposedly working angelically towards social justice, to sling low-blow internet shots at social commentators for stating opinions that expose new flaws (or highlight old ones). *In one case, a blogger simply mentioned that a certain social group / organization wasn’t her cup of tea in passing, and was called a fame-monger for using negativity as a means to receiving more site hits. Are you kidding me? This really got me thinking…

Shame shame shame to organizers, non-profit execs, promoters-for-a-cause, or anyone who thinks that manipulating others into feeling guilty for admonishing your “good” work, or worse, threatening them with internet attacks is justified or “good for the community.” None of us are above judgment. I work very hard to bring racial equality into dialogue within the LGBTQ movement but it doesn’t mean that I am without fault — ask my volunteers, I drive them nuts — and it certainly doesn’t do much for my popularity ranking, even if I’ve just been cited as a “celesbian” (lol, I love this new word). Plus,  I know that at the core of our resistance to hear negative feedback (I include myself in this) is a strong desire to be recognized for our efforts, to feel as though people do acknowledge how hard we’re working. However, as leaders, we should learn to pat ourselves on the back. In so doing, we can rid the general public of the responsibility of prefacing each and every criticism with praise, and learn to not take things so personally. Moreover, if we all learn to give cross-issue support to each other, we’ll have each other to lean on (or to rant to) while the crowd chants on…

Moving forward, we should remember to thank community members who voice their opinions (no matter how callously… ok – I take that back – some people need to chill out), and tell them “Thank You” for keeping us accountable. Shoot, at least some of them have an opinion you can take direction from; this certainly trumps the blank stares and shoulder shrugs one typically receives after requesting constructive feedback. But, I digress… Regardless of what kind of feedback you choose to accept, at the end of the day, it all boils down to whether or not you’re sticking to your mission statement. If your mission is too narrow to matter, or too broad that you do a piss-poor job of including all the relevant stakeholders (who then start complaining), consider redefining it, or better yet, scrapping it altogether. You’ve gotta be clear, and listen, cause fact: some companies —  non-profits, organizers, promoters, and lobbyists included — will do a much better job than you if you’re not.

The non-profit LGBTQ community shouldn’t have to deal with mediocrity due to lack of competition or options. Our social justice movements can only be as effective as our ability to listen and incorporate both kinds of feedback into our work.

So, to community members, if an LGBTQ promoter hosts a night that sucks, tell them why, and let them know how it could be better. If a grassroots movement leaves out people of color, damn right speak up, even if they throw buzzwords (like “diversity” and “inclusiveness” at you). Moreover, I dare you to take the next step — volunteer your time. If black people forget to advocate for latinos, asians, white allies etc during conversations about “people of color” then it is up to anyone who notices to call it out. Being unpopular isn’t fun (I should know), but it does get people to sit up and listen (even if they don’t admit that they will).

We are all part of the problem if we choose treading on eggshells vs. keeping people in check.

We are all part of the problem if we discredit our individual opinions based on some smackademic concept of oppression hierarchies.

We are all part of the problem if no one speaks out.

Social responsibility includes more than just donating old clothes to Haiti, or volunteering at a homeless shelter; it means raising your voice whether in solidarity or (respectful) disagreement so that your community leaders never forget who they are serving.  And for leaders, this also means keeping a finger on the pulse of your constituents’s needs, even at the expense of your ego. We can’t call ourselves leaders if we do not learn to hear reason rising from the heat of an angry crowd.

Diversity speaks. (That means you.)

*Note: I’m not posting links to the forums I was reading because the platforms / arguments don’t matter. I’m more interested in debunking the perceived benefits of blogging on the internet, one of which is that free speech is without reprimand (or cost in mental health)

I Keep Forgetting That Cupid is a “Colorblind” White Boy

As always, Valentine’s Day weekend was jam-packed with red and pink themed parties designed to seduce the in-love and broken-hearted — mainly new couples, single hetero-ladies, and guilty spouses — into spending big cash in the name of commercial “Love”. However, at almost every event I attended, Cupid seemed to shoot out of range (or not at all) as far as LGBT people of color were concerned. I keep forgetting that Cupid is an immature, “color-blind” white boy. But even if side-stepping the casualties of V-Day weekend may well be a blessing in disguise, it’s no excuse for mainstream to blatantly ignore people of color and LGBT folk.

I’m sure most of us can recall at least one moment during which we realized that major businesses had already hired Cupid to begin spear-heading their annual “Make Sure Your Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Suck” campaigns, right on cue after New Year’s Eve and just before the first web trailer of this year’s white star-studded Valentine’s Day movie flop (wow). You may have stopped by at CVS to grab a pack of gum only to be obstructed by barely-floating heart-shaped balloons in the tacky-candy aisle; perhaps the increasing amount of sexist blood diamond commercials and romantic getaway packages (complete with mid-winter tanning bed deals) that interrupted your Hulu.com TV show eventually clued you in; or, like me, maybe your weekly (aimless) stroll through the “home design” section of your favorite department store was cut short by a plethora of hideous Valentine’s Day furnishings e.g. red plush pillows going for $45 a pop (e tu, Target?).  It wasn’t long before every media channel was red-hued, and the nationwide groans began.

Gratuitous ads, elaborate storefront displays, candy aisles, smartphone Apps, and over-priced restaurant menus seemed to beckon every ditz to “Let Loose”, “Forget about Him” (ha!) , and “Find the Perfect Gift for Her!” even if you were single (or broke). [I give Cupid props. Seriously, you’d think a new religion or non-denominational “Way of Life” would’ve been birthed around this pseudo-holiday by now.]

However, in spite of the on-cue messaging, the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day seemed a little frostier than usual (and I don’t think this was just due to the blizzard-that-never-was). So, no doubt, the recession played a major role in re-loading the average hater’s ammunition; I heard complaints, everywhere. Facebook friends, cabbies, professional networkers, idle storekeepers, even Photographers – aren’t they usually responsible for getting other people to smile? – scrooged away un-originally about the pointlessness of Cupid’s holiday. I heard the played out “Why celebrate love just one day of the year – what happens on the other 364 days?” rhetorical question, blunt variations of “I think it’s over-commercialized and stupid!”, real-talk confessions like “It’s a recession, and I’m broke,” and a new personal favorite, “I have no Valentine so I’ll be avoiding my mom.” Fortunately for Cupid, people hardly ever walk their talk. So despite the buffet of reasons for the V-Day mascot to hand in his bow and arrow, a sudden spike in “positive” status updates right after humpday provided the much-needed momentum to coax almost everyone I knew to leave the “Anti-” campaign and join the “Merry” V-Day party.

The LGBT community in particular was no different — we too boasted a fairly busy social itinerary during Valentine’s Day weekend — but with a slight twist; in Queerville, it almost goes without saying that supporting (or worse, promoting) capitalism will earn you harsh judgment if it’s not done philanthropically i.e. alongside some popular cause. You don’t need to follow the news on TV, print, or twitter to know that Americans are currently group-thinking towards “Saving Haiti” these days, almost on the same scale they usually rally around issues that affect poor and/or starving African children… Oh that’s right, the media’s depiction of the country’s “recent” catastrophe essentially calls for the level of humanitarian response Americans have only ever bestowed unto starving African countries: Infantilize, play Savior, then join a Facebook group like the concerned citizen you are. And I’m not just talking about white people; people of color have been doing this to Africans for years.

Incidentally, and in true queer fashion, there were of course a number of V-day events that promised to donate a significant portion of their proceeds to Haiti relief efforts, homeless shelters, liberal political candidates, and other buzz-worthy causes in return for your generous RSVP. It’s a brilliant strategy really; help queers overcome their guilt or embarrassment about participating in traditionally-hetero V-Day activities even after they’ve been conditioned by the liberal movement to be anti-capitalist… and make some money at it, too. Ah, the complexities of being a rebel. In any case, I was both lucky and unlucky to attend several events like this; lucky because, well, queer options are better than no options, and unlucky because queer options usually means I end up being used as brown garnish in a white beantown crowd.

Since queer Boston frequently subjects me to (seemingly inviting) all-white spaces, I’ve gotten into the habit of checking the “pulse” of every event’s promotional communications before donating my RSVP. V-Day weekend was no different, particularly because I had an out-of-town guest and ladyfriend with no patience for diversity fails. So I began my assessment as follows:

Lesbian Nightlife’s V-Day Celebration at Pearl (Friday Night): Cupid didn’t even bother to take aim in this instance. The night’s main feature (and performance) was by “popular” lesbian singer, Lori Michaels. I had no idea who this woman was, but apparently she routinely calls herself a “diva.” I took one look at her MySpace page and new that this would not be the event to party at with my posse of brown and mixed-orientation friends. It would be too white, too loud, and too lesbian. No diversity fail, just a “Next” with no bad feelings. What you see is what you get with LNL, and that’s okay. We would save our energy for Saturday and Sunday.

DykeNight’s Second Saturdays at Machine: This V-Day extravaganza hosted by long-time nightlife philanthropist, Kristen Porter, was also generously running as a fundraiser for the DykeMarch. Based on my past experiences with DykeNight events (the name says it all), I was pretty sure that this party would draw a large crowd of white lezzies that would wanna celebrate V-Day, sweatbox style; the club would be sardine-packed and the DJ would play mainly white pop music, with the occasional “salsa” song (i.e. Elvis Crespo’s “Sauvemente”… yeah).  Based on this, could I overlook the lack of cultural diversity? Suuuure, though it’s not like I ever had a choice – I live in faux-progressive Boston. I’ll cut DykeNight some slack for their age diversity, but Cupid may be losing  sight of what’s important by focusing mainly on this older crowd; he routinely misses the mark when it comes to showing Asians, Blacks, or Latinos any love.

Cupid Coming Out party at the W: The thing about being a community connector and professional token is that you have to socially netWORK before you make it to the fun party of your evening. So before me and my brown V-Day posse could settle for vanilla-fun at Machine’s Second Saturdays, we had to drop by a fundraiser that I’d been invited to. In the spirit of holiday philanthropy, Spirit Magazine had generously donated promotional power and the “Featured Singles” (which included yours truly) from their February issue to Community Servings’ singles auction to feed the homeless. QWOC+  Boston had partnered with Community Servings on our “Community Organizing Fair with Mayor Denise Simmons” during QWOC Week 2009, so I went, in part, to return the favor, and also because I was curious to see if the turnout would be different from what I expected. It wasn’t. And though I hate to do this to Community Servings, the event was such an epic fail as far as diversity is concerned that I’d be remiss not to spell it out.

  • Diversity Fail #1: The tickets were $35 during a recession. Better than GLAD or Fenway with their  $100x dollar tickets, but there goes your younger crowd. I doubt that there was anyone under 30 in the room. Maybe they didn’t want any youngins, but  youth are the future. FAIL
  • Diversity Fail #2: There was no music playing. I mean, NONE. Where was DJ Mocha (the featured DJ)? I thought this was supposed to be a paaaartaaaaay! Were there audio issues? The only sound I heard was of the chitter-chatter of white gay men holding stiff martinis. FAIL.
  • Diversity Fail #3: There was no real food. And just in case you missed the lesson from the first fail, I’ll get straight to the point; non-white cultures essentially revolve around good food (not celery, carrots, and bread buns  — think rice, spice, and MEAT!) and upbeat music (not “easy listening” or “lullaby” music, we need something we can sway to and put us at ease about being surrounded by so many white people). If you’re going to pass on one, you BETTER come correct with the other, or you’ll lose people — it’s that simple. Please turn the music back up, I’m not interested in what you have to say until we break bread or break dance… (haha, I couldn’t resist that one). FAIL!
  • Diversity Fail #4: So Spirit Magazine, a white-gay-man-run LGBT magazine, donates “Boston’s Best Catches for Valentine’s Day” to a live singles auction for your cause; there are a total of TWO people of color in the single lineup (me and a handsome South Asian guy in a pink shirt), and just TWO vaginas (again, me and a silver-haired lezzie with her dog), but you didn’t think to, say, reach “out” to a number of other people of color, or even other women in the community so that it didn’t create weird feelings about modern day slave trade if someone like me wanted to help out and volunteer? No one would want to be the only person of color on stage, and so it’s your job to do better outreach. FAIL
  • Diveristy Fail #5: The MC was a VERY glamorous dragqueen (go her!) that wasn’t funny to me or my friends cause she routinely made gay pop culture (?) and political jokes that went over our heads. When is the LGBT community going to understand that if you feature a Drag Queen without a Drag King (or Female Pole Dancers…) you’re sending a message that says you’re mainly concerned about pleasing your gay male audience. It was bad enough that there was just ONE woman on stage, but you had to get a drag queen to make sure the few women in the room would stay spectators and not participants in the auction. Oy. FAIL FAIL FAIL!

Needless to say, we didn’t last long at this event – not with my menacing frohawk and brown leather jacket against a backdrop of gray suits and aggressive networkers. I still need to write up my thoughts about the blatantly racist treatment that Men of Color Creating Change experienced at the Stork Club on Sunday [that deserves a separate poste], but all in all, besides the good company I was lucky to have, Valentine’s Day weekend was a huge slap in the face from mainstream queerville.

As I mentioned, I had a friend visiting this past weekend, so it was no easy feat to drag him from diversity-fail event to diversity-fail event, particularly when it was clear that even though the LGBT community could make everyone feel good about spending money by themizing their events with social justice causes, people of color would still have a hard time being seen and, thus, shown any real love, by Cupid.

Good thing we love ourselves.

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