Browse Tag: QWOC+ Boston

QWOC Week 2011

My Labor of Love Turns Five in August: Queer Women of Color Week 2011

Hey Everyone,

I’ve been MIA because I’ve been buried neck-deep in QWOC Week 2011 planning. If you live in Boston (or near enough) and support my work then please forward on the information below to the appropriate outlets. It’s been five years since I started organizing around women’s and LGBT issues in Boston, and founded QWOC+ Boston. I’m really proud of all of it, and can’t wait to share the work of so many dedicated and passionate volunteers to this mission with all of you this summer. Come one, come all!

Much Love,
Spectra

(Note to Press: You can download the full content of this press release HERE + Fact Sheet + QWOC Week Flyer)

Register for 4TH ANNUAL Queer Women of Color Week (QWOC Week) in Boston, MA  on Eventbrite

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 pride@qwocboston.org, or contact Spectra at 617.871.0431
——-

List of Collaborating Organizations

BlackandPink.org
Bisexual Resource Center (BRC) (Gold Sponsor)
Boston GLASS
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)
Salacious Magazine
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)
Spectra Events
The Network / La Red (TNLR) (Platinum Sponsor)
Transgender Care and Education Needs Diversity (TransCEND)

 

QWOC WEEK 2011 SCHEDULE

*Please check the OFFICIAL website/event page for any last minute changes
Website: http://www.qwocboston.org/​qwoc-week
Ticketing: http://qwocweek2011.eventbrite.com/

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
Facebook Event

Monday August 1st @ 6:30 PM – 8 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 32-112 | 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 | 260 Summer Street, East Boston, MA
Cost: Donated Item or $10
Facebook Event |

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)

NEW PROJECT: Interview Series Featuring LGBT Human Rights Leaders around the World

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.

Avatar woman

New Narratives, New Voices: Why I Hate the Word Diversity

I am so excited about this new workshop I’ve designed to highlight new narratives and redefine “diversity”! I’ll be presenting it at the Join the Impact conference this weekend, so if you’re in Boston, register to attend and check out my session!

Thoughts That Came to Me As I Designed This Workshop:

As a bicultural Nigerian, I identify very strongly with the African immigrant experience and obsess about not doing enough for my parents at home.

On American soil, I wear my afrofeminist label proudly, and fight with words alongside other feminists to raise women’s voices on the web (and the page, very soon).

As a queer community organizer, I advocate for the increased visibility of people of color within the LGBT movement (so that it doesn’t get reduced to the current conversation about “black community and black churches”).

To say that I wear “many hats” is an understatement. But in my fight for “diversity”, I’ve often found myself pigeon-holed into choosing one fight — the “people of color” fight — over others (sexism, immigration etc), and losing critical ground on those other fronts as a result.

I am often asked (however inadvertently) by white organizers to compartmentalize my anger, and then intellectualize it (read: “present at conference”, since diversity has become synonymous with choosing one or two issues to orate about). So, when I was casually invited to present on the “(Lack of) Inclusion of People of Color in the LGBT Movement”, I found myself thinking of the many swords I carry, and wishing that I could hold them all in front of me with  both arms, heavy and close to my heart, so that people could see how wearisome fighting for and against  the intersecting communities I belong to can be. It’s not so easy; I often imagine myself crouched defensively in the center of a circle lined by all the isms, privileges, and human rights violations I face — homophobia, racism, americanism, sexism, feminism, transphobia;  blunt and shining swords lay scattered in the dusty ground around me from switching blades and direction too quickly in concurrent battles for social justice, and sometimes, for survival.

But in my ideal world, I would fight for one kind of justice — and for many — with the same sword. I am tired of having to choose which parts of my identity to include or exclude from my rants. So, in response to the invitation, I decided to design a session that explored this new idea: What is Diversity? And how can we redefine it in the context of a younger, multinational, pro-feminist, and trans-positive movement?

Currently, the “LGBT movement” sounds like the white gay man marriage fight (supported by a smart troop of butch white women). The Q is left out. The I is left out, and inquiring about other letters begets played out, trivializing “alphabet” jokes instead of a sincere commitment to make sure everyone get the invitation next time.

“People of color” narratives often focus on the African-American experience and ignore the complexities of the immigrant subset (Latin@s, Africans, Asians etc ) — and let’s not even talk about non-immigrant Native Americans). As a person of color myself I’m often called upon to present comprehensive solutions to this problem (or “facilitate dialogue” about “people of color issues”), as if all people of color were berated equal; I’m Nigerian/African, and quite honestly, I can’t always relate to the black people in this country.

Feminist perspectives often carelessly leave out women of color, though they’re often able (and encouraged) to intellectualize this popular snafu and re-present well-articulated, buzz-word-filled theses about “gender” and “sexuality” to eager auditoriums across the country. Have you attended a Women’s Studies seminar, panel, or conference session lately? I have — and it’s very scary to hear decisions being made, leaders being influenced, and demonstrations being organized in the absence of (all but 2 or 3) women of color.

Radical lesbian feminists (yeah, they deserve a separate title) tend to be a little bit more diversity-conscious and inclusive of women of color (who also claim that title) but side-stepping the ageism that exists within their version of the movement is no easy feat. I was just at Stonewall Communities “Sex and Gender in the City” inter-generational conference, and I remember feeling like I’d been tricked into attending a roast for young people. Every other joke demeaned, devalued, and discredited the work of millennial social activists because apparently we haven’t been beaten or bled enough — and all we do is invent new labels or throw parties. If I’m not yet qualified to speak to (not for) the various experience(s) of queers in my generation then who the hell is?

And don’t get me started with the sexism that is rampant among gay men. Across every social justice issue I care about, there are people who advocate for the inclusion of people of color, but I’m never as chronically overwhelmed by sexism and male privilege as I am within my fight for diversity within the queer community. In my hetero/femme days, white gay men thought I was “fabulous”, bought me martinis, and invited me to their condos for dinner. That changed the instant I went futch. Now, unless I’m introduced by someone from the inner circle, I remain completely invisible.

Meanwhile, the alternative is mother-managing egotistical turf wars between POC-run organizations over whose “good” is “best” “for the community” so that we can at least pretend to these white people that we all play nice (or know each other) and “collaborate”, while behind-the-scenes (and sometimes in public), we’re fighting each other with armor, creating a meaningless number of snazzy acronym-ed programs, reinventing the wheel because we won’t work together, and squabbling for the same seats at the conference table.

And to top it all off, everyone mentioned in the last five paragraphs is failing miserably at even noticing that trans and intersex people — arguably the most ignored/marginalized of us all — are being completely left out of the picture! Aaaaagh!

[… a zen moment of silence.]

The session I’ve designed for the conference is an attempt to bring different voices together, and will explore what it means to define diversity by the narrow lines of “inclusion” or “exclusion”.

As part of a fishbowl conversation, local organizers and allies to communities of color will share their perspectives on the LGBT movement, the role of diversity (or lack of it) and the perceived effects of augmenting / silencing different voices. The fishbowl will be followed by a brief Q&A and open brainstorm around how we can move forward from the popular, yet very narrow discussions of inclusion/exclusion that exist within the LGBT movement.

Diversity is a dynamic collection of perspectives; it is an ideology, a concept, not a quantifiable attribute… or at least it shouldn’t be. To apply diversity (vs. coasting along using it as a buzzword), we MUST recognize that truly including people — as whole beings — implies that we don’t just acknowledge, but address ALL parts of their unique identities, and empower them to fight for all movements to which they belong, because in doing so, we empower the only movement that matters: the human one.

I hope to see you at the session.

———————
Session 4 (3:30PM – 4:45PM)
(LACK OF) TRUE DIVERSITY IN THE LGBT MOVEMENT: NEW NARRATIVES, NEW VOICES

A Fishbowl Discussion and Workshop Featuring the Big Fish below:

SPECTRA 
is a Nigerian immigrant afrofeminist queer woman of color, media activist and social commentator at Spectra Speaks, a self-proclaimed “iQWOC”, and the founder of Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston)

ANA CHAVEZ is native to Miami by way of Providence, an Ecuadorian queer woman of color and youth arts educator, and the founder and recipient of the RISD Diversity Awards

CARNELL FREEMAN is a local Bostonian, a gay black professional in finance and HR recruiting, an experienced Connecter and the founder of Men of Color Creating Change (MOCCC)

YARIMEE GUTIERREZ
is a fierce queer femme Puertominican nacionalista, a poet by the name of Idalia, who has a 9-5 fighting for cultural competency around latin@ issues in the corporatized health industry

BONAE L’AMOUR (AKA BAO) is an Asian American queer-identified transguy from New Orleans, a photographer with a consistent blog, and the founder of MAGLOA – a safe haven for academically gifted public school students in Boston

ROBBIE SAMUELS a white, queer, feminist, trans man with extensive community organizing, event logistics and fundraising experience, and the founder of Socializing for Justice, a cross-issue progressive community, network and movement in Boston

Organized by: Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston) – http://qwocboston.org

My Life as a Professional Token

I was recently invited to a house party style networking event hosted by Fenway’s Development staff. For those of you who don’t know, I’m the founding director of Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston), a not-for-profit social networking organization for LGBT women (including trans-people) of color, so I’m used to receiving many invitations like this; sometimes, as often as three or four times a week.

The majority of the emails begin in the same way:

“Hi, I’m the new [insert position here] at [name of organization] and I’d really like for us to get together in person or chat over the phone about how we can work collaboratively this year to make our programs and services more inclusive of [insert PC descriptors here e.g. “people of color” “women” or “members of the LGBT community”].

Early on in my organizing efforts, I’d get excited about receiving similar communications – what an honor it was to be called upon to provide support and direction on various outreach initiatives of some major non-profits! I strongly believed – and still do – that engaging in these consultative conversations would ensure that QWOC+ Boston’s successful approach to creating and sustaining diversity via community partnerships would be proliferated in the larger queer community and that ultimately, we would all win.

So, I’d happily field questions about what they could do to improve their outreach efforts, connect them to local groups that they could partner with to strengthen their POC or women’s network, suggest modifications to their event programming to create stronger resonance with their multicultural/gay/women’s contingent(s) etc., all to no avail. They would take notes, make a few e-connections, and even send follow-up “Thank You!” emails to me, but they would only ever carry out short-term fixes (such as posting more ‘diverse’ photos on their website, or modifying an event title to include more kinds of people). A few months later, I’d receive a new email from the same organization, but from a new hire or individual professing their desire to “continue the work” or “do better”, and the cycle would continue… I used to be such a sucker.

I’ve since then earned the reputation of being extremely hard to get a hold of and have become methodically selective of which emails I respond to; I’ve only gone on a handful of diversity dates within the past two months and they were each arranged via referrals or personal connections. In the case of Fenway, even though I did not know the sender directly or indirectly, I decided to make an exception. I wasn’t about to get all excited about the initiative they took to reach out to young leaders in their network – myself included, or the extensive list of VIP that was strategically appended to the invite – I’d seen this all before, but I felt like I at least owed it to my community to attend the event. After all, Fenway had been steadfast supporters of QWOC+ Boston for the past several years.

So, accompanied by a fellow POC community organizeer, off I went to yet another event, where I knew I’d most likely be one of two (but hopefully at least three) people of color in the room, hoping to change the world with my charm, energy, and great ideas.

To be continued…

Day Three of QWOC Week

I wonder how many times I can use the word “magical” in my blogs this week. I really can’t think of any other way to describe the past few days. In fact, I’m checking an online thesaurus right now…

Main Entry: magical
Part of Speech: adjective
Synonyms: charming, enchanted, fascinating, marvelous, mysterious, occult, spellbinding, spooky

Spooky? Oh hell no. Enchanted. Yes. Marvelous. Yes. Spellbinding… in some ways. But I still prefer “Magical”; I picture sparkling lights and fireflies; children following the unexpected with their eyes, joyfully suspended in moments surrounded by warmth, laughter, and camaraderie, without a care in the world. That’s what last night’s, OUTSPOKEN event felt like to me; an evening filled with beautiful fireflies, and one to remember.

All our performers brought. it. Aliza and I worked seamlessly – and in unison – during the course of the evening, managing changes, updates, and even one cancellation. The volunteers were excited to be there, and remained pro-actively helpful throughout the night. It was good to see some newcomers really settling into their QWOC+ Boston volunteers niche’s, talking to people about the organization, the events, our recent successes, me (haha!), and the energy around them; it was clear that some of them were beginning to take on more ownership of our little grassroots organization. Everything was near perfect. But, for me, the secret ingredient to last night’s success was the age diversity in the room, and in the show.

It started with our lineup. Letta Neely and Judah Dorrington, two pioneers that paved the way to raising awareness of LGBT multiculturalism in Boston via Black Pride, Sistah-to-Sistah, and various other community engagements, were in the house. It was such an honor, for those that knew who they were, and even – I dare say – those people who had no clue; time and time again last night the theme of old school partnering with new school was celebrated by hearty cheers, “Obama” call-outs, and moments of utter silence in reverence of the words of wisdom being spit on stage. I couldn’t have felt any prouder (or more humbled) to be part of an event that helped raise these women’s voices in our community today. Both Judah and Letta said to me at different points: “I’m proud of you”, and I got all choked up.

As someone from a culture that values its elders – e.g. we don’t throw our parents into homes when they get old, they come and live with us instead – and grew up sitting in a circle with siblings, cousins, friends, listening to the funny uncle, or old grandmama telling stories of life, love, children, spirits that whistle in the night.. OUTSPOKEN was an event that felt as close as I could get to that part of home. My face ached from smiling so hard during Judah’s performance, as I watched her relish the opportunity she had to sing her heart out to a diverse crowd, and have FUN. It was such a delight. Judah and Letta brought some wisdom and perspective to the stage, alright, but Ignacio, Kay, and the Good Asian Drivers, reminded us all that our generation isn’t entertaining any ideas about letting the work of our pioneers be all for nothing.

Ignacio Rivera not only sent so many women into heat (seriously, I saw so many fanning themselves as he was talking), he stomped on so many gender stereotypes within a minute of getting on stage. Sexual liberation is my new favorite thing now. I can’t wait to see his film during the Cinemental event later on this month! Kay Barrett did what I knew he would do. Political isn’t the word. White/class privilege annihilation would be a little too strong, but that dude held no punches when he got up there. “Where are my queer people of color?” I loved it! ‘Cause at events like that, white people show up sometimes and forget that it’s not about them. But in the spirit of unity, queer pride, recognizing those of us who can’t be as loud and that we must carry on our shoulders out love, I take my hat off to the Good Asian Drivers.

Every single time I see Kit and Melissa perform, I am blown away. “Queer Nation” and “Red Guitar” are my two favorites, and I’d only just heard the latter! It was a beautiful way to end the evening, Kit speaking on our flaws even as queers, the sexism, racism, classism, and hypocrisy that we’re probably more vulnerable to as the ‘liberated other’; we have real problems, still. Melissa’s musical rage at the media and MTV, challenged us to think about who we are as consumers of pop culture, and urged us to speak up and against all of it! Wow. Thank you, Good Asian Drivers, for supporting QWOC WEEK and speaking to this particular crowd that needed to hear the truths of our community; we are all not queer-rated equally.

A number of white people came up to talk to me afterwards, moved by QWOC+ Boston’s work and wanting to volunteer. This was wonderful. I am always very excited about white people who are ready to challenge themselves and their prejudices, especially since at events like OUTSPOKEN (and many other QWOC+ events in general), it’s very common to experience groups of white people showing up just to hang out with each other. They literally will not engage with anyone but other white people. So, they never learn anything, they never challenge themselves, and I have to continue dealing with ignorant comments/viewpoints on Obama whenever I bump into them.

Unfortunately, as wonderful as last night was, it was hard not to notice that during key moments, which illuminated race/class/white privilege, a couple of popular white clubbers remained un-engaged with the performance, and instead, chatted away in the corner, and spent time ordering their drinks. I wonder if they were aware of how it looked. I wonder if they’re aware of their own subconscious discomfort with the idea that all is not fair in the world and that maybe, they should care. I wonder if this subconscious discomfort manifests itself in conscious decisions
to avoid talking/engaging with others about these things. I wondered. But not for too long. ‘Cause yesterday wasn’t about privileged white people who have no wish to grow.

OUTSPOKEN was about creating a safe space for “outspoken” queer people of color – our black pride pioneers, our activist poets, spoken-word performers, immigrant self-defense teachers, and proud, sexually liberated trans-entities – being given a chance to speak, without any shade or color of resistance, even if it was just for one night.

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