This year I made the best of it and I'm glad that I'd mentally, spiritually and emotionally prepared myself for a full night of not feeling represented and being largely ignored. This year, a fellow brown, Kwueen Shadez collective member that had accompanied me last year opted out, leaving me alone to table my own Philosophactivist, Afro-Genderqueer, and Queer Herbalist warez. I was supposed to be sandwiched in between allgo (our stateweide queer people of color organization) and the San Antonio 4 advocates and filmmaker. But, allgo wasn't present this year. (We'll get to that later.)
If you haven't heard of who the San Antonio 4 are, you should check out the documentary website and kickstarter page HERE and HERE. It's ridiculo what happened to those women. Basically three chicana lesbianas were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 15 years of prison, along with a fourth innocent lesbiana, the so-called ringleader, who received 37 years behind bars. Check out the rest of their story on the websites.
So- back to the set up. It was SA4 and I and another brown guy representing a local socialist organization that were stuck out in Siberia across from the bar and between two designated trash cans for cigarette butts.
It was hard for people to really see us in the milieu. We attracted a few cool folks, though. Some queerbombers were genuinely interested, other avoided us like the plague or came just to get candy from the SA4 table without even hearing their story first.
I decided to be even more strategic this year and had a philosophactivist "How Radical Are You?" Quiz on my table.
The questions were:
- What is gender justice to you?
- Do your circles include people of color?
- DO the events you attend include people of color?
- What do you know about the actual experience of the people in your neighborhood?
- What do you know about housing, employment, legal and health care discrimination based on race in Austin?
- Have you considered becoming an ally?
- How do you build with people who aren't the same race/ethnicity and/or don't share the same language?
I was so grateful for the handful of folks who'd come up to me and engage in conversation. Guess who mostly looked at the quiz. Ding Ding Ding. A small handful of folks of color. I do have to admit that some awesome allies looked it over. I got some awesome allies at my table this year and that made it worthwhile.
Now, before folks pat themselves on the back about this, it's important ya'll know that some were friends of friends or had heard me spit spoken word at recent events or had been to my play, etc...
Still, I hope to really build with some of those folks who were with different organizations and who were basically on point.
What does on point mean?
Well there's this whole thing with acknowledging your privilege, checking your privilege, and not assuming that you've mastered anti-racism/cultural competence/etc. or other forms of anti-oppression just because you're "liberal" or "leftist". It's also not culturally appropriating, not just saying you're "radical" and "progressive" and continuing to exploit, ignore, and silence folks of color or perpetuate cycles of systemic oppression by denying these cycles exist or pretending to be oblivious-
"I'm color-blind." "We're all the same."
Ring any bells? Should be a red flag, actually, because if you're able to not have to see color or cultural differences or go through certain types of oppression and you can assume that they don't exist, you've got a big, heaping pile of white privilege.
Now let's talk Inclusion...
For some time, it's been known that Queerbomb isn't the most inclusive space. I understand that there are just thousands upon thousands of queer white people. We're (POC) certainly "outnumbered." I understand that there are some dope, brown organizers of the event. What I don't understand is why there are not more brown performers and community organizations and groups that are POC-led and queer allies. You can't tell me they don't exist. I work with them on a weekly basis.
As far as performers, I thought to myself this year, "Why didn't they ask Las Krudas to perform?" What about some of the dope, brown and queer artists and queer allies at Authentx? Why couldn't they get Monica Roberts of TransGriot to come speak? Or Black Transmen, Inc. ? Or any of the number of folks associated with allgo's statewide network. Why didn't they have radical queer brown poets and academics like the ones at organizations like Fahari come? Or how about individuals like Erica GDLR and the radical poets she rolls with? Why couldn't we have a short 10-minute piece by Q-Roc? Or folks like scholar, artist, and activist Omi Osun Joni L. Jones or some of the other queer, brown artivist/academics that are here locally? Or what about the number of activist allies from Resistencia or PODER. All it takes is asking a few people...and most of us know each other and organize ACROSS ISSUES.
I thought this was radical. I thought this was political. I thought this wasn't like the other Pride event. I thought we were going back to its roots. Well its roots are oppression. Its roots are a group of people who were not able to gather without feeling repressed. A group that was excluded due to their different experience. Sound familiar? The Stonewall Uprising happened largely because of a group of brown transwomen (and a butch/transman) who many in this "movement" have forgotten. I dare folks to look up the true history of this movement.
"Radical simply means grasping things from the root."
Right? Right on.
If we are going to get back to the roots, shouldn't we acknowledge this true history? Shouldn't we acknowledge the multitude of oppressions that are compounded in the complex identities of queer people of color? Shouldn't we also honor ALL people in this movement? Shouldn't we speak to ALL of our experiences. How much longer can QPOC leave parts of themselves at the door to hang out in "the movement" and be a part of these events? (Even though we're clearly in the background and have been part of the foundation).
Should we (mainly those not affected) continue to play into color-blindness? Should we continue to pretend that everything's ok...because..."look at the numbers! People are showing up, who cares that they're all white!"
Should brown people continue to separate and isolate themselves due to feelings of exclusion. Should organizations representing them not show up because of this exclusion and because they feel ignored by the majority white folks that are there?
On alternate brown, queer universes
So, there were a number of after parties and two friends of mine threw an awesome birthday party (not even associated with QB, mind you) where everyone dressed like gods and goddesses, danced, talked organizing, politics, or just kicked it. There were a handful of djs present and there were majority Q/POC and allies. There were so.many.folks.there. Some even had braved queer bomb and showed up afterward, like me.
My question is this. Every year, there's a brown party or event created as an alternative to the others. Must we continue to exclude ourselves and create alternate spaces so that we can feel accepted?
"You're dividing the movement with those spaces", they say.
The best part about these queer, brown "alternate" spaces is that we can bring all parts of us into these spaces. Why in the world would we go to a place with thousands of white queers who may say racist things to us or deny our experiences, self-expression, or existence when we can just do our own thing? Hasn't that been the "larger movement's" thinking for the past few decades? Since there are more white folks, why ruffle the feathers? They're not uncomfortable. Why be uncomfortable? Brown folks just don't want to come out to the event anyway. There aren't that many of them anyway. They'll be uncomfortable anyway.
Take a picture of this and save it for when you want to be reminded of what white privilege (and privilege, in general) looks like. Then, check it and do something about how it's manifesting and destroying community.
Well folks, I could go on and on about this. As always, I'll say that us QPOC are not obligated to come up with an answer to how this should be changed or how folks should work through their privilege and subsequent decolonization. Do not feel the need to tokenize yourself or to allow yourself to be tokenized. Remember Self-Care. If you are down to help folks sort through this, you are awesome. If you can't because it is damaging to you, you're still amazing.