The Boston-based organization “Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston)” kicked off their 4th annual week-long pride festival, Queer Women of Color Week (QWOC Week), on Saturday. The festival uses art, performance and dialogue to build the visibility of and expand community ties between LGBT people of color in the Boston area and beyond.
QWOC+ Boston was founded five years ago by Spectra A.I. Asala, a writer and community organizer who identifies as an “international/immigrant queer woman of color.” Asala was born and raised in Nigeria, has lived in New England for over a decade, and recently participated in GLAAD’s National People of Color Media Institute. She stresses that one of the goals of this year’s QWOC Week is to increase solidarity between LGBT communities of color by creating space for a myriad of affinity groups.
With this in mind, the festival’s opening panel on Monday, August 1, is entitled, “Trans Women of Color Speak.” Hosted in collaboration with TransCEND and Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, the panel examines the central role of transgender women of color in the Stonewall Riots, and their subsequent marginalization within the movement. Asala hopes the event will encourage more LGBT communities to work together to create safe spaces for transgender women of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds.
An event on Tuesday, August 2, will address the lack of visibility of Asians and Asian Americans within broader LGBT communities of color. This event will be co-hosted by the Massachusetts South Asian Lambda Association (MASALA), Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance (QAPA) and MAP for Health.
The festival also creates space for socializing and community building through recreational activities including a karaoke night and a dance party, and through cultural events including OUTSPOKEN, an annual spoken-word and live music showcase. This year, the showcase will feature an all-Black lesbian lineup, including nationally renowned poet Letta Neely, and reigning local slam poet Porscha (who will compete at the National Poetry Slam in Cambridge next week).
QWOC Week also engages the Boston community in charity work. Throughout this year’s event, organizers will host a Survivor Drive to collect donated goods for The Network/La Red, a local organization working to end intimate partner violence in LGBT communities.
Wellesley College student organizer (and 2011 Point Foundation scholar) Erika Turner has been interning with QWOC+ Boston over the past year to help plan this week’s events. Describing her motivation, she says,
QWOC Week is important because it’s the only event of its kind. It has been the only Pride I’ve experienced that recognizes, cherishes, and celebrates my whole identity.
Hear what QWOC Week means to other community members through the video below.
The festival is being planned and executed entirely by a grassroots group of volunteers and dedicated community supporters. Collaborators include universities, cultural groups, and advocacy organizations such as The Network/La Red, blackandpink.org, The Bisexual Resource Center, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Emerson College, Suffolk University, and many others.
Asala notes that all events are open to the public, stating,
Our events are open to everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality. 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.
Programming runs through August 6. The full schedule of events can be found at: http://www.qwocboston.org/qwoc-week/.