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The National LGBTQ Task Force and Creating Change will hold a day-long event called “Queering Racial Justice” that will explore how activism by queer and transgender people of color is leading the resistance to state-sanctioned violence.
The event, which will be held virtually from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10, will include a plenary on resisting state-sanctioned violence, the militarization of the police, and incarceration of queer Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
The event will also feature speakers, skills building workshops and breakout sessions, and discussion of community organizing strategies, and is expected to draw several hundred people from all over the United States.
Speakers at the plenary will include activists Candi Brings Plenty of the ACLU of South Dakota, Dominique Morgan, the executive director of Black and Pink, and Monserrat Padilla, of the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network.
“We’ve done Queering Racial Justice for almost five years now, and we are an organization that is known to engage people in leveraging their political power,” says Kierra Johnson, the deputy executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force and the moderator of the plenary.
“It’s been true through the years, that we want and need queer people to leverage their political power to vote and to advocate,” she adds. “But we also need people to understand that the cultural and community work has to happen alongside the political and electoral strategies. Doing programs like Queering Racial Justice fits into the community and cultural work we know has to happen between elections.”
Johnson says that Queering Racial Justice seeks to bring together activists to talk about the various forms that activism takes, and how best to support one another moving forward.
“I think one one of the things that I think is important for people to understand is that if you don’t have to choose between organizing out in the streets or or holding your elected officials accountable,” she says. “One of the things that all of our panelists are doing is that they’re engaging power through multiple platforms. They are out there doing community service work. They’re doing in the streets activism and community building.
“But they are also working to make sure that the folks that they live around and work with and identify with are also engaging civically. So there isn’t this “either/or” situation, but a mash up of all of those strategies to make change happen,” she continues.
“Some of the words we’ve heard a lot during this pandemic is resilience, self-care, or healing. And so we’re going to have the panelists talk about what that means. What does that even mean in these times when our communities are finding themselves under multiple lines of attack, health-wise and by the police state and in their faith traditions? But also, what are they seeing in their own communities as it relates to healing and resiliency?”
In addition to the plenary, the afternoon will be dedicated to smaller group activities, starting with identity caucuses, where people will be able to self-select themselves into different caucuses based on their identity, in order to meet and relate to others of similar backgrounds or identities in a “safe space” dedicated to discussion and healing.
Some of the workshops or breakout sessions held throughout the afternoon will focus on white queer colonizers, the ways in which white queer womxn and gender-expansive people uphold white supremacy; organizing around racial justice issues; understanding the links between colonialism and the gender binary; how racial hierarchies have evolved over time through gender violence; the roots of trans and gender-nonconforming people in African and indigenous societies; and dismantling oppressive and racist systems through a Black queer feminist lens.
Kareen Cocoya, the co-executive director of Both/And, who will be leading a caucus and facilitating the workshop on organizing around queer racial justice, says the breakout session they are organizing will focus on organizing with intersectionality and organizing with a systems analysis.
“When you look at racism, it’s part of this larger system. It goes beyond just like the thoughts we have or the actions that we move forth to be racist,” Cocoya says. “The system is composed of individuals, interactions between individuals, the institutions and policies that uphold racism, and the cultural aspects, including the messages that we receive about race and racism that normalize the rest of the system.
“And so in this workshop, folks will be looking at examples of racism throughout these various levels, from the internal messages to the interpersonal interactions, how we treat each other, different policies that they have seen or experienced, institutions over time and history, which include laws and then looking at culture. Folks will be able to map off that the system, to see for themselves how racism is not just one or two things, but is actually embedded in so many various parts of society,” Cocoya adds.
Cocoya says participants will be able to gain theory and learn more about race and racism through the session, but also how to incorporate that knowledge into their organizing work.
The event will close with an “End of the Day Community Sing,” led by Imani Yasin, where participants will form a “song circle” serving as an open space for artists to share their music, poetry or other forms of artistic expression. Yasin will close out the circle with Baltimore-based producer and artist Mateyo, performing a preview of her upcoming project, “Too Soon.”
“We don’t heal from trauma alone, and we don’t heal just talking in words or talking about legislation and policy change,” Johnson says. “Music is cultural, it speaks to the mind, body, and soul. When you look at indigenous peoples and you look at different cultural traditions, even faith traditions, music is a very central part of what it means to to be together, to breathe together, to make sound together. So this is another opportunity for us to build community together.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of being able to hug each other right now, or to hold hands, or to wipe the tears off of our family and friends’ and loved ones’ faces, as we’re having these conversations,” she adds. “Music is a way for us to to to to be together and strengthen ourselves together. It’s just another part of the community building, but it’s also very much a part of healing.”
Queering Racial Justice runs from 12:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10. To register, or for more information, visit www.thetaskforce.org/qrj.
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