“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” ― Audre Lorde
If we were to post our relationship status with power on social media, we’d likely note that it is very complicated. For LGBTQ leaders of color, being part of this movement is to repeatedly have our culture, race and identity marginalized at every turn. Yet we seek to transform spaces by using our collective power to challenge the systems and structures that deny our very existence.
So it was with great trepidation that when the White House asked a group of us to host the first summit for LGBTQ leaders of color, we said yes. This administration has been the single most supportive of LGBTQ people of color of any White House administration before it. Yet there are still huge strides that we must make to ensure that liberation is available to everyone of us. We did not go to the White House assuming we would find that liberation there. We went to be visible; to build connections and relationships; to better understand each other’s work; to set priorities around immigration reform, economic justice, health and state violence–and yes, we went to laugh and dance, and look fabulous and brown and Trans and Queer and Bi on that stage. Because we can.
But it certainly wasn’t without real challenges. We are a powerful and at times divergent movement. We didn’t always agree and yet the very image of Miss Major, a founding mother of our movement who was at Stonewall the night of the riots with Sylvia Rivera in 1969 was breathtaking. So used to fighting for space and visibility, it took some time to realize that we didn’t need to do that with each other. Yet we believe one of the strongest gifts we can give to each other is to recognize that our political and tactical differences combined can offer a collective strategy toward our liberation and wellness. We need all of us. And this moment was a chance to continue the work of building the connections that will sustain this movement.
To see tireless leaders who helped lay the foundation of the work all of us do like Bamby Salcedo founder of the Trans Latin@ Coalition or Juan Evans of the Racial Justice Action Center –who passed away just two months after the summit–holding space for all of us was incredible. Through this gathering, we were able to collectively amplify voices and issues that are often dismissed or overlooked as well as bring together a broad and diverse cross-section of leaders in our movement to both struggle and learn together.
Although the actual summit was a three hour meeting, we spent two days prior to that getting to know one another and the types of work and issues that folks were facing. We did this by centering our experiences and prioritizing our stories; we took time to share and understand the history of our movement building; and broke out into circles to map our conditions and the key issues we need addressed. It was important to make space to ground ourselves in our movement vision, and to reflect on each experience to ensure that this time would be used as a tool to move forward together. Taking the time to connect with one another and the work we are all doing helped us come together and utilize that space to the best of our abilities.
When the time for the meeting came, we shared with the White House administration what our key concerns were. Throughout our planning, we had identified four major areas of concerns, along with multiple strategies and steps that could be taken to address them. The four key areas that were identified include: economic justice, immigration reform, criminalization, and health and wellness. Some steps that we highlighted that could be taken to address these major concerns were raising minimum wage, extending the period of work authorization for asylum seekers, developing a broad understanding of ACA and education for service providers, and the immediate end of deportations and isolation/solitary confinement for trans/queer folks. These were amongst the many policy reforms that we believed could help support the healing and liberation of our communities.
This was of course not an easy process, and this experience has raised several questions for us on our relationship to power and each other. It is easy to understand that this work is hard, and that the violence we experience as LGBTQ PoC takes a toll on us. It is harder to recognize how and when this violence is perpetuated within our community. In moving forward, we must push ourselves to expand our leadership development work in order to transform dynamics within our community that lead to unnecessary harm. We are also moving forward with the renewed commitment to centering the leadership of LGBTQ people of color. We must work at answering the question of how to lift up the strategies, leadership, and policies that will substantively shift the lived experiences of LGBTQ people of color. While no easy or simple answer exists, we are committed to leverage our power as we move toward this future.
The Brown Boi Project, founded in 2010, is rooted in the desire to transform the way our society and culture understands gender and the power assigned to masculinity by being accountable for our privilege and increasing support for women and girls of color, trans and cis. This is important work that we must lean into and shift without always centering ourselves. We hoped to accomplish this by building leadership and power with LGBTQ people of color nationally by providing training and capacity building to the under resourced work led by women of color and LGBTQ people of color.
Summit Host Organizations:
The planning committee for the summit was made up of people of color led base building organizations from across the country:
API Equality Northern California
Brown Boi Project
Familia Trans and Queer Liberation Movement
Gender Justice Los Angeles
Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
Southerners on New Ground
Trans Women of Color Collective
Participants of the conference were selected to represent leaders from across the field and included the leaders below (organizations are for identification only):
A. Sparks, Queer Leaders in Philanthropy Katrina Goodlett, Trans Women of Color Collective
Alba Onofrio, Soulforce Kingston Kodan, KHUSH DC
Alice Hom, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy Kris Hayashi, Transgender Law Center
Aliya Rahman, Code for Progress Kyem Brown, Black and Pink
Alma Rosa Silva Banuelos, Univ of New Mexico – LGBT Center Kylar Broadus, Taskforce
Andrea Ritchie, OSF/Streetwise and Safe Lance Hicks, Detroit Represent
Apphia Kumar, SALGA-NYC Lance Toma, API Wellness
Cole, Brown Boi Project M. Adams, Freedom Inc.
Bamby Salcedo, Trans Latina Coalition Marco Antonio Quiroga, Immigration Equality
Cara Page, Audre Lorde Project Marco Castro-Bojorquez, Lambda Legal
Carla Zamarripa, Brown Boi Project Maritza Martinez, Somos Familia
Catalina Velasquez, Casa Ruby Mary Hooks, Southerners on New Ground
Coya White Hat-Artichoker, First Nations Two Spirit Collective Mel Beltran, Center for Artistic Revolution
Dane Edidi, Trans Women of Color Coalition Mikael Owunna, Trans Women of Color Collective
Darnell Moore, You Belong Miss Major, TGIJP
Dee Dee Chamblee, La Gender Inc. Monna Wong, API Equality Nor Cal
Douglas Rogers, Black and Pink Mustafa Sullivan, GSA Network
Dr. Herukhuti, Center for Culture, Spirituality and Sexuality Nicholas Sakuri, Univ. of MD
Earl D. Fowlkes, Jr., Federation of Black Prides Olympia Perez, Black Trans Media
Eileen Ma, API EQUALITY – So Cal Paris Hatcher, Race Forward
Elle Hearns, GetEQUAL Patty Bernes, Sins Invalid
Erica Woodland, Brown Boi Project Paulina Helm-Hernandes, SONG
Erika Totten, Unchained Spiritual Life Coaching Penelope Williams, BiNet USA
Ezak Perez, Gender Justice LA Priscilla Hale, allgo
Faisal Alam, MASGD Roberto Tijerina, Audre Lourde Project
Faith Cheltenham, President of BiNet USA Ruby Corado, Casa Ruby
Frederick Ginyard, FIERCE Samantha Master, HRC
Graciela Sánchez Esperanza, Peace and Justice Center Sandra Davis, The California Endowment
Harlan Pruden, North East Two-Spirit Society Sasha Alexander, Sylvia Rivera Law Project
Isa Noyola, El La/ Trans Gender Law Center Sasha Wijeyeratne, NQAPIA
Isaiah Wilson, National Black Justice Coalition Se-ah-dom Edmo, Indigenous Ways of Knowing
Jerssay Arredondo, GetEQUAL Shelly Halstead, National Center for Lesbian Rights
Jorge Gutierrez, FAMILIA Stacey Long Simmons, Taskforce
Jose Gutierrez, Center for Artistic Revolution Suyapa Portillo, May Day LA
Joy Messinger, i2i Terna Hamida, LGBTQ Muslim Retreat
Juan Evans, SNAP-CO (Solutions not punishment coalition) Tyrone Hanley, National Center for Lesbian Rights
Julian Padilla Make the Road: GLOBE Urooj Arshad, MASGD
Kaamila Mohamed, Queer Muslims of Boston Veronic Flores, Streetwise & Safe
Vincent Cilano, National Center for Transgender Equality Yas Ahmed, MASGD Steering Committee
Yusef Hamza Bornacelli, MASGD Zoe Lapin, Trans People of Color Collective