The doors in SCC 115 are now open. About half an hour until the panel discussion for the 4th Annual Queering Black History Month event begins. Stay tuned!
The speakers tonight include USA-based founder of Black Girl Dangerous, Mia McKenzie, and local activists and academics Christopher Smith, Monica Forester and janaya khan.
According to Ryerson Today, "...Queering Black History Month aspires to re-insert the lives, experiences and achievements of queer and trans African, Black and Caribbean people. It’s a time for us to reflect, celebrate, honour and complicate all the magic that is cultivated in our various communities.
"We have an obligation to create a safe space free of hate." - Rajean Hoilett
Co-founder Rodney Diverlus says this is "place of convergence" for people that are allies to the LBGT and black community.
"Celebrating queer and trans black, African and Caribbean people is rarely done." - Rodney Diverlus
"Although this is a day long event, it's important to carry on these stories every day of the year." - Diverlus
"I want to thank all the black brothers and sisters in this room who wake up every morning and do this work." - Lalli Mohamed, co-founder of the event.
Mohamed says he is inspired by the artists who contributed artwork tonight and the speakers on the panel.
Mohamed introduces Christopher Smith who is a PhD student that is studying queer black history. Smith will be moderating the discussion.
Smith begins by thanking the coordinators but states there is a problem with the limited time that open discussion can be recognized for queer black culture.
Smith acknowledges trans women Cece McDonald and Janet Mock who have been in the news recently for the various obstacles they've faced.
Smith says that coining terms like "intersectionality" is not just trendy, but problematic. They have become mainstream and misused.
"I am tired of seeing black feminists as angry." - Smith
"I've been around for 25 and there hasn't been much for queer black trans people in Toronto...we are making history by sharing tonight." - Forester
"For queer trans women, it was hard to establish relationships...because of the internalized stuff we face in our own lives." Forester. "I wasn't brought up with black culture."
"People would say that it's great that I'm biracial. But it's really not. You're not black enough, you're whitewashed," Forester says about growing up.
"It took me a long time to realize that Canadian black people have culture too," Forester says jokingly, referring to camping and long winters.
"Coming out in the 80s was difficult because it was very white-centric," she says. "The clique I hung out with was great because we all lost our acceptance. A lot of us lived on the streets, were kicked out of our houses and turned to sex work to survive."
Forester says that today everyone is free and capable of doing work and is proud of how far the community has come.
Forester says she still looks up to a West Indian trans friend she met at 19 who had a family and paved the way for her despite being deported back to Trinidad many years ago.
Forester also notes her trailblazing friend, Peaches. "She had hair like Chaka Khan and legs like Tina Turner...she fought for equality in her Jamaican community but couldn't fight for her HIV status. She was too ashamed."
"We spent a lot of time living in the shadows but we decided were not going anywhere," she says, listing healthcare and equal rights as part of their agenda.
Forester ends her presentation by saying: "We're at a time in history, in Canada and globally, where we can't be silenced."
Smith introduces janaya khan, a queer cyborg model, who believes in the power of consent and community accountability.
"They" is the gender neutral pronoun that khan uses in their identity.
Due to anti-black racism, khan says their peers did not feel beautiful.
khan says black Canadians are now equal, per capita, to Aboriginals in Canadian prisonsz
"What would destroying white supremacy do to anti-black racism? Anti-black racism exists even without white supremacy." - khan
"That was so dramatic, I didn't come here to get all dramatic," khan jokes about the tone of their speech tonight.
"The times I hear anti-black racism dropped, it's too boost someone's 'cool' level," khan says.
"If you're not organizing against anti-black racism, you're perpetuating that talk." - khan
"What does it mean black suffering is erased? It means that white folks say 'No we know stuff happened to black people, we're passed that.'" - khan
"When I'm in non-black spaces, I get told I'm mean and aggressive," says khan about celebrating their blackness and history.
"My queer identity is not what causes [interruption], it's my blackness," khan says. "I can be black, but not TOO black."
"My identifying as a cyborg...is intrinsically connected to my blackness," khan says of black people being referred to as machines.
As an Afro-futurist, khan has self-determined their own identity that decentralizes whiteness.
"What would a movement look like that is visionary and not reactionary?" khan asks about equality.
Forester says although this event is great, "We need to do more than go to these forums to learn about each other."
Forester says she encountered a lot of denial in approaching different communities. She remembers people saying, "there's no trans people in the Jamaican community," despite knowing several.
Part of the Q&A section, an audience member asks khan, "how do we create a different language where we can talk about issues differently?"
khan: "There's a lot of focus on deconstruction of language in decentralizing movements...if each community can function in multiple capacities within the same body, we'll be fine."
After being questioned about their cyborg identity, khan says, "I don't need to explain myself to you and you don't need to understand it."
Ending the Q&A section, Smith begins introducing Mia McKenzie, a black feminist and "freaking queer".
Philadelphia-born and now living in the Bay Area, McKenzie is the first non-Canadian speaker in the event's history.
"Part of this journey of talking about anti-blackness is difficult...we have this tendency to think about ways of pushing back oppression, from standing in the place of the most privileged people...we look out at the world from that standpoint. What needs to be done about oppression?" McKenzie says of putting herself in a white person's shoes.
"We need to stop standing in the role of a white person, and start looking at the least privileged. When those people have what they need, we'll all have what we need." - McKenzie
Referring to the term 'POC,' which means "person of colour," McKenzie says that bunches every non-white person together. She says the term makes the struggles of different groups invisible.
"The idea that the black woman is angry...is an old story and a narrative that never goes away..."McKenzie says about her reaction to issues that are legitimate.
"If you want to say something nice about a black woman, the first thing they say is 'strong' as if that's all we are," McKenzie says. "But we are so many other things."
"Part of what I do at [Black Girl Dangerous] is refusing to be smaller...instead of trying to accommodate and make comfort for other people." - McKenzie
"[You can't let anyone dictate your identity], and in 2014, why don't you know that?" - McKenzie asks.
McKenzie says the main place that has made her gay is church. "This is not my opinion, it's a documented fact," she says about her experiences that take place in black church.
Other things that made McKenzie gay: the magazine 'Brown Sugar,' fruits with pits, tv shows and high school depression.
McKenzie says she stared BGD to fight back against racism and embrace her own danger. "I am dangerous...I'm empowered the idea of my own dangerousness."
With the discussion part of the evening over, thanks for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed my coverage of the 4th Annual Queering Black History Month event!