Backxwash is the stage name adopted by Ashanti Mutinta who is the first transgender female artist to win the Polaris Music Prize, which is known to celebrate diversity and to support up-and-coming Canadian artists.
Queering Black History Month
Why Queering Black History Month...
We recognize that in many cities and spaces, Queer Black folks still face erasure from the Black community as well as the mainstream queer community. In this space however, we exist. We remember. We hold this space and honour individuals in our community. We remember the work that has been done and we are inspired to do the work that lies ahead. But most of all, we are reminded that we are not alone and we have always been here.
Black History Month, celebrates the legacy of black lives but we somehow don’t celebrate the legacy of black queer lives — often forgotten, as if we have not been part of a larger struggle and story that has shaped the queer community we all experience today.
The histories and struggles of Queer Black communities and our contributions are frequently erased and missing from the mainstream narratives. Deemed unworthy of saving or even recognized by society, they often remain buried in files and boxes in the homes of the individuals who participated in those activities or fade out of memory. This loss of memory threatens to erase us from the history of the Queer community and it is vitally important that this space is reclaimed and held.
Each year for Black History Month, Queer Events, with help from the folks of House of Anansi, will mark February with an Awareness Campaign that will focus on Black 2SLGBTQ+ community members and the projects, spaces and initiatives created.
2022 Awareness Campaign
We're Still Here: Queering Black History Month
For Queering Black History Month 2022, we return to the idea that inspired this ongoing body of work - we continue to highlight and raise the visibility of Queer Black individuals in our community. It is incredibly important that we never forget to celebrate the accomplishments of those in our community, be inspired by their drive to create change for all of us, and write our stories, lives and sheer presence back into the dominant historical narrative. We have always been here.
As with past years, we'll add more to QE's 2022 Queering BHM campaign as we progress through the month
Trey Anthony, who was raised in Canada and is of Jamaican heritage, identifies as an out and queer Black womyn. She is a playwright, actor, and producer, best known for her award-winning play and television series Da Kink in My Hair. She is the first Black Canadian woman to write and produce a television show on a major prime time Canadian network.
Dr. OmiSoore Dryden
Dr. OmiSoore Dryden, PhD is the fourth James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies and the first queer person to hold the Chair. Dr. Dryden is a fierce advocate and has pioneered research that seeks to identify the barriers Black gay, bisexual, and trans men encounter with donating blood and the blood system in Canada; #GotBlood2Give.
Diverlus is a Haitian-Canadian transdisciplinary artivist (artist/activist), dancer and choreographer whose work "incorporates contemporary and Afrikanic movement and dance practices, physical theatre and public arts-based interventions" and has been presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canadian Opera Company and the Stratford Festival.
2021 Awareness Campaign
Knowing Our Power: Queering Black History Month
A key part of understanding and accepting Queer Black people in both the 2SLGBTQ+ and Black community is knowing our place and power in history. When questioned on notable black queer and trans members of the community, most answers reflect back for a handful of names from USA. QE will be continuing our campaign to raise visibility and highlight 2SLGBT2Q+ Black individuals within Canada to emphasize the work that is being done right here. In addition this year, the campaign will also be focus on some key moments in history that have sparked conversations around race and discrimination in Canada's Queer Black History.
The Body Politic
The Body Politic began in late October of 1971 as a “radical tabloid born of political conviction and a hunger for change” (Ed Jackson and Stan Persky). It quickly became one of the most important queer periodicals in North America and was known for its ongoing erasure of Queer BIPOC folks who were creating and mobilizing movements within the community.
A writer, community organizer and activist, Makeda Silvera has been part of the cornerstones of Queer Black community in Toronto. In 1983, along with her partner Stephanie Martin, she established the 101 Dewson Street collective house.
Gays Lesbians of African Descent (GLAD)
The search for others who shared similar experiences, language and culture was the motivation of Patricia Koine to start GLAD - Gays Lesbians of African Descent.
In 2016, Ren Navarro was the only queer black woman working in the craft beer industry in Ontario. Since then, she has gone on to become the founder of Beer.Diversity., a business she started in 2018 with an aim to bring more diversity and inclusion to the craft beer business.
Angela James was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010, becoming the first openly gay player, one of the first women, and only the second black athlete to ever be inducted.
2020 Awareness Campaign
Holding Spaces: Queering Black History Month
For Black History Month 2020 we turned our focus to the projects, events and spaces created by the Queer Black community, many of which hold their space in the history and foundations of our 2SLGBTQ+ community. In contrast to many ‘queer and trans’ spaces that centre white realities, these initiatives - that often remain unarchived and unrecognized - open up alternative visions of what queer space and community might look like and often put forth radical re-definitions of space, safety and collective care. For this year, we selected spaces that are integral to the history of our community.
101 Dewson St Commune1983 this large house on Dewson Street in the west end of Toronto owned by a lesbian couple from Jamaica, Makeda Silvera and her partner, Stephanie Martin, was the starting point for black and Caribbean lesbian and gay organizing in the city.
Black Queer Youth
The BQY initiative was created in 2002 after a group of Black queer youth connected with members of the Black community to approach the Supporting Our Youth (SOY) operating out of the Sherbourne Health Centre, about creating a program for Black queer and trans youth in Toronto.
Bricks and Glitter
While Pride can be a party for some, it’s often a precarious experience for others, particularly queer and trans BIPOC folk who don’t always feel safe or included in its spaces. For many as well, there has been a search for community driven spaces that veer away from corporate sponsorship.
Any QPOC who attends Toronto Pride usually knows where, when and who's performing at Blockorama. It is a space when you enter, you immediately breathe a sigh of relief as you feel that sense of belonging. For many, it's the one space in which that lingering feeling of homesickness is finally pushed back.
If you trace back the histories of most of Toronto's black queer and feminist organizing you will find that 101 Dewson Street is the common root. One of the many initiatives born there was ZAMI, the first organized black queer group in Toronto.
2019 Awareness Campaign
We've Been Here: Queering Black History Month
In 2019, we kicked off this annual campaign by highlighting and raising the visibility of Queer Black individuals who are working to create change in the community. Queer Black members of our community are often erased from the dominant Queer narrative even when they have been at the heart of our struggle for rights and inclusion.
Syrus Marcus Ware
Syrus Marcus Ware is a visual artist, community activist, researcher, youth-advocate and educator. He is currently a facilitator/designer for the Cultural Leaders Lab (Toronto Arts Council & The Banff Centre).
Monica Forrester is a Program and Outreach co-ordinator for Maggie's Toronto Sex Workers Action Project. Since 1999, she has worked in various agencies to educate and make services accessible for trans* folks. She actively works to promote awareness and visibility of trans women.
Dionne Brand is one of Canada's most renowned, honoured, and bestselling poets, novelist and directors. She won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry and the Trillium Book Award for her 1997 collection Land to Light On.
Visual artist, poet and manager of children, youth and adult services at Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Community Health Centre
Nik Redman is an artist, activist and community worker who was born in Montreal, Canada. Nik grew up in both Barbados and Canada.
Angela Robertson is an activist working with black, women’s and LGBTQ communities. She is widely respected and recognized for implementing life-transforming programs for women in Toronto. Angela is currently Executive Director of Queen West - Central Toronto Community Health Centre.
Faith Nolan is a singer/songwriter with a deep history of queer, women’s and anti-poverty activism. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, her parents and extended family were coal miners in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia of African, Miqmaq and Irish heritage. She later grew up in Toronto's working-class Cabbagetown.
Douglas Stewart is a gay rights activist and was the founding Executive Director of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention. He works mainly within Black communities to provide awareness and support to issues around gay rights.
What Does QIPOC Mean? And why we use it...
Queer Indigenous and Queer People of Colour (QIPOC)
QIPOC is a solidarity definition, a commitment to work in collaboration with other oppressed people of color who have been minoritized.
Do you know the origin of the term POC?
The term POC or People of Colour, originally WOC or Women of Colour was created by Black and other minority women of color in 1977 during the National Women's Conference, the origin of this term is pretty interesting, Loretta Ross can be heard speaking on the issue in the video.
Food for Queers
Stay Safe. Not Hungry
Providing support for 2SLGBTQ+ folks experiencing food insecurities within the city of London