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.
Virma Benjamin and Cassandra Lord are credited as the volunteer founder facilitators of BQY; however, volunteers like Michele Clarke, Karene Browne, Trevor Gray and Ahkaji Zakiya were also instrumental in building the program in the early days of BQY. In its early incarnation, BQY was a group for “LBGTTQ youth who identified as Black, who identified with the Black diaspora and/or youth who had links or identity with Africa and the Caribbean” - Elisa Hatton.
Youth who attended the group came from all walks of life—some were street-involved or experiencing homelessness, or both, and some lived at home with families, while others lived on their own and were either working or in school.
In 2011, BQY youth curated the program’s first stage for Toronto Pride, creating a unique and much-needed space for Black queer and trans youth by Black queer and trans youth. Since then, the BQY stage has been an annual event that has grown each year, however in 2015, Pride Toronto notified BQY that they would be relocated and began a process that had BQY fighting to maintain their space as part of Pride and experiencing silencing of the voices of Black queer and trans-identified youth. Many youth from BQY decided to join Black Lives Matter Toronto in the Toronto 2016 parade, and took part in the disruption of the parade. For many of these youth, Pride’s treatment was the spark that ignited their social activism, and served as an important reminder of the need for BQY to take up space in the LGBTQ2S community.
Today, the group is still running as a safe space for Black, multiracial, African and Caribbean youth under 29 years of age who identify as LGBTQ2S. BQY operates as an anti-oppressive, trans-inclusive, participatory, youth-centred space that is responsive to and defined by the needs of its participants.
Food for Queers
Stay Safe. Not Hungry
Providing support for LGBT2Q+ folks experiencing food insecurities within the City of London