Community Initiative - queer history - community intiatives zami
Creators: Debbie Douglas, Sylmadel Coke, Douglas Stewart & Deryck Glodon

The Story...

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.

Walk into the 519 Centre on a Thursday evening in 1985 and head downstairs to the Pine Room. There you would have found a group of Black and West Indian queers creating an inclusive safe space for themselves at a meeting of ZAMI.

Started in 1984, ZAMI was founded by lesbian activists: Debbie Douglas, Sylmadel Coke, and gay activists: Douglas Stewart and Deryck Glodon. They took the name Zami, a West Indian Creole word for lesbian, and it went on to became not only a support group but also the visible Black queer organization in the city. They took part in Pride Day marches, held social events, and were the black presence in lesbian and gay community events.

"We had all just met each other and we began thinking of other folks like us who didn't have a space to have this conversation and to get to know each other... we wanted a group that could speak to gay and lesbian issues in the black community and to issues of blackness and racism within the lesbian and gay community."

Debbie Douglas

Over time, while women remained involved, ZAMI became a largely men's group while the women became more involved in organizing around black feminist issues, working across intersections of gender, race and sexual orientation forming the Black Women's Collective. For black gay men however, ZAMI had become one of the few spaces where they didn't have to deal with the racism of white gay spaces. Many of ZAMI's members eventually became involved in starting the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention in 1989 and ZAMI eventually ceased to exist in that same year.

Food for Queers Community Program

Food for Queers
Stay Safe. Not Hungry

Providing support for 2SLGBTQ+ folks experiencing food insecurities within the city of London

No questions. No contact. Just Support!

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