I was struck with the care and intention put into logistical and programmatic aspects of the convening. The gathering itself was a living example of inclusivity. There was diversity among attendees across race, gender, sexuality, gender identity and ability. Analysis about disability justice and ableism was interwoven throughout the gathering. First Nations people and issues were represented in workshop and plenary programming. A proportionately higher number of Asian American and Pacific Islander American attendees participated, compared to other people of color organizing spaces I have been in. Great care was taken to create opportunities for local LGBTQI youth of color to volunteer so that they could attend the invitation-only gathering. And elders of our movement were honored repeatedly, speaking and presenting often throughout the weekend.
I was impressed by the intersectionality of issues that participants brought to the convening. According to Suzanne Pharr, “The conference created a space for conversations that were feminist, multi-gendered, multi-racial, multi-issue, cross-generational and intersectional.” Very fundamental and often overlooked questions were brought up. Kenyon Farrow asked us, in terms of LGBT liberation, “Can’t we do better than equality?” Malachi Garza asked us “How do we as queer and trans people of color thrive in LGBTQI political spaces? In social justice spaces? How do we respond to right wing attacks?” Paulina Helm-Hernandez of Astraea grantee partner Southerners on New Ground asked us, “What are the challenges of multi-issue organizing? What are the challenges of working together specifically as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of color?” B. Cole from Brown Boi Project asked us, “How can we spark innovation and sustainability within the movement? How do we build multi-strategy models that transform the nature of our community beyond the 501c3 structure?”
During a break, I asked Astraea board member Alice Y. Hom why it is important to connect people and organizations through conferences such as the BOLD! Gathering. According to Alice, “Networking people strengthens the movement. It builds a sense of collective power, while also recognizing our different histories and experiences.” Alice also mentioned that this gathering gave attendees a chance to share skills and learn from each other, and provided validation for their important organizing work.
What impacted me most of all was meeting amazing organizers from around the country. I heard over and over how multi-year funding from Astraea and the other funders had strengthened the organizations at the gathering. I talked to Randi Romo, a representative from Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR) of Little Rock, Arkansas. CAR does a vast array of work, including community education and youth programming, and provides the only drop in center for LGBTQ youth in the state. I love hearing about successful organizing in the South and with rural constituencies. Unfortunately, organizations in these communities receive less funding than their counterparts on the coasts, while facing overt hostility to their work. According to Romo, “We absolutely could not do this work without Astraea.”
I left BOLD! truly inspired by the enthusiasm and visionary ideas shared with me by Astraea grantees, and happy that Astraea continues to work to make organizations like CAR resourced, networked and sustainable. Astraea’s funding clearly makes a difference and I am proud to be part of a donor community that makes this happen.
Theo Yang Copley