April Parker (right) and Dara Montague, core members of the Queer People of Color Collective, discussed their involvement in Montague’s backyard. (photo by Alexandria Stewart)
For almost a year, the Queer People of Color Collective has organized educational and social events in Greensboro. With an emphasis on building relationships and leadership, spreading information and uplifting talents and histories, the collective aims to be reflective of its community’s needs.
The collective has hosted four formal events so far, ranging from a meet and greet to a screening of the film Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen. Some events are specifically geared towards queer people of color in order to create safe spaces, while others are open to anyone.
Collective members and the people who attend their events come from an array of backgrounds, and that is part of the point.
Collective members emphasize that they aren’t interested in an organization that will minimize their differences.
“We are committed to intergenerational community building and promoting conversations across the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and gender identity,” explains the group’s tentative mission statement.
The intergenerational aspect is essential, and organizer Parker T. Hurley hopes people continue to bring their families and children to events. “It means a lot for me as far as being a parent goes,” collective member April Parker said. “It also has a lot to do with the kids. A lot of our history has been erased.”
Collective members encourage people to take ownership of the organization. A number of people working with the collective identify as mixed race, and not everyone considers themselves “queer.”
“We want people to come in and make it theirs,” said collective member Dara “Dae” Montaque, who was born and raised in Greensboro. “A lot of us are isolated and don’t have a community to come home to.”
Since its creation, the collective has provided a community, one that Hurley is grateful for.
“I started a physical transition four months before moving to the South and I didn’t know what that was going to be like,” Hurley said. “If I had not had this community I don’t know if I could have negotiated all of that successfully.”
The collective is by no means the only organization of its kind in the area, and Hurley says connecting with similar organizations has been one of benefits of forming the collective.
They have been welcomed by and begun working with organizations such as the Queer Explorers Club, Southerners On New Ground and Mobile Homecoming.
“People in Winston-Salem and Raleigh/Durham have been extremely supportive,” said collective member April Parker. “A lot of people are welcoming for us to become involved,” including organizers of the upcoming NC Rising anarchist conference on May 27-29.
For the core group behind the collective and a number of the people attending their events, “queer” is a positive term they readily identify with.
“[The term] ‘queer’ for me has been politicized — it’s how I live my life in the sense of questioning ideas of normativity and making space for people to be their whole selves,” said Hurley. “I can’t talk about being queer without talking about being black or being anti-capitalist or anti-oppression.”
May Young has attended two of the collective’s events over the past year and embraces the term as well.
“I strongly identify as queer and very happily so,” Young said. Young said part of the appeal of the term “queer” is its fluidity.
Queer People of Color Collective organizers echoed similar sentiments.
“‘Queer’ to me, I think of questioning things,” Montaque said. “If you’re fluid in your gender or sexuality sometimes it’s hard to feel involved in the LGBT community.” That fluidity, some feel, allows for more people to feel welcome, but even the collective’s mission statement addresses the complicated relationship some have with the term.
“We use the term ‘queer’ although we recognize everyone may not identify as such,” it reads. “We understand and appreciate everyone’s individual right to self-identify.”
Laila Nur, who lives in a collective house with Hurley and Montaque, has discussed the collective’s with them but does not identify as queer.
“I don’t really connect myself to gay culture,” Nur said. “I’m just a girl attracted to a girl. I try to be very careful about the labels I pick.”
Nur said she identifies as black, Muslim and lesbian, which she sees as positive terms but said “queer” has historically been a negative term. Nonetheless, she is supportive of the group’s work.
Organizers and participants seem to agree that dissecting the term “queer” and people’s affinity or aversion to it will continue to be part of the collective’s work.
Montaque came out around 2008, “and I’m still trying to figure out what that means,” she said. “When I came out I just thought it was lesbian, gay, bi, trans.”
She was embraced by the white queer community but wanted to reach out to queer people of color. Many queer people don’t identify as LGBT, Montaque explained, though some people in the collective do identify with part of the label.
The collective hopes to hold an event soon, possibly a game night, in Winston-Salem. Soon they will begin hosting open meetings to foster more input into the shape of the organization.
According to feedback they’ve received so far, many event attendees are looking for a chance to build relationships organically and informally. In part because of this, their next scheduled event will be a Juneteeth celebration potluck and picnic on June 26 at Barber Park.
The Queer People of Color Collective can be found on Facebook, or contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.