Doing the work of anti-racismFeb 01, 2022
Doing the real work of anti-racism takes soul searching, emotional untangling, taking responsibility, deep intellectual effort, and staying in communication. This is the work that many people of colour are left to do when a situation requires them to do the ethical thinking and communicating about how to handle systemic racism as it arises. This is the burden that white people not directly affected avoid by by-stepping the issue, glossing over it, or ignoring it.
This week, one of the Kings of Joy in our first Naarm (Melbourne) group, brought to our attention that there had been various problematic institutions running stalls at Midsumma's Carnival day the previous week, including Serco a global company that directly facilitates the incarceration of refugees seeking asylum in Australia. Queers of Joy was scheduled in Midsumma's program as a Midsumma event.
Can you imagine walking into Midsumma Carnival with your friends and your rainbow flags, full of pride and possibility only to be viscerally impacted by the presence of an institution that disproportionately impacts people of colour? This space declared to be a safe place for our diverse community to gather?
As a result of the stand of the BIPOC people in Kings of Joy, Chris and Malaika two of the producers of Queers of Joy met with them, and over several days, we began the work of clarifying what action to take. One of our main concerns was to not impact the ticket sales for the show. These ticket sales go to the trans/gender diverse performers as well as the team who produce the event and each show, the producers ensure there are at least 50% BIPOC artists. We knew people had had other shows cancelled due to the pandemic and they were counting on this income. We'd already taken the show online to take care of the community. Next was to resolve the ethical dilemma we found ourselves in as a Midsumma show.
Diversity is something we strive for however, in a queer community like ours, there is no one voice. LGBTQIA+ people are everywhere and we can be found in all organisations, walks of life, political points of view, and professions. It became apparent to me that this situation was not about excluding individuals, but about questioning the organisations and institutions that are racially problematic and removing those that disproportionately impact BIPOC people's lives from these spaces. Where does systemic racism live? It lives in the systems and in the institutions we have created. And that's where it plays out.
We found a way to take care of our performers, our community, and ticket holders and to take a stand, in communication with the CEO of Midsumma, by withdrawing our show from this year's Midsumma Festival. What this decision made available for our community was being in integrity and alignment. No one was put in a position where they ethically could not participate, removing the burden from individuals to do the emotional work of determining what to do. It also made JOY available again! Everyone in Kings of Joy was free to participate and move forward happily, joyfully and with renewed energy. This was only made possible by the BIPOC voices who spoke up and made bold requests. Thank you Jessie, Eman and Bridget.
Here is the statement from our producers:
Today Queers of Joy has informed Midsumma that we officially withdraw our show from the festival’s program. We took this decision in light of the festival’s action in accepting Serco’s stall at their carnival last week - a company that directly facilitates the incarceration of refugees.
Queers of Joys is a community that includes First Nations Australians, people seeking asylum and people with diverse cultural backgrounds. It is imperative that BIPOC, queer and trans people can produce, perform and attend our shows with alignment and integrity.
We have asked the festival to review their future decision-making process in which institutions can hold a spot at the festival and when they do - review from the perspective of those disproportionately affected by these institutions. Everyone has the right to pride, joy and safety.
The show will go on 🏳️⚧️🏳️⚧️🏳️⚧️🏳️⚧️
Midsumma will refund any existing tickets. To book/rebook our event which is still happening on Thurs 3 Feb, 7 pm (online), click here: www.trybooking.com/BXCNL
Karen Bryant, CEO of Midsumma, responded with accountability and respect and has said she will interrogate the conditions by which stalls can be held at Carnival and take the issue of organisations like Serco meeting the criteria for a stall to the Board. Midsumma is the least-funded festival in Victoria, they have a very small team of staff and 80% of their resources have been going towards groups of people with marginalised voices. They have refunded any ticket holders for Queers of Joy and also refunded our event registration fee. These actions are welcomed and promising. And there is more work to be done.
As for Queers of Joy on Thurs 3 Feb, 22, we have an incredible line-up of performers including drag mama Djabungandji performer and activist, Mad B Diva, indie acoustic trans band Boy and Bucket (Malaika's band!), trans human rights defender and Ugandan refugee in Kenya, Lucretia, queer non-binary Jewish author, Nevo Zisin, non-binary actor, composer, writer, and cellist Lore Phoenix Burns, Drag King Randy Roy and of course, the first-time Drag Kings of Kings of Joy - Lorenzo of the Dhungala, Trans Mission, Tal Keshet, DJ Hyper Crotch, Jaris Gillespie, Bun the Gun, dedicating our routine to fellow King of Joy Malimi who will be cheering from the audience this round.
Please share and attend - we can't wait to be together again - from all over the world.
Pick your tickets:
Best $20 I spent
I wanna support - $10
I'd pay if I could - $0
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