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Grassroots: Black Queer & Intersectional Columbus Redefines Liberation

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Grassroots: Black Queer & Intersectional Columbus Redefines LiberationBQIC co-founders Dkeama Alexis and Ariana Steele.
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For such a young organization, Black Queer & Intersectional Columbus (BQIC) has already managed to push itself to the forefront of issues at the intersection of race and gender identity. Joining other community organizations with common ideals and goals, BQIC confronts injustices as they affect queer and trans people of color, a population that’s been marginalized by other groups.

“It was an idea that we had back in November, after having seen the organizing climate in Columbus and just being unhappy with it,” said Ariana Steele, who co-founded BQIC in February. “Black organizers not focusing on queer people, queer white organizers not focusing on black people, and we wanted a group that is founded on intersectionality.”

While not attempting to represent the entire queer and trans community of color, their goal is to offer resources within it. Just by existing, BQIC’s become somewhat of a hub for the community by default. Although the group itself has just five core members, each has their own network of friends, some of whom contributed to the zine that ushered BQIC’s debut in February.

Graphic illustrated by Wriply Bennet for BQIC’s zine.

The zine release showed the organization’s accessibility to the LGBTQ+ community, but the BQIC name recently started circulating in the mainstream following their support of the BlackPride4, the four protesters arrested at Stonewall’s Pride Parade on June 17. The groups actually share two members — Wriply Bennet and Ashley Braxton.

As of late, their focus has been on throwing support behind the BlackPride4, helping organize a protest, a spoken word-slash-open mic night, and a community conversation, as well as fundraising to help with their legal expenses.

Outside of their efforts to help those attacked and arrested at the Pride Parade, Steele and co-founder Dkeama Alexis said they want to set up a mentoring program for black queer and trans youth. In this and other ways they aim to directly connect with the community, taking a different route from lobbying representatives or starting ballot initiatives.

“I’m not interested in policy change itself,” Steele said. “For this group, we’re more interested in grassroots organizing and kind of organizing beyond these power structures and beyond policy to make change happen from the ground up.”

Those who are queer and trans persons of color can join BQIC by visiting their Facebook page or attending one of their meetings, which happen weekly or semi-weekly. The meeting location usually moves around, though, so connecting with a group member would be the best first step.

For those who are white or straight or gender conforming, there are still ways to get involved with and contribute to BQIC, donating to their mentorship program and accompanying them at actions and rallies being just a couple. The main way to help, though, is to be an advocate in thought, conversation and action.

“We don’t need allies, we need accomplices,” Alexis said. “We need people who are completely unpacking their internalized white supremacy — the supremacy that they were born into, unpacking that continuously, rejecting it, and making sure through that process that they’re directly getting involved with these things, and no longer allowing themselves to be complicit in white supremacy or homophobia or the way those two oppressions interact.”

For more information on BQIC, visit their Facebook page.

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