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Queeries: Revolution on my mind
One of my favorite quotes is from Toni Cade Bambara, celebrated Black author, documentary film-maker, social activist and college professor: “The role of the artist is make the revolution irresistible.” As an architect involved in image-making visions of the future and engaged with communities envisioning their futures, I try to live by as I practice design justice. Because shouldn’t spatial justice be irresistible?
Notice that the role of the artist is not to make the revolution “happen” or “more productive” or “popular.” But make it irresistible. So intoxicating, enchanting, compelling, that it cannot be resisted. Delicious. Tantalizing. Seductive.
How can we do that, together?
Another one of my favorite quotes about revolution is from Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American civil rights and labor activist whose work was always in solidarity with the Black Power movement, had this to say: “A rebellion is an outburst of anger, but it’s not revolution. Revolution is evolution towards something much greater in terms of what it means to be a human being.” A revolution is evolution. As in, a revolution is a process, not a single moment in time. Cultural and structural shifts—lasting ones, anyway—do not happen overnight.
I believe that a queer revolution is happening today in the US—has been happening, since, and maybe even before, Gene Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco (August 1966) and the Stonewall Uprising in New York City (June-July 1969). Pride was a riot! Pride, as a project of radical visibility despite phobias and violence, was a revolution. Pride is a revolution.
2023 is a pivotal year in its own right. As much as rainbow capitalism sucks, the silence from corporations this year is even worse, because it means they’re choosing dollars over (superficial support of) queer lives. It’s becoming clearer, now more than ever, that many in this country want to backslide… prefer heteronormativity… and just plain don’t understand what drag or being queer or being trans means. Not a surprise, but wow there’s so much work to be done…
And so, we’re back at the question: how can we make sure we’re part of the evolution of society, part of the revolutionary process? And how can we make it irresistible?
One way is to create truly safe spaces—both in psychological and physical ways.
As we return to in-person events “after” the pandemic (I used quotation marks because COVID-19 has not been eradicated!!) and gravitate toward “normalcy” of pre-pandemic times, I’m shocked that we, collectively as a society, have so quickly tossed aside our masks. There were moments during 2020 and the year after when most people were wearing masks (at least in New York City!) that gave glimpses into a world that cared about other people, publicly (though, now that I think about it, maybe people were mostly interested in their own wellbeing). I get that the risk is probably low enough for able-bodied people to let their guard down, but what ever happened to solidarity?
Safe spaces also mean accessible spaces, and for a space to be truly accessible it needs to accommodate for disabled and immunocompromised people. I’m not talking ramps—I’m talking masks!
Especially indoors, where ventilation and air filtration may not be up to par, but also outdoors when people are in close proximity to one another, masks should be mandated. It’s really that simple. Just have a policy. NYC’s Queer Liberation March will have marshaled spaces at the front of the rally and the march where masks will be required. It’s not a perfect policy, but it’s a step in the right direction that most events / orgs don’t take, and inches toward true accessibility by addressing it head on.
And—just a gentle reminder—queer people (especially queer people of color) are more likely to be disproportionately harmed by COVID-19, and/or lack of access to testing a treatment. Masks aren’t the only factor, but in this day and age, it is, undeniably, a factor that will affect overall inclusivity.
It’s one way to push us towards re/evolution, towards a future that is irresistibly safe for everybody.
✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊🏻 I hope these words inspire in some way, shape, or form.
Until next time,