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Q&A with Kim Crosby

15 February 2012 No Comments

Kim Crosby. Photo credit: Nabil Shash

By Samuel Getachew

Kim Crosby’s favourite quote is that of Audre Lorde, “My political obligations? I am a Black woman … in world that defines human as white and male for starters. Everything I do including survival is political.”

The passionate outspoken “queer survivor” tells Sway about her involvement with The People Project as well as the rare experience of working with the likes of d’bi young.

You describe The People Project, of which you are co-director and founder, as a “movement of queer and trans folks of colour and our allies, committed to individual and community empowerment through alternative education, activism and collaboration.”

We have two separate streams in the People Project. One that is around arts & leadership education for queer and trans youth, including our 8-month program OUTwords.

My stream works around institutional change; I train a lot of educators and service providers around race, gender, power and privilege and sexuality: the City Of Toronto Cultural Arts Division, elementary TDSB teachers, for example. I also speak at conferences, host workshops and facilitate events like the Queer As Black Folk dialogue with The Black Daddies Club.

I work as a consultant and strategic planner with organizations particularly providing support to other queer artists and activists, but also to other organizations including NIA, Beatz 2 Da Streetz, around funding and planning. I host curate events, exhibitions and community dialogues. And finally, I develop resources and teaching tools in partnership with community and educate in a few online spaces.

You have had the privilege of having a residency under the great d’bi young at the AnitAfrika Theatre. Tell us about your experience.

My residency with d’bi was the first time I wrote and spoke freely, the first time I understood what it meant to be accountable to my community, my ancestors, my future by telling the whole truth regardless of how it made certain people feel. I spoke about my experience of sexualized violence and street harassment and coming to terms with my queerness.

I spoke about love and healing as a womyn of color. I spoke about the cycle of violence in communities of colour, where hurt people hurt people. And in a lot of ways it underscores the way I speak and work now.

You have also been a student of the Buddies in Bad Times Young Creator’s Unit. That must have been a wonderful time.

Buddies was an opportunity to have rigorous support within an existing Queer institution that is traditionally very white and male. It was a learning experience for all of us and I am still connected many of the people I met there – the experience of being on a stage, having my first play be a part of an established festival. Having my mom come for the first time to anything I have ever done was really special. I remember looking down at her face from the stage even now.

Tell us about your one-womyn play, Hands In My Cunt.

Hands In My Cunt was a biomythographical coming of age story. For me, one of its important significances was to say, this is yet another way that black girls grow up. Living with a lot of violence while excelling at school, while experiencing the ways that young black girls are hyper sexualized, while coming out as a lesbian. Our experiences are rich and nuanced and what was amazing was how many womyn had the same experience. It was amazing to find more of us, to see ourselves reflected in each other and to finally learn how to love what we saw.

You have had much rich experience at such a young age. Where do you want to be in five years?

Five years? My work, my whole life has been dedicated to liberation. One of my favorite writers is Mia Mingus, who is also a ‘femme identified womyn of color’ who is a disability justice activist says, “To me, femme must include ending ableism, white supremacy, heterosexism, the gender binary, economic exploitation, sexual violence, population control, male supremacy, war and militarization, and ownership of children and land.” And that resonates with me so powerfully.

That is what I want to do. [I] want to create spaces to have challenging conversations, want to continue to challenge and affirm those who challenge the oppressive systems around us. I want to keep a lot of love in my life, a lot of art, knowledge and play. [I want to] continue traveling where I am invited and study so much of the history that doesn’t get held in the history books. I want to do more writing and finally settle in to write a few books. I want to keep finding ways to sustain the work and the lives of people who live these realities economically, emotionally, meaningfully.

My ‘work’ isn’t a job, I do these things because I think that they honour the lives of a lot of people who fought for me. I do this work because I care a lot about happiness and fairness. Bell Hooks says, “For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”

This is what I do. I challenge us all (myself included) to be accountable with the faith that we can be transformed.

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