BQIC overcomes obstacles to present 2nd annual fest

Last year, some might say the odds were stacked against BQIC (Black Queer & Intersectional Collective) organizers in three major ways. They were trying to gain support for the brand-new Columbus Community Pride created in direct opposition to Stonewall Pride — a nearly 40-year event celebrated by hundreds of thousands each year. They were facing criticism of their tactics from within the activism community. And then, right before their festival, they opted to fire their security team upon discovery of ties to police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Once it finally came together, it was really beautiful,” said BQIC co-founder Dkéama Alexis, who worked with other team members to put together a community-based safety team. “Knowing that there were no police present created a real aura of safety, belonging and welcoming that you wouldn't necessarily find at Stonewall Columbus' Pride or any of the mainstream Prides. It really just felt physically, emotionally and spiritually different. Everyone just looked like they were being their most authentic selves.”

On Saturday, June 15, BQIC will host the 2nd annual Columbus Community Pride festival in King-Lincoln's Mayme Moore Park with the same mission: to center queer, transgender and intersex people of color.

“This year, it's coming on the heels of tremendous loss in the community,” Alexis said, referring to the deaths of fellow activists Amber Evans and Rubén Castilla Herrera. “We're going to have a lot of people who knew [them] coming to this, so it'll be a really meaningful space.”

In addition to the healing component, attendees will be able to enjoy various artists, musicians, vendors and workshops. And with 2019 marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a POC-led, landmark event for LGBTQ civil rights, the radical legacy of Pride will be top of mind.

“That's always going to be a very central focus,” Alexis said. “We don't want to celebrate our community if it means forgetting all the people who put their bodies on the line to get us here.”

To that end, Community Pride encompasses educational events beyond the festival (this year's theme is “Decades of Resistance”). For instance, on June 11, BQIC organizers brought in noted activist CeCe McDonald to discuss violence against black trans women, who are being killed at an alarming rate.

“We need to really uplift our black trans sisters, continue to support them, continue to put money in their pockets, because the stakes are getting higher and higher,” Alexis said.

After working through tragic losses in the community, as well as personnel shifts in the organization, BQIC is looking forward to its next chapter following the festival.

“It's really important that we have these enjoyable, fun spaces to celebrate,” Alexis said. “[But] our main focus is figuring out how we … continue to be a formidable force when it comes to all the things that affect our community, like police violence, affordable housing and access to health care.”