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Queer Students of Color Conference: A Q&A with main organizer, Jayvin Jordan-Green

Film still from 'Still Black - A Portrait of Black Transmen'

Building community for queer students of color (QSoC) and their allies, the Queer Students of Color Conference (QSoCC) is the first of its kind in Oregon. Taking place from Friday, April 29th to Sunday, May 1st at Portland State University, this  QSoC led and organized event seeks to address the unique issues that effect queer students of color and the communities they occupy.

Although a liberal-minded city inclusive to many folks on the sexuality and gender spectrum, Portland is considered the whitest big city in the US and often fosters queer spaces that are unwelcoming to queer people of color. In a state with a long, long history of institutionalized racism and displacement of people of color, Portland, OR is a prime location for anti-racist growth and QPoC empowerment, taking place at this year’s conference.

QSoCC main events include: keynote address by Portland-raised trans feminist activist, Elena Rose; the Portland premiere of Still Black—A Portrait of Black Transmen, and a Q&A with director/writer Kortney Ryan Ziegler to follow; daytime workshops; a dance party, and more. Open to community members from all backgrounds, identities, and orientations, this year’s QSoCC is a long-awaited landmark event in Portland’s queer history that is not to be missed.

Here is what Jayvin Jordan-Green, QSoCC steering committee chair, student, and Queer Students of Color Resource Coordinator at PSU’s Queer Resource Center, had to say about the conference:

MM: What excites you the most about the QSoCC?

JJ-G: The most exciting part for me, really, is that the conference is happening. To raise awareness about queer students of color and bring visibility to a community that exists in Portland, but whose members have felt isolated and disconnected from each other. It’s a chance for the community to get together, and to know that folks aren’t alone.

What was the impetus for the conference?

If you’re a queer person of color there are high probabilities that you won’t be able to access higher education with the same ease, and the same privilege, as your white straight peers, your heterosexual peers of color, or your white queer peers; being part of these multiple disadvantaged groups in society makes it extremely difficult to gain [equal] access.

Do you think connections in queer communities of color are more prominent in other cities?

Jayvin Jordan-Green

Yeah, definitely. I was born and raised in San Francisco, and I have traveled to other places where there are larger populations of people of color, but also more of a historical and institutional presence of people of color, that Portland, as much as it likes to think of itself as a liberal and progressive place, doesn’t have in comparison. Historically, academia has been geared towards straight-white-middle-class men; and even though academic institutions are working really hard to make their places of higher learning more accessible, a lot of folks still find themselves isolated.

What has the response to the conference been like so far?

It has been overwhelmingly positive. I really think that there is a desire for people of all backgrounds to see this conference [be a] success. I’ve been really fortunate to have the support of the QRC staff, as well as our administrator, and the administration of the school. I didn’t want to see the conference be the only way that queer students of color and queer people of color were connecting with each other in this city, but other people are using the QSoCC as a springboard to seek out their own communities and build coalitions [PDX QPoC group, for example].

Can you tell me about the workshops?

A lot of the workshops are addressing issues around race, sexuality and gender identity [providing] dialogue with QPoC. There are workshops on queer people of color’s history, racialized spaces, cultural appropriation for white queer folks, and many more. These conversations aren’t really happening at other queer conferences that I’ve been to–conferences that are designed to address students, and those that are designed to address people of color–to see these [events] all under one roof is really exciting.

To register for the QSoCC, or for more information including a complete list of workshops, visit: https://sites.google.com/site/qusocc/, on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=190798817627457&ref=ts, or contact, Jayvin Jordan-Green, directly at: qsoc@pdx.edu, to find out how to get involved.

Guest columnist Mel Mundell is an MFA student in the nonfiction writing program at PSU and has published articles in Bitch, Discorder, No More Potlucks and a Q & A at .dpi revue.  She is currently interning at Bitch magazine where she blogs about queer feminist arts and culture.

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