By Erica Woodland
Just four years ago, the Brown Boi Project, a community of people of color organizing across race and gender to challenge and transform dominant understandings of gender and masculinity, began working with young people of color all over the country. Leadership circles twice a year bring together people of color from age 17 to 35 for whom masculinity is core to their identity. Masculine of center* women, trans men, queer and straight men come to the circles to grow, support each other and find new ways to live in masculinity that acknowledges privilege, creates space to be their full selves and to make a deeper commitment to gender justice.
(*Masculine of center is a term that recognizes the breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/queer womyn who tilt toward the masculine side of the gender scale and includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, tom, macha, aggressive/AG, dom, etc. [B. Cole, 2008])
For us, gender justice is about change—in ourselves, our communities and the systems that affect us as people of color. We work to create a world that is safe for women and girls, especially trans women and girls of color. Working at the intersections of racial and gender justice also means that we have to look at the ways we are in solidarity with people of color across race. How do we share space with one another instead of using culture to exclude others? How do we get to know and honor each other’s history and culture without objectifying and appropriating where we come from? These are the questions and conversations that are at the heart of our work and deeply connected to how we are healing as people of color.
To bring this vision to a broader base, we need to grow to share our work outside of our leadership circles. Summer of Brown Boi is a statewide tour of California that will change the way we talk about and experience gender in our communities. With events in the Bay Area, Fresno and Los Angeles, we hope to reach hundreds of young people of color and racial justice leaders. We are honored and excited to be coming to the Central Valley on Aug. 1 and 2 to connect with the organizing and healing work that is happening on the ground.
Too often, the Central Valley is overlooked, under-resourced and forgotten as the site for radical change and power. With Summer of Brown Boi Fresno, we hope to build relationships with groups and organizations so that we can leverage our collective power, learn from each other and dream of innovative ways to bring gender justice to the forefront of our work as people of color.
Summer of Brown Boi Fresno will be held at Fresno State on Aug. 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will include performances, workshops and open space sessions focused on love, health, self-care, race and gender. This daylong gathering is for young people of color to build relationships with each other and to connect with local organizers doing work around racial and gender justice. Registration is now open. Register at www.facebook.com/events/1503755183187192/ or tiny.cc/SoBrownBoiFresno.
As part of this tour, we are also hosting a Racial and Gender Justice Institute in Fresno on Aug. 1 for people of color working in racial justice organizations who want to integrate gender justice more deeply into their work. There are still a few spaces left for the institute in Fresno. Contact Erica Woodland at email@example.com for more information.
We can no longer wait to address the ways that masculinity is being used as a weapon against us in our own communities. The well-being and safety of women, girls, queer and trans people of color is essential to the well-being and safety of boys and men of color. When we can see ourselves in each other and honor the connections between us, then we can find the space and language to share our vulnerabilities and challenge each other to walk with the love inside of each of us.
Erica Woodland is the field building director for the Brown Boi Project. For more information about the Summer of Brown Boi follow them on Twitter: @brownboiproject, #SoBrown Boi. Also, “like” them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/brownboiproject.