On being a QPOC in gaming spaces

I remember being a kid and playing the Legend of Zelda for the first time. I remember sitting by and watching my cousins beat the final boss in Super Metroid and the feeling of my heart racing in my chest as we made the race against time to exit the planet. I remember the shock and joy I felt when, after escaping the planet, I learned that Samus was a woman. I used to beg my mom while in line at the store to buy me the newest pack of Pokemon cards, and the feeling I had when I got my first holographic card. The first boy I ever kissed was the same boy I used to trade Pokemon cards with at summer camp. I cried for a full day after my mom told me that she wouldn’t buy me the new Gameboy color. I remember my first Dungeons and Dragons campaign, how I was told I could be anyone I wanted.

And I remember the point at which I decided that I didn’t want to play as a white person anymore. When I began to consciously see people who looked like me be powerful, save kingdoms and fight monsters. Being a person of color in these spaces isn’t easy. My friends, who were so willing to accept me for my sexuality, my interests, my uniqueness, those same friends who, when I came out to them, didn’t bat an eyelash, had such a hard time seeing me and accepting me as a person of color. It wasn’t that they didn’t see me as brown, but they were uncomfortable acknowledging my experiences as a person of color in the real world. To them, characters in video games, movies, and books were white because it was “easier” for people to insert themselves over those characters. And my family, to them, things like Dungeons and Dragons, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings were white people things. To them my interests in these things were a sign that I was losing touch with my culture, or that I was “becoming white.”

Over the years I have found these spaces to be both places of great healing, where I can be around creative, fun, awesome people, and also places of pain, where I rarely if ever see people that look like me. Tabletop games like Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons let me not only create playable characters who look like me, but who are powerful and strong. By playing these characters, who defeat giants and save kingdoms, I am reminded me of my own power. I may not be able to cast fire bolt at my enemies or thunder wave people out of the way, but the people in power and the system itself have done everything in their power to bring me down. But they can’t.  

And the idea that I can’t like these things without losing my POC-ness, as though the melanin in my skin fades with each episode of Star Trek, is not only untrue, it’s insulting. I still face racism and violence, regardless of the interests I have.

How do we navigate these spaces? For me, the answer is the same as it is for any other space. Be critical of the things you enjoy. Make sure you hold creators and community members accountable for the things they do and say. Find creators and community members that have already done the work to be better people. Stop accepting mediocrity. For a long time, I told myself “At least this game doesn’t do ____” or “ At least this is better than ____.” As people of color, we often look at people, entertainment, and media and celebrate that “At least this isn’t completely horrible,” When we should be thinking “let’s stop celebrating mediocrity and start demanding excellence!”

Let’s come together to embrace our QTPOC nerds, geeks, and gamers. Let’s create spaces for our community members to come together and be who they are!

A Retrospective of August

Next month, allgo will celebrate 32 years of uplifting and centering the lives and experiences of queer people of color (QPOC). In that time, many things have changed in the organization, in the community, and in the world. Yet, many things are still the same. Our communities are still working hard, our people are still full of light, and our passion to raise and highlight the voices of QPOC is still going strong.

allgo has spent the last 32 years working and fighting against the violence experienced by our QPOC communities. It is vital that organizations like allgo continue to exist to intentionally hold space for our QPOC communities. allgo strives to foster stronger community in all of our events while working to provide a place where members of our communities can come together to connect, share stories, information, art, and so much more.

In the last month we have had the honor of presenting many different events with, for, and by members of our communities. Check out the recap below:

Gbeda Tonya Lyles facilitated a community discussion titled Let’s Talk: Food & Nutrition, What’s in Your Grocery Bag? where we were able to discuss and learn about the different foods that we eat, how our chosen foods affect our bodies, and the ways to look at the foods we eat more critically. By bringing together our community members, we were able to look more in-depth at the ways that we as individuals and as a community have been taught to approach food. Gbeda Tonya Lyles shared knowledge about how food can be healing and how healing can start by looking at the food we eat, as well as how the colors of our food affect our bodies and how to bring balance to our meals.

allgo artist-in-residence Dora Santana’s sharing of Minha Filha! A Black Trans Daughterhood was a beautiful and moving look into Dora’s life and experiences. More than just a performance Minha Filha! was a look into the very heart and soul of who Dora is, who she was, and the experiences that shaped her. Dora covered topics such as race and colorism in Brazil, her relationship with her mother, and her relationship with herself. Through movement and prose she painted a picture for the audience that was full of light, sounds, smells, and sensations, transporting each person into a place that lives on in her heart, mind, and soul. Minha Filha! is a sharing that is uniquely about the experiences and life of Dora Santana, but one that every person will find familiar and touching.

Tent Revival: A Festival of Black LGBTQ Arts and Prophetics was a community gathering of Black performers, preachers, poets, writers, singers, artists, healers, and more. Over the course of two performance-filled days, members of our communities came together to share, laugh, love, cry, and bask in the light that is black, queer art. Full of sermon, music, and movement the Revival highlighted the inherent spirituality of queerness, and celebrated the magic that is love for ourselves, our community, and for each other.

Dr. Martha Ramos Duffer facilitated a community discussion titled Let’s Talk: Polyamory: Love, Integrity, Jealousy, and Liberation where QPOC could discuss the different ways in which we practice love and caring. This much-asked-for-conversation showed the desire and need for our communities to explore the question “What does love look like?” Covering topics in all aspects of relationship building, from honest and open communication to power structures, and looking critically at privilege and how it affects relationships, attendees were able to share experiences and ask questions. Many attendees expressed gratitude that allgo exists to hold this space, as often times conversations of love and relationships do not center around the unique lives and experiences of QPOC. At the end of the night, many attendees expressed an interest in continuing the conversation. Be on the lookout for part two in the coming months.
We will continue to create spaces with, for, and by our community members to ensure that our QPOC communities continue to grow and flourish. We hope to see you at one of our events soon. To see more pictures of our events or to see what allgo is doing next, check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The importance of intergenerational community building

Our QPOC communities are made up of many different people in many different places in their life journey, which is what makes our communities so amazing and full of light. When we come together to pass on stories, histories, experiences, and wisdom that our communities have gathered and kept, that is the space where community is born. So it goes without saying that when we divide our communities up, whether intentionally or not, we close ourselves off to whole sections of our communities knowledge, strength and power. By creating truly connected communities we are able to create a space where knowledge and ideas can be freely shared, where people can come together to support one another, and where we can see that our communities are not just making it, but that they are thriving.

It cannot be stated enough how important it is for QPOC youth and QPOC elders to be able to interact and spend time with each other. The ability to see people who are not only living similar experiences as you, but are thriving, strong and growing can shape the way a person approaches their life experiences. Many people say that having youth participate in community spaces brings in new and exciting energy, which can be true, but the energy that is put out by our elders is just as just as new and exciting, and just as important to creating healthy communities, while often being overlooked. Our elders are able to bring a life of personal experience, as well as an energy that comes from having more lived experience. When elders are around we are reminded that the light within us shines bright. Only when we are able to create intergenerational spaces are we then able to see the full power of our communities.  

What types of things can we do to foster multi generational spaces? 

Make space for youth and their parents. Often time’s parents are forced to make the difficult decision on whether or not they are able to take part in community gatherings with their children. Let’s be clear, meetings that ask community members for input, but do not welcome parents, youth, and elders are not spaces looking for community involvement. The ability for youth and their parents to participate in community events will not only make events better, but will create a space where communities are able to truly come together as a whole. 

Allow space for youth and elders to participate, offer feedback and ideas, and value that input. Often times youth and elders are made to feel as though their feedback doesn’t matter, or that their ideas will not be taken seriously. Create spaces that are inviting and open, where people are encouraged to participate and share, regardless of age, or experience. Where each idea is valued and taken seriously. Let’s create spaces that are open to the free exchange of ideas and value the input that comes, while nurturing the growth of youth. There can sometimes be this dichotomy in communities. Youth can feel like elders are no longer willing to push the boundaries or have the energy needed, while elders can feel like youth are not looking at things within a historical context, or are replicating things that people have already tried.

Create opportunities for people to interact and socialize. Give time before, after, or during every event for people to interact and chat about things. If the event is about a heavy or serious topic, give time for people to talk about other things as well. Often times our community social gatherings become places where we are protesting, planning, and working. Allow some time for people to come together to talk about other things that don’t have to do with the violence that we are experiencing and instead make time to focus on the light and love we have for each other. By ensuring we have are able to share these spaces together, we are ensure that we are giving time for people to form lasting bonds that hold our communities together. As stated above the spaces where we come together to pass on stories, histories, experiences, and wisdom that our communities have gathered and kept, that is the space where community is born. And the impact of these social spaces on youth, elders, and everyone in our communities is immeasurable.

Creating a strong, healthy, communities is not something that happens overnight. Let’s work together to create spaces where all members of our communities can come together and share information, stories, and life.