Karen Sharma is an organizer with QPOC Winnipeg who does the important work of creating safe spaces for 2SQTBIPOC.
“QPOC is a collective of Two-Spirit, queer and trans BIPOC individuals,” Sharma says.
“We are really committed to organizing and creating spaces where 2SQTBIPOC feel seen and safe and celebrated, and we do that through the creation of dance parties, which we’re most commonly known for, but also artist talks, drop-the-mics and other kinds of spaces.”
For Sharma, one of the most rewarding aspects of her work is creating spaces that are for and by 2SQTBIPOC.
However, racism and white fragility are recurring issues at QPOC Winnipeg events.
“The labour is carried by us to have to confront that racism, take those people out of the space and deal with the aftermath of that. There’s often fallout.”
Often the fallout is that members of the collective and 2SQTBIPOC in general are barred from queer spaces for calling out racism.
“There’s tons of resistance to the creation of an advocacy for spaces that centre 2SQTBIPOC,” Sharma says.
“The minute that you create a space like that, and ‘you tell people you can’t bring your white drama and nonsense into this space,’ it’s seen as a threat, and we’re constantly called divisive.” She explains that racial division has always been present and is a burden that QPOC Winnipeg organizers have to face.
“To say this is a space for 2SQTBIPOC is immediately threatening to people, because (that), by its very essence and nature, challenges white supremacy. It says the dominant is not the naturalized or the default or norm.” QPOC Winnipeg events are open to white allies (unless otherwise indicated in certain instances) but with a few house rules.
“We ask white people that if you’re coming into that space, be responsible for the people that you bring with you,” Sharma says. “Be part of challenging white supremacy. Be part of the solution."
1) You can never have too many dogs
“Tuna, and that one’s Clyde.”
2) An intense little kitty
“That one is Gwynn.”
3) Something from India
“My family’s from India, and I’ve gone back to India a number of times, and I always bring back things with me.”
4) Say cheese!
“Actually, we have a lot of old cameras between the two of us. It was kind of considered a toy camera, but it takes really great photos.”
5) Back to back
“Lots of bones and things that my partner’s collected going around.”
6) A chill space
“It’s my favourite space in the house."
Published in Volume 74, Number 20 of The Uniter (March 5, 2020)