Editor: As part of our commitment to LGBTQ People of Color, we try to highlight those in our communities who are doing the work. Sometimes that's a creator, a founder, an activist, or just one of us living day to day. By talking to those of us out in the community, we try to tell the stories of the EFNIKS in these streets...
EFNIKS: How do you say XRYSALIS and can you tell our audience more about what XRYSALIS is?
JIMMY HILL: Absolutely. It is pronounced Chrysalis, like the protective layer that a butterfly creates during its journey to becoming a butterfly. XRYSALIS is a For Us By Us collective uniting vision, expertise, and creativity to facilitate healing within our communities through our one of kind programming designed to: create spaces for QTIPoC/LGBTQ People of Color communites collectively in Art, Culture, Healing, Celebration globally; heal generations of our individual and collective trauma; and restore our connection to land and nature.
The first phase is "XRYSALIS", the annual event celebrating Queer, Transgender, and Intersex People of Color. Over the course of 3 days, we will channel all of our creative and loving forces in unison. We do this to immerse ourselves within a sacred and protected psychic sphere, within which we heal ourselves and one other. For Us By Us. This year XRYSALIS will be held at Groundswell Institute in Yorkeville California. Groundswell sits on over 180 acres of beautiful while nurturing the cooperative ecology and culture that are essential for a sustainable future. The Institute creates visionary queer consciousness-raising and environmental programs, and provides and inspirational space for like-minded people to come together and create new futures for our communities.
EFNIKS: This month EFNIKS is focusing on SPACES, and the safe spaces we have, or that we're supposed to have. What has been your experience with safe spaces as a LGBTQ Person of Color?
JH: Every day on this planet in this Black body is constant battle and negotiation. It wasn’t until I began the work of healing the internal battle that it all began to change. Nevertheless, from the outside, I am constantly having to protect myself from the expectations that are placed on my body by others in spaces where my body is seen as other or a tool to play out sex fantasies. Its like walking on sunshine. Going deeper, as a Black queer person there aren’t any spaces where I can go and not feel the all seeing eye of the White Gayze.
A few years back I started a group of just Gay Black men and we would go to the Castro to have drinks and take up space and talk with one another, every single time we were approached and questioned as if folks had never seen a group of Black folks in one space before. Which is mostly true. Places like Castro operate on the Assimilate, Conform, Obey on our terms when it comes to space which means that you have to be willing to just about abandon your ethnic identity for mainstream white gay culture. Everything is streamlined (even in the “Queer” scenes) and created with the White Gayze as its market while the rest of us are reduced to getting an “Latino” themed night or a Hip Hop night. Some clubs go as far as to incite fear and suspicion of others before you go into their space by handing you flyers telling you to “watch out for thieves” (Looking at you Badlands San Francisco).
All this to say that my experience with space as a LGBTQ Person of Color and a Black Gay man specifically has been so traumatic that I had to create an event because nothing that has existed has been able to give me what I need in a space.
EFNIKS: What is it that you need from a space?
JH: What I need from a space is for it to be created for LGBTQ People of Color and space that centers Black folks. I need space where my Lesbian and Trans sisters can be free and strategize and build. We need space that will allow us to expand my mind, body, and spirit. We need a space that will give us what I give it and in some cases, just a little bit more. I want to go to spaces that when I close my eyes I can hear the ancestors speak to me, I want to hear the praises of our people. I want to hear our music and uplift our voices. I need spaces that reflect all of our lived experiences as LGBTQ People of Color so that we can see that we are truly mirrors of each other, the good, the bad, and the great. Most importantly, WE NEED TO OWN THESE SPACES.
EFNIKS: How did XRYSALIS come to fruition?
JH: A few years ago a friend and I were at work when one of my co-workers, who was a very pretentious A-gay/”Burner” (which is what people who go to Burning Man call themselves), came up to me and another co-worker to show us their Burning Man tickets. He previously tried to recruit me and another Black friend of ours into join his Queer Burner group, which was comprised of mostly white and white adjacent Gay men (so that was an immediate NO for me) and those who wanted to be as close to that aesthetic as possible. After hearing him talk for what seemed like an eternity, I interrupted and asked both of him and our co worker, “Is there anything like Burning Man but for people like me that exist?” The queer burner went silent (surprise-surprise).
The other mentioned Afro Punk which at the time I had not heard too much about it. After doing some research I realized that there were not any retreats that centered LGBTQ People of Color specifically. Around that time My mentor and I were invited to go to a retreat in Saratoga Springs by the Radical Faeries and The Billy’s which are queer LGBTQ organizations that center queer celebration and radical expression. During this retreat I was amazed at how free and open( and almost entirely White)everyone was and it got me thinking, “My people need spaces like this” to be in nature, to heal, to love, to be free. The universe must have heard my prayer because would later that weekend have an opportunity to turn my dream into a reality.
EFNIKS: How easy was it to take that idea and run with it?
JH: I called on every ancestor friend and foe to make the first XRYSALIS a reality. I can honestly say the Bay Area was forever changed by the creation of XRYSALIS. It has brought up what it means to be an ally, what it means to be a queer person of color, and the importance of community support. XRYSALIS has inspired me to go on my own personal quest for healing, so that I can be the change I wish to create in our communities. I wouldn’t have been possible without all of the love and support of my community, they made this happen. They showed up. I am looking forward to the next one.
EFNIKS: When Is the next event?
JH: XRYSALIS 2017 will be happening August 11-13th http://groundswell.institute/our-programs/create-change/xrysalis-gathering-qtipoc-communities/
XRYSALIS Website: www.xrysalis.net
EFNIKS: What do you see in the future for your project?
JH: That is a great question. It's a question that wakes me up in the morning and is with me when I close my eyes when I go to bed. When I close my eyes I see the creation of a movement that defies current definition. A seed of wonder that grows with the community that cultivates it. The seeds planted in the Bay Area will not produce the exact same fruit a community in Louisiana or Germany. I see XRYSALIS being exactly what is needed for the community who cultivates its power. I see XRYSALIS being the catalyst for radical transformational healing that is both revolutionary and intersectional AF!
EFNIKS: Was there anything that you would like the EFNIKS fam to know?
JH: Please come to XRYSALIS if you can! I would love to have the EFNIKS fam represent! It has been a pleasure writing for EFNIKS.COM and sharing my story with you. Thank you so much for your support.
EFNIKS: Thanks for the time, Jimmy Hill.
(Title Photo courtesy Bonita Tindle)
Send questions and comments on this story to email@example.com