Two years after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, gun control remains in the headlines. But the conversation surrounding race, sexuality, and privilege has faded, something that a Kansas City-area collective of queer poets of color is working to change.
The group, called La Resistencia, use writing to resist oppression. One of the group’s founding members, Carissa “Lucky” Garcia, says, “we all have trauma” but that being in the collective “gives me a sense of safety.”
This Saturday, Garcia and several others will be sharing their poetry at La Resistencia: Soy Yo. It’s the collective’s fourth reading since its first performance in February.
La Resistencia was born out of the local community Brown Voices/Brown Pulse (BV/BP), which began as space for queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) to respond to the June 12, 2016, nightclub shooting that left 49 people dead.
Local LGBTQ community groups were hosting vigils after the shooting, but the voices represented were predominantly white.
“They failed to reach out to any of the LGBTQ people of color. They failed to reach out … and to include us in the grieving of our own people,” Garcia says.
La Resistencia started up when Kansas City, Missouri, writer M.G. Salazar reached out to other artists on the BV/BP Facebook page, and gave QTPOC writers a place to showcase their own spoken word poetry.
“We’re making connections with other organizations,” says BV/BP and Resistencia founding member Miguel M. Morales, who will also be reading at Soy Yo. He added that the QTPOC community felt like, “if they aren’t going to help us bury our dead, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.”
Community involvement has been crucial with both groups, Garcia says, pointing out BV/BP members Diane Burkholder, Alex Martinez, Rodolfo Marron III, and Anthony Marcos Rea have all helped her and Morales organize events and connect individuals.
Garcia encourages outside community members to learn more about BV/BP and La Resistencia by sharing time, money, and respectful attention.
“First and foremost, we need funding,” she says.
Though the groups are dedicated specifically to QTPOC, Morales emphasizes that their focus is not an attack on other groups. “There’s a thought process that if you’re supporting one group, you’re against another. That’s just not true,” Morales says. “We’re trying to give support to the community that needs it.”
Morales is hopeful that La Resistencia will help more privileged individuals become aware of the hardships faced by people of different identities.
“You have to tell the story you’re wanting to tell, but also bring in the threads of others’ stories to help them connect,” he says. “That’s the thing about the power of story and voice. It can bring people together in a way that policy can’t.”
Garcia adds: “This is a lifelong process. I tell my close majority-culture friends that I need them to fight for me long as I need to defend my existence.”
La Resistencia: Soy Yo will take place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14, at InterUrban ArtHouse, 8001 Newton Street, Overland Park, KS 66204. For tickets and additional information, visit the event page on Facebook.
Claire Verbeck is a freelance contributor to KCUR. Find her on Twitter @TheVeebs.