Dear QWOCMAP Commnunity,
Earlier this Spring, QWOCMAP sent the following letter to Frameline:
After a meeting of the QWOCMAP Board of Directors, we made the difficult decision to not participate in the Frameline San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival or curate a QWOCMAP Screening Program for the 2015 Festival.
We appreciate the decade-long partnership we had with Frameline, which opened up additional opportunities for QWOCMAP Filmmakers to screen their films. The decision to step out of our partnership was not taken lightly. QWOCMAP engaged in considerable thought and discussion on this issue. We believe it is important to give Frameline the opportunity to address the community concerns about the receipt of funding from the Israeli government and related organizations.
We would also like to support Frameline as it increases its openness to community concerns, and encourage the organization to engage in candid public discussion about the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The international urgency of the movement, and the call for an academic and cultural boycott, are important to the future of social justice and the larger LGBTQ movement, of which both our organizations are an important part.
We do hope to partner with Frameline again in the future and we wish to keep the channels of communication open. We are happy to be a resource during what we see as a time of growth and strengthening of both of our missions to better serve LGBTQ communities. QWOCMAP serves an intensely marginalized community that stands at multiple intersections, and we believe that building partnerships and aligning ourselves with other movements is essential to our mission.
We would like to make ourselves available to continue to foster honest and compassionate conversations with Frameline and lend our experience and expertise about how we, QWOCMAP, work to represent and open space for the voices of our diverse and multi-faceted queer women of color, gender nonconforming and transgender people of color community, as well as our families, friends and allies/co-conspirators-in-equity-and-justice. We believe that it is only through sincere dialogue and understanding can we truly be inclusive of the communities we want to serve.
In 2005, a few community members approached to tell us that our queer Latina screenings should focus on immigration. QWOCMAP believed that any exploration of the forces behind immigration and migration in the U.S. should include a multi-racial, transnational discussion that acknowledged Native American/Indigenous/First Nations sovereignty. Which is exactly what we did with our “Multiple Borders” Festival Focus of our 2009 Queer Women of Color Film Festival.
Therefore, when Palestinian civil society issued the original campaign for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) and the call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel in 2005, the questions for QWOCMAP became:
How can we respond as an organization?
How can we strengthen our practices to meet our mission?
How can we address this injustice in a way that is distinctly QWOCMAP?
With this in mind, we fine-tuned our fundraising policies to ensure that we did not inadvertently accept in-kind donations of goods from Israeli companies or funding from its government. This meant that we stopped soliciting donations from companies like Starbucks, and sought out new information and then focused our fundraising efforts on local businesses and restaurants. This was a difficult choice to make because QWOCMAP is a small organization that provides free programs to our community without any corporate funding, but we were happy to take on the challenge.
Our support of the BDS movement also meant taking individual actions, and stepping up QWOCMAP’s work to amplify the voices of the Southwest Asian, North African/Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim & South Asian (SWANA/AMEMSA) community. We developed intentional and transnational partnerships with organizations to create an environment of welcome and inclusion, in order to combat the racism and Islamophobia that fuels further oppression of the Palestinian people.
In 2009, we began years of fundraising to support a filmmaking workshop “Bridge To Truth: Queer SWANA/AMEMSA communities,” which took place in 2012. This culminated in a Featured Screening at our Queer Women of Color Film Festival in 2013, which highlighted a panel discussion with filmmakers that bridged LGBTQ rights, spiritual acceptance, liberation struggles and social justice movements. We deliberately declined films that we felt were apologists for Israel’s human rights violations and focused our curatorial efforts on the diversity of the SWANA/AMEMSA community.
In 2010, we decided that “Justice Heals” would be the Festival Focus of our Queer Women of Color Film Festival in 2015, knowing that we could facilitate a dialogue that would explore policing, militarization and foreign policy from the perspective of filmmakers. This year, our Community Conversation “Film & the Nation-State,” explored these issues from Cincinnati, Ferguson and Baltimore to Guatemala and Latin America, to Syria and Palestine in ways that opened possibilities for reciprocal solidarity. It pushed us to become more than allies, to make ourselves accomplices and co-conspirators for justice.
In 2012, only weeks before our 8th annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival, QWOCMAP responded to news that “Israel in the Garden” festival was taking place next to our screening venue by issuing a statement on safety and implementing policies to ensure that our communities remained safe and free of surveillance.
Also in 2012, we began fundraising to support a filmmaking workshop for LGBTQ Muslims of color, which will be “inclusive of all Muslims including those that identify with Islam politically, culturally, religiously, ideologically and/or spiritually.” This workshop will take place in Fall 2015.
BDS & Frameline
When QWOCMAP first partnered with Frameline in 2004, they had accepted funding from the Israeli Consulate off and on over the years. In 2010, that funding became more consistent. At the time, we thought that it was important to maintain a relationship with Frameline, as it allowed us to give opportunities to QWOCMAP Filmmakers, and it gave us the chance to engage in discussions about the BDS movement and the queer boycott of Frameline with many different communities. We were happy to have broad compassionate conversations about social justice that explored the complexities involved, which included acknowledgement of the Holocaust in Europe, the West/Global North deliberately positioning the formation of the nation-state of Israel as a wedge in the Middle East region to support their own foreign policies, and Israel’s former triangle with Apartheid-era South Africa and the U.S. government as an occupying force. Further, these conversations acknowledged the Israeli government’s treatment, abuse, and violation of the human rights of Palestinians, of Muslims and Christians, of Arab people, of Ethiopian and other Jews of African descent, of Southeast Asian migrants, of refugees from Africa, of anti-Zionist Jewish people and of LGBTQ people.
Ultimately, our support of the BDS movement led us to our decision to step out of our partnership with Frameline. We will continue to engage in discussion with them and allow them to respond to community concerns around the ways in which the Israeli government uses its ostensible support of the LGBTQ community to cover up its violations of the human rights of Palestinians and many others.
In order to meet our mission, QWOCMAP relies on listening to the concerns of our community, thorough learning and planning, and being intentional in all of our practices. We believe that by facilitating and broadening discussions about the roots and impacts of oppression, we can all learn about histories, struggles, and connections between social justice movements transnationally.
QWOCMAP strongly believes in the possibilities of political education, and we want our community to have every opportunity to build solidarity as we learn, love and live together while fighting for our collective liberation and justice.
In love and light,