How can we make queer histories accessible beyond the academy? What might those histories teach us about how social justice organizations can sustain themselves over the long haul, despite hostile political conditions?

In episode 57 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach talks with Alice Y. Hom about the political and personal process of starting a history podcast about queer and trans people of color, what nonprofits and community organizations face in the coming years, and how self-care and community care are at the core of how Alice imagines otherwise.

Guest: Alice Hom

Alice Y. Hom is a community builder invested in bridging diverse and overlapping communities to raise resources, nurture leaders, and build organizations’ capacity for social change. Currently, Alice is a Soros Equality Fellow where she is creating a digital media project called Historically Queer. Historically Queer is a podcast and digital archive documenting historical and contemporary stories of activism by queer and trans people of color. Alice is also a consultant for organizations and a coach for individuals in the nonprofit, philanthropic, arts and culture, and higher education sectors. In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Alice to the California Humanities board of directors, and in 2017 Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Alice to the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women. Alice previously served as the director of the Queer Justice Fund at Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and she also sites on the Borealis Philanthropy board. Alice is the co-editor of the award-winning anthology, Q & A: Queer in Asian America, and has published articles in various journals and anthologies.

We chatted about:

  • Alice’s podcast project Historically Queer (02:12)
  • Building solidarity and community power among social justice groups (06:32)
  • The powerful self-care lesson younger activists are teaching older generations (09:23)
  • The legacy of Q&A: Queer in Asian America (10:37)
  • Imagining Otherwise (12:40)

Takeaways:

Making the Historically Queer podcast

“Historically Queer is a podcast that uncovers historical and contemporary stories activism by LGBT people of color…Folks don’t have a lot of access, understanding, or connection to stories of activism by LGBT people of color. There aren’t many published historical books on queer people of color, and the ones that exist aren’t very accessible unless you’re taking a gay and lesbian studies or queer studies course…I was interested in making sure these stories have a broader public audience and that they’re accessible.”

Building solidarity and community power among grassroots organizations

“What I see going on with grassroots organizations is more collaboration [and] greater connectivity and relationship building…We can’t do it alone and one organization cannot fix everything…So what’s a way for us to build a stronger ecosystem of folks doing work on criminal justice, other folks working on immigration, other folks working on reproductive justice, and how do we connect? There’s a lot more solidarity movement happening along those lines.”

The importance of self-care and community care for activists

“This work is hard and it takes a mental and physical toll. What can we do to sustain ourselves so we are not physically and mentally depleted? How do we continue to deposit love, energy, and compassion to ourselves and to the other people doing this work?”

Learning from younger generations of activists

“It’s the younger generation that is teaching us that we’re not going to kill ourselves for the movement. They’re the ones that are practicing more self-care, and they’re the ones who are saying we have to pay attention to other kinds of things. Us in older generations often felt like we had to put everything into it, and at all costs, to be a true activist or community builder….I’ve been thinking a lot about queer women of color activists who tend to die young, who have breast cancer, who get all these diseases. I think that’s because they haven’t been paying as much attention [to their health and wellbeing] as they could. And the younger generation is actually paying more attention to their health and wellbeing and they’re the ones who are teaching us in the older generation how to slow down a little bit. It’s interesting to me to see how different generations are learning from each other in that particular way.”

The legacy of Q&A: Queer and Asian in America

“The book is going be 20 years old this year, so I feel like my baby is grown up and is an adult now. When we started that anthology in the early 1990s, David [Eng] and I were both graduate students and the majority of the people who wrote for Q&A were graduate students and/or activists and community members. Now some of those folks are tenured professors; they’re well-known in their fields. I think what’s changed is you have a generation of people—academics and scholars—who knew that there was something called queer Asian American studies and that they could actually have an academic career in that and publish books and publish articles about that and become a professor. The field has just broadened in that way.”

7 generations work

“I’m working with a group of 50 people and we’re calling it ‘7 generations work’—we think about 7 generations behind us and 7 generations ahead of us. What can we learn from the past 150 years so that what we do right now in 2018 is going to ensure that 150 years later it can be different and we can move towards that world that I’ve been wanting—a world free of oppression, one where there is love and compassion, and one where all people can feel like they belong.”

Imagining otherwise

“I have to refer back to Audre Lorde, who gave a speech at the 1979 March on Washington. She said, ‘I want to live in a world where our children can be free from racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Because those oppressions are inseparable.’ She said that in 1979, I say this in 2018. That’s the world I want to live in. I want to live in a world free of all kinds of oppressions, recognizing that all those oppressions are inseparable.

More from Alice

Projects and people discussed

About Imagine Otherwise

Imagine Otherwise is a podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice, and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining and creating more just worlds. Check out full podcast episodes and show notes at ideasonfire.net/imagine-otherwise-podcast. Imagine Otherwise is produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.

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