by Rush Frazier
My name is Rush Frazier, a Black AFAB non-binary queer person. I’m a Worcester native. I’m working class. I’ve been a grassroots organizer (paid and unpaid) for the better part of 20 years, both here in Worcester as well as in TN and GA. As someone who has spent time recruiting, educating, mobilizing, and otherwise supporting the leadership of everyday people to make change in their communities, I feel qualified to give a few suggestions on this process. As a Black person who is regularly moving through spaces curated by all white folk, or nearly all white folks, I feel qualified to give some additional comments, especially after attending part of the last Worcester County Pride (WCP) meeting and watching the recording to get a more complete picture of the conversation.
Some of the things I will list will be considered “basic,” “shady,” or simplistic, but it’s human to “not know what you don’t know,” and the purpose of this letter is to educate and help the community group move forward. Notice that I am not naming names or trying to point the finger at anyone. This is not an attempt to create a comprehensive list of my grievances with the old Pride board, or even my issues with the folks attempting to create a new board. I am happy to have a follow-up conversation with anyone who has first thoroughly read this doc and has notes for moving forward in a constructive manner.
I genuinely hope that the readers of this letter see this donation of my time and expertise in creating this letter to be a gift of unpaid labor, as I have offered up many of these suggestions online over a number of mediums, and still some of the easiest-to-solve problems persist. I don’t have all the answers, and I look forward to working with you all in the search.
The Facilitation Teams on these meetings need to take a zoom tutorial.
Not hard, and free to look into. There should be no reason to have ignorance over how to use zoom as a tool, if zoom is the tool you decide to use. I understand that not everyone has had the opportunity to use the platform as much as I do. However, knowing the basics and exploring things like how to add co-hosts and use breakout rooms should be part of the due diligence. There are video instructions as well as written tips in a cursory search.
A small block of text asking attendees upon entry to mute their phones if they are not speaking, as well as changing the setting to “mute all” when they enter rooms would be helpful. If we are going to continue recording these events, and I think we definitely think we should, it would improve the audio quality both during the call as well as the replay.
Public broadcasting of zoom meetings over FB Live, with additional facilitation to monitor and respond to the comments on the public chat.
True, there is a set amount of folks that can be on a zoom call. There are difficulties in having collaborative meetings in virtual spaces with too many people and inexperienced facilitators. The FB live feature keeps people in the loop as the meeting happens, as well as an opportunity for folks who missed the invite to comment. FB also will let you save the meeting directly to the WCP page. Make sure to record those questions and discussion coming out of them to the minutes, as well as keeping track of who’s questions did not get answered, so they can be followed up with on the group page.
Moreover, it shouldn’t just be expected that certain tasks fall onto people, not because of any specialized expertise in that role, but out of a lack of motivation or curiosity to learn the role. Twice I saw the same QTPOC member ‘volunteered or voluntold” to work on things like spreadsheets and creating forms, and doing research for the group.. Asking POC in this manner to hold any water for you after the harm done by the previous iteration of this group was either tasteless or tactless. Asking someone to show you how is one thing. Asking someone to do something is one thing. Saying, “oh, well we will get X person to do the hard work I don’t know how to do” is another. Words mean things.
Real community organizing can be messy. Especially when there has been harm done.
If it is truly important to the main organizers to know what the community wants, they should get familiar with the idea that it is not Black people’s job to solve racism, it’s not trans folks’ job to solve transphobia. The same cis white members of the community again and again ask for QTPOC folks to provide resources to training and materials for anti-oppression work, both in-person and in virtual spaces such as FB and over Zoom calls. To continuously ask the same groups of people who have the stamina to sit through often frustrating and sometimes poorly facilitated meetings to again have to do foundational research on how to create liberatory spaces for all only reveals the lack of motivation and curiosity that is at the root of what keeps regular attendance of QTPOC low in this space. Do the work. Scroll up and look at the discussion on the WPC thread. They have been dropped there for you.
All the time, nonprofits and small orgs are sharing trainings online. Why not host a training (or better, series of trainings) from one of the antiracist groups members of Shades have posted (a few times now) and livestream? This way, we educate this small team as well as have info for anyone who needs it. It also shows WPC as “doing the work” and taking steps to improve relations.
FB and Instagram have hundreds of groups, clubs, etc. that cater to QTPOC and other marginalized communities. Extending an invite to this meeting through those groups would be a start. Please also see my above comments about zoom to FB Live Stream. If there are folks who are saying that the process is not transparent, a recording of live events is as transparent as possible, and folks can write in during the meeting, attendees can respond during the live sessions. Outreach doesn’t end here, but in this current climate any real virtual outreach is better than nothing.
We need to have a virtual town hall/speak out asap.
The steering committee should be spending this time not on what this small group of people *think* the community wants, and actually hand them the mic.
If community members are choosing not to participate in the survey, that alone is information. While continuing to circulate the survey, let’s have a “speak out” for the community to share grievances. It can be out in the open for those that would prefer it, and those that feel inspired by the discussion, but don’t have time to wait in line to speak or want to organize thoughts can visit the survey and write out thoughts during/after the fact. We can drop the survey every time a new member enters the chat, or on the FB live page.
While this is still a small group of participants on these calls, why not use this as an opportunity to work on virtual facilitation skills, learn how breakout rooms work, whiteboard? “Test drive” FB live by creating a video to invite more people to the next meeting? As we are developing a game plan with questions, and outreach for the meeting, have rotating facilitators using the opportunity to really get familiar with the tools- because of course everyone reviewed the zoom tutorial by the time they are asked to facilitate. This can also keep the meeting from being run by the same folks every week, which may or may not be taxing work for the men doing the work, but is sure monotonous for anyone outside that role.
But before that, the next meeting should either center or prominently feature the issues raised in the open letter Shades wrote to the Worcester Pride Board, item by item.
As it stands, that document is great feedback, and the current WPC organizers have not openly talked it through. Based on the amount of empathy and quality of conversation around the subjects of racism, I am unconvinced that anyone on that call outside the authors, actually read the letter and sat with it. I should not have to remind anyone that the six to eight members that currently make up the core Shades team are not the only ones that share concerns listed in that open letter. Shades members are individual Worcester County residents, with queer friends, co-workers, and loved ones who also know the reputation if not actions of Worcester Pride.
It would behoove you to work on those issues first in order to build trust. Not confronting that item head-on just makes people think that any survey results decision makers disagree with are going to get ignored the same as the gift of accountability Shades is offering this body. Some folks are not as public as I am, so asking people to come to you, a body that they have good reason to initially distrust, with personal stories that may just re-traumatize them, is inconsiderate given the information in front of you. Also, many folks in this community are artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs that as much as they want to create change, have to worry about making money and not “burning a bridge.” The Shades note was a distillation of many concerns Worcester QTPOC have. Instead of asking people to come out with individual stories in order to “prove” there was an issue in the first place, use the work we have already put forward as a jump-off point.
That said, we also need to go through item by item the current results of the survey, and we don’t need to “out” anyone in order to do this thoroughly.
The survey now is weeks old at this point. It’s not the fault of respondents that this body did not do great outreach, and to hold off on discussing their concerns or suggestions insults the time and effort they put into the work. Also, doing rolling responses to the surveys makes it easier to go through that data, instead of reading pages and pages of spreadsheet cells or copy/pasting into a doc.
I will stop here for now, as I have already given out a lot of information, and if we did move forward with my suggestions, it would take some time to implement. I am available for workshops and consultation, my services include facilitation, training, podcast production, and coaching, I also have experience with strategic planning and design thinking. Should you need my services I can provide references and rates upon request.
Rush Frazier (they/them)