2 min

Expanding the borders of Agitate!

Local activist group opens its doors wider

Part of Saturday's event will be the unveiling this new logo for Agitate! Queer People of Colour. Credit: Courtesy of the Agitate collective

In March 2005, Ottawa’s first queer women of colour collective was born. Named Agitate!, the group was formed out of a desire to increase the visibility of queer women of colour within racialized, activist and queer communities in Ottawa and open up dialogue about issues facing queer women of colour.
“Many of us were involved in queer scenes and service centres in Ottawa already, as well as involved with other activist movements in the city,” says Zaheen, a founding member of Agitate who asked that only her first name be published. “We felt that there was a [lack] of a voice for us as [queer women] of colour. We wanted to make it clear that one-issue activism was no longer sufficient, and that we were going to demand that our voices be heard and not ignored or tokenized.
So, we created Agitate.”
Since then, the group’s vision has gradually shifted. Moving into 2010, the group — which will still be called Agitate — will have an expanded focus. Agitate is moving from being a collective for queer women of colour to a collective for all queer people of colour.
Why the change?
“It came up in a conversation I had with a previous member, Kyisha Williams, about Agitate’s future and all the things we wished and hoped it could turn into,” says Nadijah Robinson, another member of Agitate who has been involved for the past three years. “We talked about the queer community at large, and how many of our friends, who were transitioning, talked about how they didn’t feel a part of the queer women’s scene, and how they were being perceived as straight and so on.
“The conversation naturally evolved into the suggestion that we open up the group. The process of adopting the change was quite easy actually. We voiced our concerns about how this might change the group and, ultimately, decided that the potential for change was a great thing.”
Zaheen agrees that this change is important to Agitate’s ongoing evolution.
“Despite Ottawa having some really awesome social justice groups and activist movements, it has been challenging to keep doing our activism within the city and getting people involved. But I feel our new vision and new ideas … will keep us alive. It’s all part of what activism should be: change, growth and revolution!”
In the new year, Agitate has plans to hold community-building events like “warm-fuzzy-feeling potlucks and so on to get us through the winter,” says Robinson. In the spring, keep an eye out for a performance event with a prolific dub poet and D’Oprah book club meetings, as well as the group’s ongoing workshops and panel discussions. Agitate members will also be hard at work making new connections with community partners and taking action on the group’s new goals.

“Specifically we’ll be working harder on trans and genderqueer inclusivity within the queer community and within racialized communities,” says Robinson. “I still think we have some growing and changing to do, but the beauty of Agitate is that it is transformed by its members continually. We do with it what we want and what we feel is needed for our community.”