On the opening weekend of Pride 2013, the Harbourfront Centre will resound with swooshes and cheers as IAM Toronto holds its third annual Queernament, a three-on-three indoor basketball tournament.
Eight teams will compete for the top prize, with the second-place team taking home $150 and the winning team receiving $300 and a trophy.
The organizers of Queernament say the event is more than a basketball tournament — it’s a Pride experience for the whole family. Kerry-Ann Morrison, IAM’s founder and a SOY volunteer; Teneile Warren, a writer and literacy teacher; and Tanitia Munroe, a 519 Church Street Community Centre volunteer and devoted mother, run IAM Toronto.
According to Warren, IAM’s director of marketing and communication, Munroe “wants to be able to go out with her kids to spaces where they can experience other queer families,” which is one of the motivations behind the family-friendly environment of Queernament.
This year’s event will be a “community village” made up of kiosks from various queer organizations and vendors and a professionally supervised children’s play area where kids can play video games, have their faces painted, watch cartoons, colour and enjoy other activities.
“It’s clear that queers can party. But we are having children, we are raising families, but there are few places where you can take your children, so IAM is a company that is trying to create a space for everyone,” Warren says.
Eleven organizations will take part in the community village, including this year’s two highlighted groups:SOY’s Black Queer Youth program and Women’s Health in Women’s Hands.
“Every year we try to highlight a community initiative — an organization or group — that we think is doing something that needs more coverage,” Warren says, noting that this year's groups were chosen to highlight health and fitness.
Warren is particularly excited about the services offered by Women’s Health in Women’s Hands. “They’re bringing their sexual health promoter, their diabetic screening promoter, they’re doing yoga, and you can sign up to be a client with them on the day,” she says.
IAM, a Community One Foundation grant recipient, was established in 2008 as an events management company tailored to the queer community — “especially the community of colour,” Warren says, noting that even though it caters primarily to the needs of people of colour, Queernament is meant to be an event for the whole queer community.
Warren says it’s been difficult to get other groups involved. “We have reached out to some groups that are non-African/black/Caribbean, and, in terms of being part of the event, we have not gotten good responses from them. It has been disheartening.”
Nonetheless, Warren promises that Queernament will be a good time, especially once DJs Cozmic Cat and Blackcat take to the decks. “It was funny when I realized they’re both cats,” Warren laughs. “It’s their first time playing together, and they have very different styles, so I think the music will be nicely balanced.”