Featuring Monica Trinidad | By Kelley O’ Death
Chicagoan artist, writer, and organizer Monica Trinidad’s resume is constantly growing. In 2012, she founded zine collective Brown And Proud Press, which she says focuses on “sharing personal narratives of struggle as a catalyst for social change and healing.” Last fall, she joined her first band, Cochina, which allowed her the chance to further expand her community of “rad queer punks” through a 12 day tour that she plans to document as a zine. In January of this year, she co-founded For The People Artists Collective, which aims to “create work that uplifts and projects struggle, resistance, and survival within and for our marginalized communities.”
For the past two years, Trinidad has helped to organize the Chicago queer and trans punk festival, Fed Up Fest. It may be tempting to see Trinidad as “tireless,” but to do so would undermine her efforts. No human is tireless, and her work often centers on the crucial need for self-care and community care when engaging in critical activism. To that end, in 2016, Fed Up Fest will be continuing on without her. In her own words, here’s why…
Intersectionality is a thing. Organizing a queer punk fest while a Black and brown punk fest was also a thing being organized made me feel like I had to choose between which identity I wanted to highlight. But there wasn’t anyone intentionally making me choose, saying, “Monica, are you queer, or are you brown?”
The Fed Up Fest collective in both 2014 and 2015 was an even ratio of white people and people of color, yet the fest still attracted a mostly white audience, and that was really hard to see after putting lots of effort into making sure the bands, workshop facilitators, zine readers, and tabling organizations weren’t all white. It was also hard to hear a lot of folks in the punk community completely whitewash our collective and subsequent fests. When you’re putting in so much energy and labor as a queer, brown femme, and then you hear that stuff, it can really disempower you from continuing to do the work and rid you of any desire to be present in that community. The Black and brown punk fests were also sorely, visibly missing white punks from the attendance list. No one said they couldn’t attend Black And Brown Punk Fest; in fact, some monetary support would’ve been impactful, yet the non-presence was noticeable. I think all of these dynamics speak volumes to the level of work that still needs to be done in Chicago’s punk community: challenging heterosexism, transphobia, white supremacy, visibility and social capital, racism, and anti-Blackness, to name a few.
In hindsight, maybe there was something we could’ve all done to make these connections feel more solid. We know there are black and brown queer people, and queer Black and brown people, so how do you navigate that and create spaces where both of those identities can be uplifted and respected in their own right, while also drawing visible and tangible connections between the two? Chicago’s punk community has had its fair share of homophobia, racism, and anti-Blackness, so it makes sense that queer and trans people would want to create a new space away from the bullshit, and that Black and brown folks would also want to create a space away from white punk-landia. I think I personally chose to organize with Fed Up Fest collective and not Black And Brown Punk Collective, because I was at a place in my life where I was trying to come out to my family and extended communities, and so, surrounding myself with “all things queer” was a priority for me.
I’ve phased out of organizing with Fed Up Fest this year, for many reasons, but mostly because I got really busy being active with organizations challenging police violence in Chicago. I still support Fed Up Fest continuing this year. It’s actually really important that collectives organizing huge, annual events rotate members often to decrease burnout of individuals. It also decreases the chances of repetitiveness or overlooking important critiques. In my dream world, it would’ve been so beautiful to make both fests happen in the same week, with one fest kicking it off on one weekend, and another fest closing it out the following weekend. In between could’ve been tons of workshops, basement shows, panels, DIY skill-shares, etc., etc. It could be such a magical week in Chicago.
I’ve found solace in art and zine-making as a way to uplift all of the pieces of me that exist. Creating zines with queer people of color, both punk and non-punk, has been therapeutic and essential for me in remembering that DIY culture is deeply rooted in challenging dominant narratives and norms. Queer people of color have always existed in punk, at basement shows, in zines, at zine fests, in radical organizations, and in uprisings. It’s been incredible seeing more queer and trans people of color feeling more comfortable and able to be out about their identities in all of these spaces, and I know it’s definitely due to the work that went into spaces like Fed Up Fest and Black And Brown Punk Fest. But what do we do when those distinct spaces no longer feel like enough? One of my favorite radical, revolutionary women, named Mariame Kaba, always reminds me that “sometimes it’s okay to let organizations die” once they’ve accomplished what they set out to do. Not that I necessarily want these two fests to cease existing, but to instead explore possibilities of something bigger and more sustainable. Doing that requires lots of work and everyone on board, and it didn’t seem like we were all quite there yet.
Find out more about Monica Trinidad & see her upcoming events at www.monicatrinidad.com.