Events for Social, Racial and Gender Justice in Black Rock City

Our annual convergence in Black Rock City represents many things to many people. A pilgrimage to some, a party to others, and a wild spectacle of art and humanity to us all, this year’s event will also offer a chance to learn from several communities coming to Black Rock City to share their experiences battling marginalization and violence.

Among camps whose programming reflects a deep commitment to social justice and inclusion, several are featuring workshops and events to bring together Burners and activists building a brighter tomorrow. For instance, indigenous water protectors from Standing Rock will be featured at Red Lightning, alongside sacred fire, a medicine council, and a global drum prayer on Tuesday at 6:30 pm.

Other camps presenting workshops and the chance to learn about the lives and concerns of communities battling longstanding oppression include Que Viva, Gender Blender, and TransFOAMation.

Que Viva

Que Viva (at Rod’s Road & 3:30, near 5:30 & A) is a camp composed of activists building the movements for black lives and immigrant rights, convened by Oakland artist Favianna Rodriguez. The camp is hosting a series of workshops on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, in addition to social events on Wednesday and Friday.

On Tuesday from noon to 2:00, the camp will host an art workshop building butterfly wings while learning about migration. On Wednesday from 1:00 to 3:00, Que Viva will host a racial justice chat to help Burners learn how to be an effective ally to communities of color vulnerable to law enforcement abuses. And on Thursday from 3:00 to 4:30, they’ll host a discussion about whether “black lives really matter… beyond the hashtag.”

Parties at Que Viva include a Wednesday celebration from 5:30 to 7:30 for multiracial Burners, as well as a Selena & Sangria party on Friday from 3:00 to 5:00. The camp’s founder, Favianna, explains the vision behind Que Viva in this video:

Gender Blender and TransFOAMation

Another camp presenting stories from marginalized communities is Gender Blender (7:45 & E), which is teaming up with TransFOAMation (2:00 & E) to highlight the experiences of people defining their gender in terms beyond the binary.

Gender Blender started in 2009, co-created by Ariel Vegosen and Ronnie Appleseed to address the lack of safe space for gender non-conformists both on and off the playa, as well as a desire to celebrate all identities and provide space for people of all backgrounds to explore and expand their respective conceptions of gender expression.

Gender Blender is committed to creating community on the playa and beyond. Gender Blender has sponsored the SF Trans March since 2014, participated in its resource fair, and supports Blenders facilitating discussions and education around gender issues across California, in Washington D.C., New York, and even internationally in Canada, Greece and Mexico. Gender Blender also runs an Oakland-based safer-space consent-focused play party (with music sometimes provided by your correspondent).

Camp ReFOAMation, 2016 (Photo by Philippe Glade)

This year, Gender Blender has teamed up with TransFOAMation to bring gender expansion, playfulness, mind and heart opening, gender inclusion, gender education, and an amazing perFOAMance to the masses! TransFOAMation has served the playa for many years under different names each year, with a signature experience involving soap-foam showers and a daytime dance party every day from Wednesday to Saturday from noon to 4:20.

In 2017, TransFOAMation will honor Trans and gender-queer ancestors who paved the way for us to enjoy a more accepting and free culture. We still have a long way to go to ensure equal rights and full inclusion for all people regardless of gender expression, and TransFOAMation is showing how to do that on playa.

Workshops at Gender Blender include a session on “radical inclusion from rituals to the mundane,” on Tuesday from 2:30 to 4:30, and a workshop on “building resilience in our activist communities” on Thursday from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

Other events at Gender Blender include a play party on Wednesday from 9:00 pm to 2:00 am, preceded by libations starting at 7:30, and a party for the Queerborhood on Friday from 3:00 to 6:00 pm, beginning with camp founder Ariel’s “Burn Mitzvah” from 2:00 to 3:00 pm (at which your correspondent will be playing music).

Our time in the desert can build both community and consciousness. This year, take a moment on the playa to broaden your horizons by learning how our work liberating ourselves and each other can take shape off the playa with Que Viva, Gender Blender, and TransFOAMation.


Top photo by Tony Edwards

About the author: Shahid Buttar

Shahid Buttar

I'm a DJ, MC, poet, civil rights lawyer, and grassroots organizer. I've recorded an album, a rack of spoken word and music videos, and some DJ sets. During the day, I help lead one national civil liberties organization and work for another as Director of Grassroots Advocacy. Much of my writing examines corruption across the national security, intelligence, police & prison industrial complex, though I also write poems and song lyrics. I've been a Burner since 2003.

5 Comments on “Events for Social, Racial and Gender Justice in Black Rock City

  • SJW says:

    Diversity at Burning Man… let’s all pretend.

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    • These camps are in fact bringing something entirely beyond “diversity” (which is ultimately a feel good notion useful mostly for white people to relieve internalized shame). Their contribution is more akin to consciousness, something that we all need and–if humble enough to recognize the limits of our respective experiences–from which we can each benefit.

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  • Que Viva is a great camp, and indeed Favianna was among its Founders. To correct the record, though, it was founded by Brooke Oliver, Elba Rivera, Juana Chavez (Cesar’s niece), and Rich Thomas. Favianna joined soon after as did Laura Diamond and Tony Edwards. It’s legacy should honor all those that built it that very first year, kept it growing for several more years, turned over leadership Favi and those others who sustain it.

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  • John says:

    Yay !! SJWS have fucked up college campuses…now they get to take a turn at Burning Man.

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