Queers for Economic Justice is sponsoring the Amazingly Queer Race for Economic Justice. The phenomenon is new to me, but many of you know the routine: a hilarious, madcap scavenger hunt around the Big Apple.
Hopefully, hundreds of hunters will be there to scour the city in teams over a course of five hours to unearth hidden treasures. What's the basis of this race with time -- solving a riddle and exploring the city's queer heritage and quirky locals. Cell phones akimbo, water bottle at the ready, metro card in hand, participants will run this competitive, clues-based scavenger hunt for a great cause: fighting poverty and homelessness in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community.
Saturday, May 14, the day of the race, is bound to be a spectacularly sunny spring day, hosting this crowd of fundraising frolickers. But it is not all fun and games. QEJ is about deadly serious business: promoting economic justice in a context of sexual and gender liberation. No small feat, as it is hard to promote economic justice in any context these days. QEJ is the only organization in NYC to focus on the issues facing homeless and poor lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults.
Despite myths perpetuated that "gays" are all wealthy white men, double-income families with lots of disposable income -- poor queers have in fact always been with us. And despite the fact that they participate in both the LGBTQ rights and economic justice movements, they have been, and continue to be, largely invisible. QEJ's mission states that it believes that access to social and economic resources is a fundamental right, and works to create social and economic equity through grassroots organizing, public education, advocacy and research.
So how does that translate into real life action? A snapshot of the work QEJ does would include:
A Shelter Outreach Program: QEJ runs groups at homeless shelters across the city providing outreach, support, Know Your Rights trainings for LGBTQ homeless adults and advocacy for fairer policies in the shelter system.
A Clothing Drive that brings gender appropriate clothes to LGBTQ people -- to meet the needs of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
A Welfare Rights Project to organize low-income LGBT people on public assistance, and offer them opportunities to become involved in fighting for a more humane, just and inclusive welfare system.
A Welfare Warriors Research Collaborative that has engaged in a groundbreaking, community-led research projects documenting the issues facing low-income queers.
An Immigrants' Rights project that makes the connections between LGBT and immigrant communities and works on a range of critical issues which impact LGBT immigrants, their families and communities.
As well, QEJ does queer, progressive advocacy and public education activities, bringing together questions of class and race as they intersect with LGBTQ identities. And so much more....
Participating in the Amazingly Queer Race is more than a great, fun event. It is a tangible way to recognize and support the needs of all in the LGBTQ community. It is recognizing LGBTQ lives in jeopardy, people who in our world are disproportionately disadvantaged. It means refusing to allow economic or social status, serendipity or the toss of the dice on where, when and to whom you were born, determine each person's destiny.
I will be there. To me, the Amazingly Queer Race for Economic Justice is more than amazing -- more than the sum of its parts, more than finding hidden treasure and raising funds (though it is that indeed). It is for raising dignity and saving the lives of LGBTQ people who might otherwise go unnoticed and be left to their own to survive on increasingly mean streets.