Friday, February 28, 2014

We have been listening to your feedback and appreciate those engaging in thoughtful conversation and self-reflection. Our intention is to hold this space we have all created over the past 7 + for the amazing community who helped build it. We hope those who have been invested in this space come to claim this space as yours in the coming months. This is a transitional time, and it brings up uncertainty. But we are dedicated to putting our energy into making this space accessible to you, our QTPOC / radical queer community. We acknowledge that we as individuals of the current configuration of the crew (since June 2013) have made mistakes in the past but we feel invested in this process around accountability/transparency for what we put out there and the energy/intentionality of the party we desire.  

We continue to stand by our ask for our cis* straight allies to take a step back, or rather out due to so many continuing issues but frankly, we are currently turning away tons of queers each party due to capacity problems. And we ask for our white queer patrons to reflect on what it may mean to check their privilege and hold themselves and their whiteness accountable in a mixed party scene where everyone is coming to relax and not continuously be on the edges we constantly walk in our daily lives. What does it look like to step up/back, and who will actually do this when it may be needed in the spirit of watching out for each other? For those who have been, and continue to be invested in dismantling white supremacy, you are welcomed to continue attending this party. Y’all have always been a part of it, and will continue to be-- it has been expressed that you are wanted there to actively help keep the space on point.

Additionally, we have absolutely no interest in policing anyone’s identity. Like, ever. We ask you do not do that either. But we ask that everyone continue to or start to enact looking out for your own selves and each other in this space where many of us have come to unwind and let loose. We cannot tell you what the outcome of our ask will be-- but we can tell you what we are doing, who we are, and that we are also listening to our community.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Open Letter

February 17, 2014

Dearest Community,

At the beginning of this New Year the current Ships crew finally took a break to rest, readdress, and look over the past year of Ships benefits. 2013 brought us so many magical Ships parties with beautiful queers, brilliant and sexy performers from the East Bay, and new and old DJ’s that truly brought it. We also got more comfortable in our new venue, The New Parish.

Since 2006, Ships in the Night has been a radical queer dance party and fundraiser for a different cause every month. We have raised over $30,000 over the years and we have been able to grow and expand to a larger capacity venue. The party started in SF and we were officially TransBay, throwing our first Oakland Ships, in 2010.

This past year the Ships crew and patrons have been experiencing the changes and shifts that gentrification (among other factors) have had on our communities and events. Gentrification in the Bay Area has influenced the queer community and we can all see it in the crowd at the party. We have noticed an increasing amount of white faces, a lot less of Black and Brown queers, more *cis* straight-identified people coming to the queer dance party; specifically many of our Old Oakland crew and friends are not attending the party. There is also an overall vibe of individual needs being more important than the community’s needs and a lack of cognizance of personal space and spatial entitlement. We have had a lot more incidences of people getting overly intoxicated alone, people being pushy at the bar trying to buy a drink, people elbowing their way to the dance floor to claim their spot, constant microaggressions, etc.

Ships in the night is a community-based dance party. Unbeknownst to some, a short year prior to now, Ships in the Night (in Oakland) was known as a pre-dominantly (by nature of the diverse population of this city) radical & mixed Queer & Trans* People of Color (QTPOC) party with a few amazing allies. In the past year, like what happens to many awesome events, larger shifts in the bay with displacement, evictions, strategic economic advertisement, and gentrification has changed the communities who feel comfortable at the party as attendees. As organizers, our constant reiteration of our mission statement and clarifications on our facebook page (and on stage at the events) are our attempts to better integrate (and filter) our new attendees-- numbering in the hundreds-- so that our longtime friends & family have a place they feel relatively safe in as well.

We are actively working to keep the party queer, radical and fun.
  • We have been actively working with our ever changing security team (employed by the venue and not the Ships in the Night crew) to educate them on issues such as: gender neutral pronouns, gender neutral bathrooms, conflict resolutions/de-escalation to avoid physical interactions and shaming, and also implicating protocols on how to deal with high levels of intoxication where someone’s personal safety could be at risk, without furthering their risk. In addition, we, as a crew of 4 people, are always roaming the party to be quickly accessible to our community and our security team when issues arise.
  • We have recently started to--and will continue to -- ask for queer brown folks to take up space in the front, if they choose, and for white queers to take a step back during our performances. We are using this tactic to better reflect who we are prioritizing.
  • We are actively asking cis straight people to consider stepping back and not attending this party.  We understand that there are many amazing allies in our community, and still, we stand by this request. Too many allies= too many straight people at our party.
  • Similarly we extend our ask to consider:  If you are a white person (of any gender, sexuality, identity) not directly connected to a network of accountability around your own whiteness, please consider that you may be taking the place of QTPOC and white queers who are doing the work and would, with a shift in dynamics, otherwise like to attend Ships.

The Ships in the Night crew is currently made up of four queer people living in the Bay Area.

Durt O’Shea is a DJ, the co-founder of the party and is from San Francisco. She is a white, queer, genderqueer, fat positive activist who works at St James Infirmary- a sex worker clinic run by current and former sex workers.

Antoinette Chen See began working with Ships this past summer after first attending Ships 3 years ago. She is a Black 2nd gen Blasian-Jamerican tomboy from the East Coast and moved to Oakland with chosen family to join in community with the brilliant & radical folks who call the Bay home.

Maren joined the crew about a year after the first party. She is a white anti-zionist genderqueer Jew from a middle-class background who lives and works in cooperatives and community-based health care. She has organized and volunteered in many different communities around the bay since her arrival from the south/ southwest 8 years ago.

Finn has been an attendee of Ships since 2010 and had started to organize with the crew since June 2013. They are a first generation Korean American trans/gender variant queer who has been in/around Oakland since 2010 after relocating from all around the west coast, mainly LA.

When this group got together to reflect and share feedback from our friends and community that we had gathered, it became undeniably clear that we need to have larger discussions.The challenges we are facing are not unique to us. And there is a long history and a strong tradition of QTPOC creating space for other QTPOC (some with allies, some not) including: Good Times, Living Room Project, Shameless, The Social Life, DJ Lady Ryan (Vida), Club Fist, Miz Kris, Butta, to name a few. We extend utmost respect to these organizers, past and present. We look forward to continued collaborations and wish to figure out more ways of supporting these and other events and awesome parties.

We are dedicated to continue holding the space we have collectively created over the past 7 years for those in our communities. We’re going to work really hard to shift the dynamics at the party. At the same time, we are open to the idea of ending it if it no longer serves us all.

We are inviting the community to come together to address some of the issues within queer dance party culture (not just at Ships, but elsewhere in the Bay Area). We invite queer dance party promoters, DJ’s, performers, and attendees to discuss with us the changing face of the scene.  How do we keep the party safe and accessible to the community? Who is the community? Are there ways queer dance spaces and events can proactively interact with or counteract gentrification to maintain spaces for our many communities? What are successful tactics? What are the shifting needs of queer dance party attendees in the face of greater shifts here in the Bay? How do we counter-act the entitled attitudes of the upwardly mobile young queer class?

We are interested in open community dialogue about the changes that have been happening, how we desire our spaces to look and feel, interventions, what accountability looks like in this context, and insights from long time organizers and participants in queer nightlife in the bay.

We are not open to discussing: white guilt, conversations that centralize white experiences, centralization of ally experiences, or the idea that hiphop is somehow a more misogynist style of music than other styles of music.

Our intention is to, in the near future, host a forum to have conversations addressing the questions above. In the meantime, one forum that we are planning to attend and would like to also encourage others sharing these concerns to attend is the Bay Area Queers Talking Race Community Forum (QTR) about queer nightlife (check this link for location/info/updates: ).


The Ships in the Night crew