This Juneteenth, meet Shaunya Thomas and the LOCS Collective
On this day 155 years ago, the Emancipation Proclamation was read to Black slaves in Texas, two and a half years after slavery was formally abolished. That moment – when freedom could finally be celebrated by people who had been theoretically deemed free years before on a piece of paper far, far away – is an example of the dissonance that often exists between our laws and our reality.
It is critical that our laws are just. You help GLAD every day to fight for laws that are just. But it is equally critical that our lived reality catches up with the laws we fight so hard to create.
Today, on Juneteenth, we as a country recognize that we have a long way to go and much work to do before all Black Americans truly have the freedom promised in 1865. And we also recognize Juneteenth as a day all Americans should be celebrating as a prerequisite to true independence in our nation.
As GLAD’s Community Engagement Manager, I have an opportunity to raise up the voices of other LGBTQ BIPOC leaders and partners in this work.
In this spirit, I am honored to share with you a message from my friend Shaunya Thomas, the founder of the Lesbians of Color Symposium, one of GLAD’s community partners. I invite you to read her story, learn more about LOCS, and support their important work of increasing visibility and support structures for women and nonbinary people of color.
-Qwin Mbabazi, Community Engagement Manager (she/her/hers)
I co-founded the Lesbians of Color Symposium (LOCS) Collective, Inc. in 2012 to address the gross disparities that exist for LBTQ+ women of color’s access to community. I first convened groups and curated events as a response to the need for specific programming for LBTQ+ women and non-binary people of color in the Greater Boston area. After listening intently during those early times, I used the feedback to envision and execute an annual Symposium. The Lesbians of Color Collective continues to be New England’s premiere event for queer women and non-binary folks of color. Our goal is to bring seemingly disparate people and groups together to work for shared visions of community and uplift. Although Boston is often regarded as an insular place, we have steadily chipped away at that image by building coalitions with other organizations. I have come to understand that the liberation for all women of color requires an intersectional perspective and that liberation is dependent on everyone. Inclusive programming is foundational to the LOCS Collective’s long-term flourishing.
I also believe all people—especially LGBTQ+ Black, Latinx, and POCs—should live, work, advance, and thrive in environments that recognize our full humanity, understand and value the range of our lived experiences. These specific areas of focus include:
- Dismantling white supremacy: Our current moment stresses the urgency to name the myriad ways white supremacy makes lives unsafe and deadly for LGBTQ+ BIPOCs. It is imperative that LOCS lead conversations, urge action, and support collective organization that helps lead to systemic change. This change will directly impact the outcomes for LGBTQ+ BIPOCs in the workplace, in our medical care, and in our daily lives.
- Addressing mental health: Mental health disparities between LGBTQ+ BIPOCs and others have been long documented. It is critical for our community and our advocates to develop strategies, heed the call to action, and dismantle barriers that were constructed through a white supremacist lens to assure that access to mental health services are a right and not a privilege.
- Building intentional alliances with co-conspirators: Through expansive networks and innovative collaborations and advocacy, our aim is to effect systemic change to eradicate institutionalized racism, white supremacy and bias to create equitable environments socially, economically and professionally. Some productive collaborations are Equality Florida’s LGBTQ Organizations Unite to Combat Racial Violence and NAACP Boston and ACLU of Massachusetts’ list of Community Demands for Police Reform.
The work of the LOCS Collective is on-going and urgent as we respond, support, and work in community with others. On June 30th, we will present the third State of QTPOC Affairs – a forum that addresses inequities and invisibility. This year, focus is on anti-blackness within the LGBTQ community. For more information about the forum and other programming, sponsorship, and ways to get involved, please visit locscollective.org. Also, please connect with us, share our work, and amplify our efforts via LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Shaunya Thomas (she/her)
Co-Founder – President
LOCS Collective, Inc.
- What is Juneteenth?
- National Museum of African American History and Culture Juneteenth event page
- Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group (Scroll to see a clip of a performance)
- A timeline of art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance
- 50 Books by Black Authors from the past 5 years
- Notorious by Porsha Olayiwola, named Boston’s Poet Laureate in 2019
- The Most Influential Living African-American Artists
- and visit our Racial Justice Resources page to learn more about how to support, learn, and show up to end racial injustice.