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Building Bridges, Breaking Boundaries

Queer and Rebel Days in Halifax

by Lee Park

Most events were held at Roberts Street Social Centre
Most events were held at Roberts Street Social Centre

Queer and Rebel Days occurred in Halifax from July 10th to July 16th, packing in over 16 activities including, a performance night, craft day, discussion groups, a costume bike ride, communal meals, film and water fight - all in six days. Held at the Roberts Street Social Centre (5684 Roberts Street) the week brought the LGBTQ community and their allies together in various ways.

 “We hope that there are critical discussions, talking about issues and meeting other people who are interested in those issues,” said Jake Feldman, one of the organizers, before the week began.  Feldman’s hopes were met with many discussions, including  “Are you queer enough?” a conversation about peer-policing in the queer community and “How to be an ally” a discussion on principles and tactics of being a supportive ally.

Feldman also acknowledged the importance of simply having fun, as a way to bring people together and help folks feel comfortable. “Sometimes you talk about issues to people and they say, ‘Stop talking about them, I don’t care…I just want to have fun.’  And there’s a place for having fun like the costume water fight, which is not political at all.” said Feldman.

While fun, dancing, partying, free delicious food, attractive glowing individuals all may have been a lure to the festivities, there was a deep-seated philosophy behind the week:  bringing together like-minded individual values, encouraging community cohesion and learning from each other.  One of the examples of this was “Camp Out,” a two-day adventure at a campsite outside of Halifax.

Approximately 30 individuals - including authors singers, academics, and artists - camped out for the weekend, sharing stories, making connections and enjoying the sun.

“The focus was on gay activism in the Maritimes, past and present, ” says Sonia Edworthy, one of the organizers of the weekend. “A large part of the emphasis was on a history, trying to include intergenerational queer committees as well and rural and urban communities.  Bridging the gaps between ages and geographic locations in the Maritimes.”

Queer and Rebel Days stood independently from the more mainstream and corporate sponsored celebration that is Pride Week in Halifax, “It’s like the businesses care about the gay people’s money not the gay people themselves,” said Jean Steinberg, one of the organizers.

Although Queer and Rebel Days was not in opposition to Pride week – organizers deliberately scheduled events as not to conflict with Pride events -- the intention was to take a more grassroots approach, creating a space where people could learn from each other and work together.

Organizers feel the week was a success.  Not only did people make connections and breakdown boundaries between individuals and communities, but many folks found it an important time for personal reflection.   “What was really interesting is that the week really focused alot on internal activism and emotional activism,” says Feldmen.




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