SF Pride 2018: Oakland Activist and Advocate Kin Folkz’s Work Defines Intersectionality

Folkz contacted Ava DuVernay for a screening of the Alice Walker biopic because 'we were thinking big — and do you know that she said yes?'

“We forget that, when we’re in the street and celebrating Pride, there are a lot of people who can no longer attend who actually helped to create a lot of the strides, a lot of the freedoms, and the liberating energy that we’re all enjoying,” Kin Folkz says. “So when I move into Pride, I’m thinking about marginalized groups.”

This year, that mostly means elders and children are on her mind. Folkz, a founder or co-founder of numerous organizations, including Spectrum Queer Media, Omni: The Bi/Pan/Trans Women and Transmen of Color Network, and REVOLVE Creative Arts + Film Fest, has decades of experience to her name. But even a longtime advocate needs a little extra clarity about how best to proceed. After a talk with longtime trans activist Miss Major Griffin-Gacy — also known simply as Miss Major — during a brief visit back to the Bay Area from Arkansas, Folkz had gained some additional perspective.

“Stop marching and screaming at people when they’re wearing ear plugs,” the 77-year-old Miss Major told her. “What you need to do is love each other to the hilt.”

In that light, small acts of kindness take on an outsized role, such as making sure elders like the Black, gay S.F. singer-songwriter Blackberri receives adequate dental care and gets the transportation he occasionally needs.

“We gain so much from being in the presence of our elders,” Folkz says. “There’s an African principle called sankofa, which says you must honor the past to understand the future. As middlings, the elders are really grounding us and it’s the youth that are allowing us to soar.”

What Folkz hopes for is a children’s rights movement on par with the late-19th-century push to abolish child labor, one that might grow out of the Parkland students’ militating against gun violence. To that end, Spectrum Queer Media’s campaign to increase media literacy has an extra resonance. It’s not merely about becoming a savvier news reader, able to determine truth from falsehood in an era when fake news is on the ascendant; it’s about previously excluded subjects taking control of their own narrative.

“The digital storytelling program looks at how you create a story, what is the point of the story, and who gets to determine who else hears the story?” Folkz says. “I did the premiere of Alice Walker’s biopic by Pratibha Parmar, entitled Beauty in Truth, and we were blessed that Alice came to the screening [at the Grand Lake Theatre]. We contacted Ava DuVernay because we were thinking big, and do you know that she said yes? On her own dime.”

Assembling hundreds of people — with half the tickets given away through area nonprofits — and giving them the opportunity to ask Alice Waters a question about how she, as a partially sighted Black bisexual woman grew up in the South, brought Folkz no small amount of joy.

“Not only do I have this lens on how we have to help people become more of an investigator of information coming from the media, we also have to empower people to tell their own stories,” she says.

Folkz is of indigenous and Jamaican descent, and she identifies as Black. (“I feel like everyone on the face of this planet will be freer once we accept that we’re all Black,” she tells SF Weekly.) Her SF Pride bio is conspicuously free of pronouns, and when asked for clarification, she says that “my gender identity is spirit” and that she’s “accepting and embracing of all pronouns.”

“I’m expansive,” she says. “Why shouldn’t we be expansive? We’re all connected. I’m made of stardust. I don’t understand the construct as a healthy construct. It’s a hierarchical arrangement meant to damn people and deny people their opportunity to thrive.

“Oh, honey, I’m a Gemini,” Folkz adds. “You don’t have to worry about me. I’m a two-spirit Gemini.”

 

Read more about the 2018 S.F. Pride Grand Marshals and Honorees

Aria Sa’id, Winner of the ’10 Years of Service’ Award
A force for change among S.F.’s trans women of color, Sa’id also founded the Kween Culture Initiative.

Our Lady J Breaks New Ground for Gender Representation
A Celebrity Grand Marshal, Our Lady J has worked on two television shows that put trans issues front-and-center.

 

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