Community Spotlight: Rainbow Noir
Throughout January, we will be spotlighting the work of incredible organisations which focus on providing spaces of healing, joy & community – especially for Black LGBTQIA people.
In this article, we find out more about the aims and motivations of Chloe Cousins, who is the strategic lead of Rainbow Noir.
What were your motivations behind starting Rainbow Noir?
The main reasons for starting Rainbow Noir were to create a space where LGBTQI people of colour in Manchester could have a space to meet, be validated and organise. There were a few key events in 2011 that happened pretty close together, which led to us reaching a tipping point and into action. The first being an LGBT event run by an LGBT organisation, which specifically wanted people of colour to share experiences, only to then deny and undermine what people of colour contributed in the space. The other event I think was for Black History Month, where there was a refusal to acknowledge the importance of being intersectional regarding LGBT identities and blackness. We were just tired of spaces claiming to be for us, but which never really were. These experiences weren’t unique, they were commonplace and so the build-up of frustration led to the decision to create something of our own; for us, by us.
What is your proudest moment of working on Rainbow Noir?
I don’t think I have one stand out proudest moment, but there are two main things that I get really excited about. The first is witnessing the connections that people make at our events and now at our online platforms too. Often people come to Rainbow Noir on their own, they don’t know many / any other QTIPOC and sometimes even question whether they are POC/LGBT enough to be in the space. It’s so lovely witnessing those people meet others with similar identities and make connections, open up, give themselves permission to be – it’s such a special thing. So many of us as QTIPOC are disconnected from others like us and it really impacts our self-love, confidence and pride – having a space to go to that holds, understands and validates your identities are so important and I feel Rainbow Noir is a space and community that does that.
The other is being part of local Prides and being seen! I remember some of the earlier prides we walked in Manchester, where I think we were the only POC group entered. Walking past small groups of POC or individuals in the crowds and witnessing the joy and excitement on their faces at seeing our group – unapologetically out and loud and proud; their nods of acknowledgement, excited whooping and cheering, waves from POC elders – these moments are really heartwarming, they remind me of the power of our visibility and why it’s so important that Rainbow Noir and other groups like us exist.
What are some of your 2021 plans for Rainbow Noir? How can we all support your work?
We turn 8 this February and so we will be holding an online celebration to mark that date – we usually hold a whole day event in person with workshops, food, chill space and music! This year we’ll be seeing how we create this online – keep an eye out on our social media pages for more info over the coming month. Last year, so many people donated to our group, which has enabled us to set up an internal QTIPOC Excellence Fund. We’ve been offering paid opportunities for people who come to Rainbow Noir regularly to run workshops at the group. It’s been a great way to 1) pay our community! 2) enable people to try out ideas in a kind and supportive space 3) support people to share skills with QTIPOC peers. We’re excited to keep these going throughout 2021! People can support our work by following us online, sharing our posts and our work, one-off or regular donations and by inviting us to facilitate workshops and appear on panels.
Could you give us a final message of hope for any LGBTQ youth who may be struggling right now?
As a community, we have a long history of fighting for our people, in coming together to support each other to survive and thrive, in sharing kindness and love. We are a community that has had to overcome many obstacles and we have done it together. We will overcome this period and there are futures ahead of us that are bright and exciting and full!
2 tips for self-care I’d like to share are:
- Create healthy boundaries – be generous with the time and love that you give within, and be mindful of how much energy you’re giving away. Whether that’s to social media, work, others in your life, it’s ok to harvest your time and energy for things that nourish you in times like these and never apologise for that.
Reach out for support – There are lots of groups and spaces online that are for QTIPOC and LGBT+ youth who offer mental health support, housing support, online groups, uplifting online content. Don’t feel like you have to struggle alone, there is lots of help and loving community out there for you.
Images from Rainbow Noir