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Queer Jam 2015


QJam (1)


It is with great excitement that we invite you to participate in the 2015 LGBTQ* Jam.

The Jam is a powerful gathering of 30 dynamic and diverse change makers from LGBTQ* communities. We will have 5 days of deep listening, sharing, self-discovery, systemic inquiry and community-building in California’s Santa Cruz mountains, Tuesday, May 26 to Sunday, May 31, 2015.


Apply today!


For 25 years, YES! has brought together change-makers from around the world. This year, YES! facilitators from LGBTQ* communities are offering a jam focused on the issues and possibilities in our communities.

There are many ways to be an activist – through education, healing, political organizing, spiritual counseling, as an artist, a parent, a community member. You can be an activist on LGBTQ* issues, or an LGBTQ* change maker in other issues. The Jam is for everyone creating positive change for a more just and thriving world.

What is a Jam?

A Jam is 30 people, exploring the connections between personal change, interpersonal change, and systemic change. We call them Jams because they are like a music jam — everyone there co-creates the flow of events and what happens is organic, emergent and something no one alone could have predicted or created.


A lot of movement trainings are about strategy, but leave out how to build healthy movements. Other retreats focus on personal transformation but leave out politics. Some trainings work on leadership and power dynamics, but forget our souls.


YES! brings all three together — we give change makers tools to build open-hearted, healthy movements where people can get real with each other and build communities that are strategic, kick-ass and healthy.


The Jam is not a conference, seminar or a typical meeting – it is something unique. It’s dedicated time at a beautiful retreat center to think and feel deeply about social change. There are group explorations of everything from power to love to race. There is deep work and there is a lot of fun, art, and creativity. There is dancing and embodiment as well as solo time and reflection.


What do you mean by LGBTQ*?

We use LGBTQ* with the asterisk*(star) as an all-inclusive symbol for the queer and trans community, for all the different gender identities and expressions; it is meant to be inclusive and a way to acknowledge the ever-changing multiplicities of who we are. In other words, a few letters just can’t define you because of your completely unique Star quality.

Why an LGBTQ* Jam?

The Jam will be time to indulge in the multi-facted representation of the queer experience and people – a room full of people interested in exploring our identities, how we relate to each other across our differences, and what we can bring to the world from our amazing traditions of social change.

We want to explore the questions, visions and challenges in our communities and movements:

·      What are the connections, common ground, and divisions within the LGBTQ* community/movement?

·      How do the complexities of our identities shape, empower, and complicate our inner worlds, our relationships and our work in the world? How we create spaces where the complexity of queerness is appreciated, is a doorway for personal growth and understanding?

·      How do we grow from our intersectionality  — our race, class sexuality and gender – between each other and within ourselves?

·      How do we integrate healing for all Queer and Trans people into our worlds?

·      What do we even mean by ‘community’? With all of its power, healing, dilution, exclusion and inclusion?

·      What can different generations of the queer and trans movement learn from each other?

·      What changes do we want to see in the world? It is such a vibrant time of political victory in the middle of continuing violence and alienation for so many people. What magic do we feel like bringing to the drab and terrified powers that be?

Most importantly — What are your questions and ideas? What are you mobilized by, thinking about, daunted by? Bring them to the Jam. Imagine 29 other people, from different races, generations, genders, and wardrobe choices, all coming together to live into your questions with you and to offer their questions to explore.


Why do we call them Jams?

The name is inspired by music jams – where musicians co-create beauty and fun, each adding their riffs, inspiring and pushing each other to weave together something greater than the individuals can create alone. Jams have a facilitation team, who also participate fully, and also the engine of the jam will be your questions, your wisdom, your challenges, your curiosity.


And, like music jams, our jams are full of singing, play, dancing, spontaneous art.

Plus, we like the metaphor because jams are full of creativity, surprises and mistakes that become new directions — stumbling discordant messes that can become unexpected harmony when we say yes to stretching ourselves.


What’s that personal, interpersonal and systemic thing again?

On the personal level, the Jam is a place to share and reflect on your life journey and work in the world. It is a time to replenish, recharge and renew, and to gain specific and practical tools for self-care and personal sustainability. It is also an opportunity to grow in self-knowledge, to ask meaningful questions, to unlearn our fears and blocks, and to co-create new possibilities together.


On the interpersonal level, we come together to share our backgrounds, our stories and our struggles, to deepen in our understanding of each other and of ourselves. During the retreat, we hope to discover our commonalities and celebrate our differences.  The intention is to build trust and friendship, in a meaningful way. This means challenging stereotypes, being present with each other, speaking truth, working through tough places and being open to giving and receiving support.  We feel that the more authentic our relationships are, the stronger the foundations we will have for developing new collaborations and synergies within our movements and communities.


On the systemic level, the Jams give us time to become clearer about our vision and work in the world. We get a chance to link issues that aren’t commonly linked, to notice crucial intersection points, and get a clearer picture of the whole. We come together to learn from each other: about what is working, about what mistakes we have made, about where we need help. We have a chance to share tools and ideas to support one another.  In turn, we hope this helps us to generate a body of collective wisdom for change. We also hope it will enable each participant to feel deepened in their capacity to affect meaningful positive change and carry their dreams forward.


Who is invited?

This Jam is focused on people who identify in the range of LGBTQQIAT-S*. Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and *(we don’t have a letter yet, but we’re excited to see what you come up with).

YES! also welcomes many other kinds of diversity. We are looking for people who represent a range of:

  • Leadership – from people on the ground to executive directors

  • Years of experience  — from just getting started to out before Stonewall

  • Race and class

  • Work in the world  — activists, artists, funders, healers, behind-the-sceners, teachers, entrepreneurs, volunteers, cooks, parents – people change the world in many ways.

  • Age – from youth to elders. The broader the range the richer the dialogs.

  • Ethnicity, religion, national origin, creed


Who is organizing the Jam?

Alma Rosa Silva-Bañuelos is currently the Director of the LGBTQ Resource Center at the University of New Mexico. In this role, Alma Rosa is committed to creating a space that provides resources and service to UNM students, faculty and staff of all gender identities and sexual orientations through support, advocacy, education and safety. She has also been a community organizer in her hometown of Albuquerque, NM since the late 1990’s, and has worked throughout New Mexico facilitating local and rural communities to self-organize for social, environmental, economic, reproductive and gender justice. She has worked with many local, statewide, regional, national, bi-national non-profits and currently is a member of the Board of Directors for the Transgender Resource Center of NM (TGRCNM), Equality New Mexico (EQNM) and Casa Q.  Alma Rosa is the founder of the New Mexico LGBTQ Round Table and is an anti-oppression and LGBTQ cultural competency trainer.  She is also a co-founding member of Young Women United, local grass-roots non-profit organization founded in 1999. Alma Rosa continues to organize and advocate for social justice while working towards LGBTQ* recognition, acceptance, equal rights and liberation.

Photo on 3-26-14 at 3.32 PM #2Will Grant’s work in LGBTQ* issues is at the intersection of community, spirituality, power, and memory. He started his journey as a founder of Q-Lab, a collective that explored issues of race, class, gender, and identity in the New Mexican LGBTQ* community for 7 years. He was mentored by the New Mexican Gay and Lesbian Spirituality Gathering and became a Fire Keeper for the community. The lessons there taught him how important historical memory is to a thriving community, so he became a queer history teacher. For the past 6 years he has worked with queer youth leadership and developed FAIR Classrooms, a project that teaches California high schools how to integrate LGBTQ* history into their curricula. His mainstream job is as an organizational development strategist working with social justice and education organizations. When he’s not being such serious activist, Will is a Radical Fairie named Shine, a Naraya dancer, a biker and a hiker.

Kosoko Jackson is a graduate of University of Maryland Baltimore County where he studied psychology and politics. After attending the 2013 North American Jam he got interested in social justice and the place of minority groups of all types, but wanted to reconstruct the system from the inside out. Kosoko has worked with The Victory Institute–an organization that’s helps get LGBTQ* individuals elected to political positions, started his own LGBTQ* Chapter at his high school and currently is shopping his two novels with the hopes of increasing the visibility of LGBTQ* main characters in young adult novels. Currently, he works for a centrist Think Tank on their communications staff and in August will move to Philadelphia to assist in running Penn Environment Clean Energy Campaign.

Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski is an artist who uses culturally “classed” materials to create 2-D and performative work that explores how we might be programming our future in relationship to systems of marginalization. She is concerned specifically with the futuristic femme myth as it applies to queer and of color communities. Amaryllis has received awards and honors in the areas of visual art including the ArtLA Student Artist of the Year, All College Honors, and is an Alumni of the AICAD New York studio residency program.  She has been working with organizations such as the Brown Boi Project, Strong Families, Third Root Health Center, and the Estria Foundation among others.  She has exhibited work in New York, LA, and the Bay Area.  A recent graduate of the Individualized program at CCA, Amaryllis aims to practice the integration of multiple art forms as a way to make myth and tell the truth. She has dedicated her life’s work to stand with countless others in the movement that uses creativity and expression as the tools necessary for community liberation, and the means by which we may all realize our most potent dreams.

305278_10150359822245140_747470139_10190432_242988494_nShilpa Jain is currently rooting herself in Oakland/Berkeley, CA, where she serves as the Executive Director of YES!. YES! works with social changemakers at the meeting point of internal, interpersonal and systemic change, and aims to co-create thriving, just and balanced ways of life for all. Prior to taking on this role, Shilpa spent two years as the Education and Outreach Coordinator of Other Worlds and ten years as a learning activist with Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, based in Udaipur, India, where she served as coordinator of the Swapathgami (Walkouts-Walkons) Network. Shilpa has researched and written numerous books and articles, and facilitated hundreds of Jams, workshops and gatherings in over a dozen countries and on topics including creative expressions, ecology, new economies, and innovative learning and unlearning. She is also co-author of “Connect. Inspire. Collaborate”, a highly sought-after facilitation manual.


Dates, venue and contribution

The Jam will be held from the afternoon of Tuesday, May 26, 2015, to the morning of Sunday, May 31. The location is the Vajrapani Institute in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains: http://www.vajrapani.org.

The total costs of the Jam are $800 per participant ($425 for food and lodging, $375 for program costs of organizing and facilitator honorarium, materials, supplies). We ask that participants make and cover their own travel arrangements and also consider contributing a minimum of $425 toward their food and accommodation. We were able to do some fundraising to bring the costs down to this rate.

However, we also realize that this is still a significant amount for many people, and we do not want money to be an impediment to your participation.  We work with each participant to set up the right combo of scholarship, work trade and monetary payment that works for them.  YES! also offers a monthly payment plan to help each person figure out a payment schedule that is best for them.

If you are able to contribute more, wonderful! The extra amount will go towards our scholarship pool. If you are not able to contribute as much, we definitely want you, too! Just let us know.

Also, we welcome children to the Jam; we love having whole families sharing the Jam experience. We will work out the costs of childcare and additional expenses with you.


Apply today!

Please feel free to contact us at  LGBTQJam@gmail.com if you have any queries.