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LGBTQ* / Queer Jam 2018


It is with great excitement that we invite you to participate in the 2018 LGBTQ* Jam!!

The Jam is a powerful gathering of 30 dynamic and diverse change makers from LGBTQ* communities. We will have 6 days of deep listening, sharing, play, creativity, self-discovery, systemic inquiry and community-building. The Jam is held at a beautiful retreat center in California’s Santa Cruz mountains, from Saturday, May 12, to Friday, May 18, 2018.

Apply today! – Only 5 Spaces Left!

For 27+ years, YES! has brought together change-makers from around the world. The Queer JAM brings together people from LGBTQ* communities across the country in order to focus on the issues and liberatory possibilities in our times.

The Jam is for everyone creating positive change and building towards a more just and thriving world.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 focusing your energy on other issues.


What Is a Jam?

A Jam is 30 people coming together to explore 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 is dedicated time at a beautiful retreat center to think and feel deeply about social change. The jam is a group exploration 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.



“This jam was super important for me confronting generational trauma as a queer person of color. You guys provided a space to be, all parts of myself. I needed to feel all parts of myself to move forward.”
– Magic (Eugene) Butler, 23, facilitator, Seeds of Peace, Syracuse, NY


What Do We Mean by LGBTQ*?

We use LGBTQ* with the asterisk*(star) as an all-encompassing 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?

At the Jam, we make the space and time to revel in the beautiful and myriad experiences of queerness in its many forms – 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 ourselves, in our communities and in our movements:

·      What has been your personal journey around queerness and gender?  What is alive for you in your identity(ies)?  Where are you struggling and where are you growing?

·      What are the connections, common ground, and divisions within our various LGBTQ* communities and movements?

·      How do the complexities of our identities shape, empower, and complicate our inner landscapes, our personal relationships and our work in the world? How do we create spaces where the complexity of queerness is appreciated, where it can be 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 work and into our diverse worlds?

·     The concept of ‘community’ shapes our experiences of queerness and is often loaded, holding incredible healing power and also sometimes a space of dilution, erasure, inclusion and exclusion. What does “community” mean to us? How do we create respectful, dynamic, equitable, thriving communities where we are able to see and be seen by each other?

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

·      What changes do we want to see in the world? We are living in a moment of exciting changes and powerful grief. It is a vibrant time of political victory in the middle of continuing backlash, 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 your questions 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.


“This is the first time I have shown up in queer community and instantly felt like I belonged. This is the first time I have said so many of the things that I needed to say and felt not only witnessed, but with-nessed. Thank you for teaching me that vulnerability and strength are not contradictions.”
– Rachel Economy, 28, author, poet and founder of Index for the Next World, Berkeley, CA


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. They are a blend of structure and fluidity. Jams have a facilitation team who also participate fully. The engine of the jam will be your questions, your wisdom, your challenges, your curiosity.


And, like music jams, YES 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.


“I love the intentionality of how the QJam is organized—merging the personal, interpersonal and systemic—it makes sense. That is where the transformative healing work happens. Thank you for providing me with a practical framework to share with my community back home.”

– Tracy Garcîa, 29, Program Coordinator, UC Santa Cruz Lionel Cantú Queer Center, Santa Cruz, CA


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 in the streets before Stonewall

·     Race, class, ethnicity, religion, national origin, creed, etc. and many other identities

·     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 dialogues.

“Spending a week in intentional community with a diverse group of queer folks has been utterly transformative. This has given me a roadmap, not only to my own healing, but to collective liberation. I am bursting at the seams with love for this beautiful family and for the queer future that we represent. We are the future we need. Love, love, love.”

– Greg Barker, 28, facilitator, Seeds of Peace, Queens, NYC

Who Is Organizing the Jam?

Alma Rosa Silva-Bañuelos 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.  Previously, she served as the Director of the LGBTQ Resource Center at the University of New Mexico. In that role, Alma Rosa was 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. 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.


Roan Coughtry is a writer, educator, and healer based out of Atlanta, GA. With a background in the healing arts and social justice organizing, they’re passionate about kindling the connection between creativity, embodied practice, and liberation. They’re a lead producer of Sex Down South, a queer- and POC-centered sexuality conference in Atlanta. In 2013 they co-founded the Sexual Liberation Collective, and they’re a Pleasure Professional on the innovative educational platform O.School. They facilitate anti-oppression workshops around the country on gender, race, disability, mental health, spirituality, and violence prevention. They also hold individual healing and coaching sessions for clients. You can find out more about their work at www.roancoughtry.com.


George Holmes is a Black, agender, pansexual, and polyamorous Atlanta, Georgia native. As a young adult they have journeyed around the country through various opportunities which has lead them to much self discovery and realization. Now, as a 25 year old, they are a student of Mechatronics Engineering and plan to use these skills to enhance urban agriculture practices and make them more accessible in order to counteract the effects of food deserts. They are also the student coordinator for the QTPOC Community Group at Kennesaw State University where they hold space for queer and trans students of color to be fully themselves, discuss issues that they face, and explore ways to heal together. In their spare time they enjoy expressing themself by making music, being in nature, and performing rituals with their crystals, the Earth, and the Moon. George values universal oneness and unconditional love. They are committed to justice for marginalized people and exploring ways to dismantle systematic oppression while establishing new inclusive systems of accountability, generosity, and love!


Ekua Adisa is a healing artist at the intersection of Black Southern traditions and Haitian and West African practices that center ancestor veneration, earth magic, ritual, and community care. Ekua weaves these threads into their ritual performance work, while providing spiritual support and council for folks on the front lines of the movement for Black Lives and all intersecting movements for liberation. They enjoy creating new systems that undermine old institutions rooted in exclusion and oppression, as well as designing and hosting spaces for groups and individuals to learn, heal, and expand themselves within. They are currently excited about work that uses collective ritual to help communities move collective grief. Ekua’s life philosophy can be summed up into these two words: queer everything.


Will 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.


Shilpa 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 Saturday, May 12th, to the morning of Friday May 18th. The location of this year’s JAM is the Ben Lomond Quaker Center in the Santa Cruz mountains.


The total costs of the Jam are $925 per participant ($575 for food, lodging and supplies, $400 for program costs of organizing and facilitator honorarium, childcare, etc). We ask that participants make and cover their own travel arrangements and also consider contributing a minimum of $575 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 of money 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. Monthly payments can begin at $25 a month.


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 childcare and any additional expenses with you.


Apply today!

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