Taylor Lhamon

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The folx that brought you “Queer Vibes Only” at North Brooklyn Farms, introduce Qinfolk Festival: an art, film and mental health event centered on queer and trans people of color. The inaugural festival will take place October 5, and feature more than two dozen artists for a day filled with creativity, discussion and radical self-care. 

Based in Ithaca, N.Y., founder and executive director Candace Edwards created Qinfolk to expand a community she found within the city. “I found myself traveling the four hours back to Brooklyn and New York City to find community at events,” Edwards says. “I wanted to create a space for QTPOC folx in general, but particularly upstate, to find community and see ourselves represented authentically.”

And this community has only continued to grow. Carrie Hawks, a filmmaker screening their animated documentary black enuf*, heard about Qinfolk through the grapevine. “A friend shared the festival call with me,” Hawks says. “As a queer non-binary Black person, it’s rare to see things that center stories like mine. My current film project is about people of color and self-injury. I’m very interested in mental health for POCs especially.”

The interwoven practice of art and mental health is fundamental to the festival’s design. “Mental health is integral to our survival. So is artistic expression. A lot of us create to heal. The two almost completely overlap,” Edwards says. “At Qinfolk, most of our workshops are dedicated to some aspect of mental health whether it’s mindfulness, consent or discussing therapy and access to community resources.”

The Qinfolk team was nothing short of thorough when crafting the festival structure. A detailed list of community guidelines, which includes everything from pronouns to awareness of emotional labor, ensures the event is founded on respect. At the top of these guidelines is centering queer and trans people of color. 

While allies are welcome, priority goes to the voices and needs of QTPOC. As such, certain spaces are reserved solely for the community, in order to cultivate safety and intimacy within the group. 

“We’ve also designated some workshops as POC and QTPOC only spaces — for example, the Real Talk: QTPOC [Mental Health] Workshop, led by Kenya Crawford, MHC,” Edwards says.

She explains this significance, “We are actively de-centralizing whiteness, and having intra-community conversations which require dedicated and intentional spaces.”

This blend of art and mental health is also seen within the festival lineup. Brooklyn-based artist, Dread the Photographer, speaks about her film that will screen at Qinfolk.

“It was important for me to release my “Mental Health Series” because many people struggle with internal and mental issues yet are afraid to speak about them. I wanted to show viewers that people who look like you and I also suffer — and it’s OK,” Dread says. “My inspiration was my own depression — creating this project gave me a huge task and took my mind off my own sufferings as it allowed me to help others while also giving them a platform to do so.”

As Qinfolk kicks off the autumn season, Edwards discusses her hopes for the inaugural festival, “I am looking forward to the community coming out and having a chance to see themselves represented. And of course, finding other members of the community and building from there. I am hoping this inspires folx to create their own events and take their own spaces. I want space like Qinfolk to be common place.” 

A note from Candace Edwards: Ithaca is a great place to visit when folx need a reprieve from the city. We’re about a four hour bus ride from Midtown. There is still time to plan a trip up to Ithaca for Qinfolk, or to visit Ithaca in general. Tickets are available at qinfolk.com.

Cover photo and Article Images Courtesy of Rochelle Brock

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