Emerge Magazine 2017

Toronto collective creates party spaces for queer POC

Many people have a problem with Toronto’s gay club scene,” says Mark-Ché Devonish, executive director and founder of The RUDE Collective.

RUDE (Real, Unapologetic, Diverse Expression) is a Toronto-based community organization that prides itself on creating spaces for marginalized queers, including those who identify as victims of racism, transphobia and gender identity. RUDE creates a space for these individuals to be themselves without the worry of discrimination.

Devonish, 21, created RUDE in September, 2016, after visiting Montreal’s club scene and seeing how much more inclusive that city is, compared to Toronto–where the gay club scene has been geared towards, and dominated by, white gay men, excluding queer people of colour, women and transgenders,

Josh Rille, RUDE’s design director, says Toronto’s club scene is akin to what’s found in Edmonton. He always thought there was a problem with both gay villages, although he didn’t know how to describe the problem. “All I knew was I didn’t like it,” says Rille, who’s 22. “Then after meeting Mark, I realized that we needed more queer-friendly spaces that are completely inclusive.”

RUDE parties happen monthly. Queer POC are encouraged to come out to dance, but the parties also showcase various underground artists at their events, featuring work that ranges from visual to video, and musical to poetical.

In addition to Che-Devonish and Rille, the collective consists of  Hakeem Walker, bar manager and creative director; Ferdinand Ngo, communications director; Morgan Sears-Williams, arts director; and Hana Jama, music director.

“We are not your basic queer dance party,” says Walker. Khan adds that “compared to anything else on Church Street, nothing is like RUDE.”

It appears to be working. People of colour say that they really do feel more comfortable there. “I felt full-out included,” says Usman Khan, 23, who has attended all five events hosted so far. “If I want to dance, I dance, and if I mess up, nobody cares. You can’t feel uncomfortable there.”  The best part of the parties, he said, is that there is a diverse selection of music. “It’s not just Lady Gaga all the time,” says Khan.

Brittani Cowell-Gardner, 23, has been to three RUDE events and says she finds it a more inclusive space than any other party in downtown Toronto. “Other queer communities don’t focus on people of colour that much,” she said. “It’s nice.”

But not everyone is welcome at a RUDE event, as the collective does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. An attendee was kicked out of the club for being judgmental at one of the events, Khan recalls.

The collective also donates 50 per cent of its proceeds to charities. Their last party generated a donation of $3,000 to the YMCA’s Sprott House, a new downtown Toronto residential facility that focuses on eradicating LGBTQ youth homelessness.

RUDE pays for the events themselves with the money earned at each event. Devonish says operating with no funding means the initiative is both a success and a failure.  “We want to do more but we’re working with what we have for now,” he says.

The collective is planning to create a GoFundMe page soon to make up for the lack of funding. Three members of RUDE are also in their final year of university and say that they hope to have more time to focus on RUDE events once they have finished their studies.

RUDE also wants to offer more than just a party space. The collective is also planning a massive art show for Pride Toronto, which will showcase stories about black queer youth. The organizers also said another one of their future plans is to create and run their own gallery space to showcase queer POC art on a daily basis.

“RUDE is growing really quickly and I find the group super-impressive,” Khan says. “At the beginning I didn’t think it would go on forever but now I wouldn’t doubt it.”

The collective’s next event is called Cxnty, and is scheduled for April 22.

Follow the RUDE Collective on Facebook for more information on events, tickets and where the money goes.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheRUDEcollective/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rude_Collective

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/therudecollective/



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Nicole McIntyre

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Nicole's five favourite things are: tea, writing, cycling, sunshine and drinking too much beer.

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