Celebrating Space for Queer and Trans People of Color

By Ashley Reedman, September 30, 2019
IC alumna Candace Edwards ’09 organizes Ithaca’s first art, film and mental health festival for LGBTQIA+ people of color, called Qinfolk.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 5, downtown Ithaca will host Ithaca’s inaugural Qinfolk Short Film Festival, celebrating art, short films and mental health through exhibitions and workshops created by recognized artists, facilitators and social, political and cultural activists of the queer and transgender people of color (QTPOC) community. 

“Festival planning and grant writing isn’t something I do professionally or anything like that,” said Candace Edwards 09, executive director and founder of Qinfolk. “But I saw a need for queer and trans people of color, and I felt like Ithaca would be a great place to host [such an event].”

Edwards saw what her hometown of New York City had available to QTPOC and what Ithaca lacked, yet she felt the small city could serve as a perfect venue for celebrating representation, creativity, and community. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in politics from Ithaca College, Edwards returned home to New York for five years before coming back to Ithaca, where she has lived for five years. She now works as a systems and accreditations specialist in IC’s School of Business.

“One day I was driving [to New York] and I thought, why do I have to drive so far for a party [or event] that is so integral and important to the QTPOC community, when it seems like something that should be so easy to find where I live?” said Edwards. “Ithaca is my home now, and I know I’m not the only queer person of color here. I know students might have QTPOC spaces on campus as well, but as a community member, it may be harder to find those spaces, and that is what really sparked the idea [of Qinfolk].”

“My hope for this event is that it gives folks opportunities to have access to space. In our messaging, we say ‘take up space,’ meaning we want people who are a part of this, or want to be a part of something like this, to create space for where you want to be.”

Candace Edwards ’09, executive director and founder of Qinfolk

The Ithaca College President's Seed Grant Initiative helped the idea become reality, said Edwards. “The catalyst event that really made me [start production of Qinfolk] was when our new IC president, Shirley Collado, challenged the community to pitch an idea and collaborate with community members through an initiative called the Presidential Seed Grant.” Edwards was awarded this grant and went on to receive four more grants for the event, including the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County grant and the Tompkins County Tourism grant.

The President's Seed Grant was used to hold spaces for the Qinfolk workshops, art exhibitions and short film festival at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, Community School of Music and Arts and Cinemapolis. “Everyone was so willing to help in any way. As soon as I pitched the idea, I was surprised and humbled by the amount of immediate support [received by the Ithaca community, alumni and sponsoring businesses],” said Edwards.

Keynote artists and workshop facilitators were invited to participate based on their work and alignment with the mission of the festival. The Qinfolk team then put out an open call for QTPOC artists around the world to join the event using social media. 

a man and a woman posing together

Qinfolk production team members Amanda Lee Edwards (right) and Rashidi Lewis (left). (Photo by Rochelle Brock)

“We got an overwhelming response from people who wanted to show their work at this festival,” said Edwards. Over two dozen artists and speakers were selected for this year’s event. Artists and keynote speakers at Qinfolk include IC graduates Becca Graham ’11, a performing artist and musician, and Gillian Glasco ’07, a writer, actress and playwright. 

“My hope for this event is that it gives folks opportunities to have access to space. In our messaging, we say ‘take up space,’ meaning we want people who are a part of this, or want to be a part of something like this, to create space for where you want to be,” said Edwards. “My second hope is that events like Qinfolk become common. I would love for Qinfolk to not be this new and innovative thing. I would like it to be just one of many festivals or activities that happen in this community, and that matter to and support queer and trans people of color.”

Edwards expressed gratitude to Luca Maurer, director of IC’s Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services; Brittany McCown, an administrative assistant in IC's Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness; Warren Calderone, director of corporate and foundation relations and sponsored research; and Stephanie St. John, academic operations specialist in the provost’s office. She would also like to thank her collected staff of IC alumni, Jackie Aude 09, Tatiana Sy 09, Rita Bunatal 16, Sappho Hocker 18, Heather Crespin ’16 and Kalya Brathwaite 18, as well as Jada Haynes of Cornell University and her non-IC production team, Jasmine Lynea, Amanda Edwards and Rashidi Lewis.

Edwards would also like to thank sponsors and downtown supporters Ashley Cake of The Watershed, Lisa Swayze of Buffalo Street Books, Lea Davis of the Community School of Music and Arts, and Devon Ritz of Planned Parenthood, among other supporting businesses such as Gimme! Coffee, Cinemapolis and Alternatives Federal Credit Union. 

Ticket Information

Tickets for the Qinfolk Short Film Festival can be purchased at qinfolk.com.