Queer Voices

December 20th 2023 Queer Voices

December 20, 2023 Queer Voices
Queer Voices
December 20th 2023 Queer Voices
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

As we convene in the vibrant city of New Orleans, Kathy Renna from the National LGBTQ Task Force reminds us that the fight for equality is steeped in both struggle and jubilation. This week's episode is a mosaic of our community's resilience, as we examine the intersection of queer joy and activism at the Creating Change Conference. We're marking half a century of progress with the Task Force, and there's no better time to discuss the pressing issues we face, from the erasure of LGBTQ stories in schools to the groundbreaking "Queer the Vote" initiative. Kathy's passion for the cause is a beacon that guides us through the dark waters of censorship and discrimination.

Imagine turning the comfort of dumplings into a lifeline that connects people and heals spirits. Michael and Chi, affectionately known as the Dumpling Dudes, share their heartening voyage from battling workplace discrimination to building a gastronomic enterprise that's as much about mental wellness as it is about culinary delights. Their story is one of true partnership, where love meets entrepreneurial grit. Their candid reflections on the complexities of intertwining personal and professional lives offer a masterclass in navigating the delicate dance of maintaining harmony in both domains.

And if storytelling is the soul of empathy, then Dawn Jones Redstone's "Mother of Color" is a testament to the power of cinema. We peel back the layers of this indie film's creation, discussing the obstacles that queer filmmakers of color face, and the triumph of bringing authentic narratives to the screen. Dawn’s approach to filmmaking, which prioritizes inclusivity and tackles poignant societal issues, is not just a narrative choice but a revolutionary act. Join us as we traverse the realms of creativity and community, and celebrate the spirit that unites us all in pursuit of a world where every voice is heard and cherished.

Speaker 1:

Hello everybody, this is Queer Voices, a home-produced podcast that has grown out of a radio show that's been on the air in Houston, texas, for several decades. This week, andrew Edmondson talks with Kathy Renna of the National LGBTQ Task Force about the Creating Change Conference, which is being held in New Orleans from January 17th to January 21st.

Speaker 2:

We are so thrilled to be coming to New Orleans in person. During the COVID pandemic, when we were in lockdown, we had to cancel our in-person conference here in 2021 and do it virtually. So we are absolutely thrilled that we're back in New Orleans and we've gotten an amazing reception from local queer and allied activists and the city.

Speaker 1:

Brett Cullum talks with the dumpling dudes who say working together in a business and maintaining their marriage is a learning experience. And Deborah Moncrief Bell has a conversation with Dawn Jones Redstone about her film Mother of Color. She is a Queer Mexican-American filmmaker and Mother of Color is her first feature-length film. Queer Voices starts now.

Speaker 5:

I'm Andrew Edmondson and you are listening to Queer Voices. From January 17th through the 21st, the Creating Change Conference will convene hundreds of LGBTQ activists, advocates and allies from across the nation in New Orleans, Louisiana. Creating Change is built by its presenters as, quote, the foremost political leadership and skills building conference for the LGBTQ movement. End quote Creating Change is organized and sponsored by the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Task Force. The Task Force is America's oldest advocacy organization fighting for queer equality on the national level. Created in 1973, the mission of the Task Force is to advance full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people. To discuss Creating Change 2024 and other upcoming Task Force initiatives, we are pleased to welcome Kathy Renna back to Queer Voices. Kathy serves as the Task Force Director of Communications. Kathy has a long history in the queer movement for equality, having served as National News Media Director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Kathy, welcome back to Queer Voices.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much. It is awesome to be back.

Speaker 5:

Please give us a broad brush overview of this year's conference. For those who have never been, what is it like to attend the conference? What is its theme?

Speaker 2:

We are so thrilled to be coming to New Orleans in person. During the COVID pandemic, when we were in lockdown, we had to cancel our in-person conference here in 2021 and do it virtually. We are absolutely thrilled that we are back in New Orleans. We have gotten an amazing reception from local queer and allied activists and the city that we are coming in January. As you said, creating Change is the largest, most long-standing queer activism advocacy conference, skills building, leadership building, networking. Our theme this year is Queer Power, queer Action, queer Joy. That theme really comes from where we have been in the last few years and where we are going for the next decades. It has been a really tough time. We have been under attack, I do not have to tell you all. In Texas, our staff have been working with folks around the country and at the national level to really combat the attacks on LGBTQ people. It is really an opportunity to come together. For me, creating Change is always kind of a battery recharge. Maybe that is the power piece, but it is really about claiming our power. It is about action because we are going into an election year a very important presidential election year and joy because we need to find joy, we need to find community at a time when things are very difficult for so many of us. We are bringing all of those elements to the conference. I always say this I say this is not really a conference, it is an experience. We create a world for four or five days, in whatever city we are in. I think New Orleans is particularly welcoming and a wonderful place to do this, where we can just be ourselves, which is not something that queer folks have the opportunity to do all the time. As I said, in the last few years it has been even harder. We are really excited to bring about 3,000 people to New Orleans to attend the conference. Of course, they have workshops and plenaries. We also have a bunch of other events and programs that go along with the conference. Like I say, we work all day and we party at night. We have some amazing guests as well.

Speaker 5:

Who are the featured speakers at the conference this year?

Speaker 2:

Well, we have already made some announcements, some I have to keep no spoilers, I have to keep a little closer to the vest. We are absolutely thrilled that trans advocate, author, media strategist, powerhouse, raquel Willis will be emceeing our plenaries. She is an extraordinary woman. She has a book that just came out. She is doing a national book tour, a memoir. We are also super excited to announce that Big Freedia will be performing at the closing plenary. Big Freedia, of course, new Orleans local, very well known, the queen of bounce, who performed virtually for us when we did the conference virtually. So we are just really excited we are going to have the chance to see her on stage. Kiera Johnson, our executive director, is always one of the. For me, one of the most exciting and moving moments of the conference is when she does her state of the movement plenary Beach. Kiera is such a dynamic, amazing leader and it's really an opportunity for her to not just shine but a chance for the movement to just see how lucky and blessed we are at the task force to have her at the helm now. She's been the executive director since 2021. And it was hard to become the ED in the middle of a pandemic and she's really she's spread her wings and she's flying really high. She's really amazing. And then we will, you know, during our plenaries we're going to have some really exciting speakers. Mariah Moore, who is here from New Orleans with the incredible organization House of Tulip, is going to be moderating our trans plenary. We're going to have a plenary where we talk about larger issues around democracy and talk with really futurist folks who are really looking not just to next year but the next 10 years, the next 20 years, the next 50 years, because we have experienced so many setbacks. So we're and, of course, the workshops. I mean we, we just sent out approvals. We had an extraordinary number of proposals over 500 proposals and we could only have space for about a hundred and 140 or so workshops. So unfortunately, we had to say no to people who put in really excellent ideas, but the space was limited. So we're really just starting now to put out all of the details and folks can find it on the creating changeorg website as we get closer.

Speaker 5:

If you're speaking with Kathy Rena, she is director of communications for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. From January 17th through the 21st, the task force will be sponsoring the creating change conference in New Orleans, louisiana. Kathy. Each year, creating change honors longtime activist in the movement for their efforts. In 2020, the convention honored veteran Houston trailblazer, monica Roberts for her longevity in the transgender movement. Who are some of the activists who will be honored in January 2024 and what are their achievements?

Speaker 2:

We're thrilled to be honoring several folks that I can announce several are still in works our indigenous leadership award we are just absolutely thrilled to present to a New Orleans local, john Luke, who's a member of the Toneca Biloxi tribe. He is an advocate, a language scholar, and is actually now based up in Boston and has been just an extraordinary voice for queer two spirit indigenous folks. Our faith award, which is always, you know, so well received this year I'm super proud to say that I am a friend of the incredible Bishop, yvette Flunder, who is being honored with the with the faith award. She's well known around the country. She is really considered a mother of the queer affirming faith movement. She founded the city of refuge United Church of Christ. She based out of San Francisco and she has really created so much refuge for particularly folks in the African American community queer African American community as an incredible faith leader. And then, finally, the last one that I can totally announce that we know of is our SAGE Award. We partner with SAGE, which is the LGBTQ Senior Advocacy Organization, and we are presenting that award to another New Orleans local. We're really, really thrilled. Sage works, as you probably know, with individuals and affiliates around the country, and so Ken Mitchell he's a social worker at Algear Charter Schools Association right here in New Orleans will be recognized for his work in advocacy for LGBTQ seniors. So we have a few other awards that we haven't we aren't able to announce quite yet, particularly the Leather Award, which is always a big favorite at our plenary, and so, yeah, it's really part of the joy piece here is celebrating and honoring and acknowledging folks who've been doing work for our community, whether it's for a long period of time or whether it's excellence in supporting and amplifying and helping specific parts of our community that are in many ways more marginalized.

Speaker 5:

Shifting gears slightly. 2023 was a very big year for the National LGBTQ Task Force. Can you talk about why the past year was so significant for you?

Speaker 2:

The headline here is that we turned 50. So it was really tremendous to honor and lift up and have the opportunity to talk about the extraordinary history of this organization, connect with folks who've been part of the organization from its founding and help educate the community. I mean, I think the juxtaposition here of the fact that we are combating bookbands and curriculum bands and attacks on our community that are trying to essentially erase us and erase our history made it all the more important that we focus on trying to really let folks know the history of the Task Force. So in 1973, it was founded by a small group of really extraordinary folks, some of whom are still around Ginny Puzo, david Rothenberg. It was the same year that Roe v Wade became the law of the land. I mean there was a time just post Stonewall where there was a tremendous amount of energy around advocacy and really starting in a more elevated, more visible national LGBT movement. We have spent 50 years as a, I think, a very unique organization in the community. I mean we are a very progressive intersectional organization that has, from the very beginning, worked very hard to work for liberation not just equality but liberation and also has not always been, I mean, what you would call a quote unquote I'm making air quotes with my fingers here. A gay rights group? I mean this organization, and part of the reason I love it and why I'm so happy to be on the staff now is that it's always looked at our community not just through the lens of our sexual orientation or gender identity. We've always looked at the multiplicity and the complexity of who we are, whether that's race, gender, class, ability and so many other things that we all bring to the table. You know it was a real again, a real opportunity to lift up that work, not just what we've done for the last 50 years and what we want to do for the next 50, but how we do the work we do and how important it is now.

Speaker 5:

Looking ahead, 2024 will certainly be a big year for America politically, with the looming presidential election. What key initiatives will the task force launch in 2024 to have an impact on the presidential election?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think it is fair to say that. Queer the vote, queer the vote, queer the vote. That's gonna be our focus. We're gonna be launching it act, creating change. There's an opportunity when you're in a space with over 3,000 queer people and allies, 1,500 plus progressive organizations, you know incredibly diverse group of people half of the attendees at CraneChanger under 30, really trying to reach young people, get them engaged in politics and civic engagement and go back home after the conference and have that ripple effect that we can then take advantage of. For the rest of the year, queer the vote is gonna be our primary focus. I mean, we're obviously always doing other pieces of work. We're actually working on our career, the census stuff already, even though the census is not coming for a while. But our main focus is gonna be what's happening across the country local elections and also state and, of course, federal elections with the Presidential Front and Center.

Speaker 5:

And Queer. The vote is focused on battleground states and turning out and registering LGBTQ voters in those states, isn't it?

Speaker 2:

It is, yeah, and I mean that's where the convening aspect of creating change comes in, where our partnerships with local and state organizations can come in. The task force has always been and always will be a super collaborative organization. We can't do it alone. We know we can't. We also know that the real power is at the grassroots level, working with local folks in various states. I mean we do a lot of work, for example, in Central Florida, where things are pretty tough. We have an office in Miami, but in Central Florida it's even more challenging. So we've been helping even at the level of school board elections, continuing to work with partners in the LGBT movement and also across progressive movements, working with immigration rights organizations, racial equity organizations, reproductive justice All of us. They really need to come together next year, and so that's gonna be the majority of what we're doing.

Speaker 5:

The Creating Change conference will be held January 17th through the 21st in New Orleans. Are there scholarships available to the conference and where can people get more information about them, if they are?

Speaker 2:

Yes, we do have. In fact, we just posted a blog post on how to basically how to sort of save money and spend less money in terms of the conference. We understand and know that it's a financial accessibility issue. We do everything we can to help folks be able to attend the conference. So, yes, we do have scholarships. One of the big things that we can do, actually, which folks may or may not realize, is that if you volunteer at the conference and we ask you to come to a 90-minute training and then do two four-hour shifts this is over the course of four days we will comp your registration, because we really need volunteers. We don't do this in the same city every year, like our Miami events, where we can really build a huge volunteer base. So it's really great, a great way to be able to make the conference more accessible for folks. And, of course, you can go to the website, the wwwcreatingchangeorg, and you can find more information about, for example, the few booked the hotel sooner rather than later. It costs less. We had an early registration that was less. You can apply for financial assistance. We also have meal assistance for folks at the conference itself. So we're doing everything we can to make this accessible to folks financially.

Speaker 5:

And if our listeners aren't able to attend the conference in person, are there ways that they can participate in the conference virtually?

Speaker 2:

I mean, we're not really, we don't have the capacity to do a hybrid conference, but the Plenaries are all live-streamed on our YouTube channel and then they are posted on our YouTube channel so you can access the Plenaries after, and there, of course, there are a key piece of the conference, and we've always done that and actually even pre-COVID we always tried to make that piece accessible. The workshops are a little more challenging to do virtually, but the Plenaries are accessible and they're very powerful. So if you're not able to attend, I highly recommend you go to our YouTube channel for the National LGBTQ Task Force, subscribe and then you'll get notifications when we're going to be streaming the Plenaries over the course of that week We've been speaking with Kathy Remes.

Speaker 5:

She is the Director of Communications for the National LGBTQ Task Force. The Task Force will be sponsoring the Creating Change Conference in January 17th through the 21st in New Orleans, louisiana, at the Hilton Riverside. For more information on the conference, you can visit the website creatingchangeorg. Kathy. Thank you for making the time to talk to us.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much and I really hope we see a lot of folks from Houston. My daughter is coming from Houston to create change and hopefully some of y'all will be joining us.

Speaker 1:

Coming up on Queer Voices. Brett talks with the dumpling dudes and Deborah has a conversation with Don Jones Redstone about her film Mother of Color.

Speaker 6:

You're listening to Queer Voices and I'm Brett Cullum. Today, we are joined by Michael Dorsey and Chi Lin, better known to the world as the dumpling dudes, and that is, dudes with a Z at the end, a set of an S. Michael and Chi both came from high paying corporate jobs and decided to do something that they loved, and as husbands, they do it together. So first up, michael and Chi, tell me about what dumpling dudes do.

Speaker 4:

All right, well, thank you for having us. My name is Chi, so you can recognize my voice. So, dumpling dude we are, we have one mission, pretty much is to create the most fun and unique experience. And then we start out with dumplings and now we kind of venture into other experiences, including yoga and mindfulness. The goal is always the same and from day one, even as our names dumpling dudes, it's always about creating the most fun and unique experience for people.

Speaker 7:

Hey everybody, I'm Mike. Thanks again for having us. Brett, yeah, and tell me a little bit about your experiences.

Speaker 6:

Like right now you're doing classes.

Speaker 7:

Yeah, so we got started in 2019. We had our first class here. We taught actually in our home. It was a really small event about six people, and over the years barring that COVID year we we've been teaching corporate team building events where we talk about mindfulness, bring in a lot of different topics and really create an atmosphere for our client that's based on how we want, you know, people to feel at the end of the events, and we we use dumplings as the vehicle to do that. So really, it's not really about the food so much it is about the experience. Although the dumplings do taste good, it's not really all about that. We teach a lot of classes right now. We've kind of teach all over the city here in Houston and it worked with a bunch of fun companies over the years. We teach actually virtual classes too. We ship classes all over the country and we just had one with a company in Illinois. Yeah, so just classes, mostly for right now. Teaching yoga has been kind of a new thing although I've been a yogi for many years and we brought this as a new offering to our platform and then just doing the same thing, you know, helping people to practice that mindfulness which is so important nowadays, I think, with mental health being so in the forefront of everybody's mind, it's just one of the practices that we like to bring now, kind of wrap in with our dumplings. Yeah.

Speaker 4:

And with Mike saying that mental health is always a big part of our journey. We started dumpling do four and a half years ago because I was really not happy with my work. Now I really out on out to a certain people there's quite a bit of discrimination going on too, so I was very depressed and very, very have anxiety issue too. So when we first started dumpling do was trying to find joy in my life again. It's actually why we started dumpling do couldn't get away from all in gas and find joy in our life and I have a concept that if I can bring joy to other people, maybe I can find joy in my life again. And it's how we got started with dumplings, obviously. And then now we are in a much better space in our life. We are start to experience with other type of experiences in addition to dumpling, but same concept to bring joy to people, bring joy to ourself and just enjoy the community and the people around us.

Speaker 6:

You know, you guys did what most people only dream about. I think that we all sit at our desk and think, oh my gosh, I really would like to just follow my passion, but you guys had to sacrifice a lot to do it. So how did you find the courage to take that leap and to do it together? And you just say Both of us are going to sacrifice our incomes and just go out there? Yeah, definitely.

Speaker 7:

That's a really great question and very pointed. We did. We did sacrifice a couple of things in the beginning. Specifically, we actually she actually asked me to marry him first before he asked me if he wanted to, if I wanted to quit my job and joined him on this dumpling adventure and of course I said yes and yes again and he's saying yes, that's all the new stuff that we come up with. But you know, there was definitely some things we had to look at and evaluate. We did do a year of financial planning when we first started and we did use our wedding budget to facilitate the beginning of our business. I myself wanted a big wedding, you know one of those things, and we had actually the perfect wedding with about nine people in total and everybody helped him, brought food and it actually was the wedding that we really really dreamt of and wanted. It was really really nice. Moving forward through that. I mean just going into being together or not being together for working together. We worked so many hours a week and then being on top of each other during COVID and then everything through the shutdown we had to go through and really look at how to facilitate all that and work through all that stuff as well too.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, but it's not. It's definitely not easy. I don't have like an answer on when, how people should do it, but I think people always say the best time to plan tree is 10 years ago. Right, like obviously everybody has the capability to do it. It does take some planning, definitely planning for a fine show and plan your lifestyle. It's definitely not easy, but I feel like being gay does kind of help in this situation, because we get older being gay men especially you feel like time's running out, right. You feel like, wow, like I'm not young anymore. Anything I have to do, I better do it now.

Speaker 7:

I think everybody goes through that too. Thanks for us. You know, we we decided not to have kids, decided to have a business instead. We definitely talked about kind of both of those avenues for our life and we ended up deciding that we wanted to build something and and have an outreach more. So we do a lot of outreach programs with dumpling do's and through Yogi Dynamics, the yoga company as well now. So our mission statement even though we're bringing the most unique and fun kind of experiences to people, we do a lot of outreach as well to help facilitate that. Paying it forward and helping others as well.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, it's scary, but definitely worse.

Speaker 7:

It was very scary in the beginning, but also a lot of fun too. I think you know that's two sides of the same coin, like excitement and fear kind of go hand in hand a little bit you know, so you just you kind of hold each other's hand and walk through it together. Hopefully you know and you make it together on the other side, and but that takes a lot of work and a lot of commitment, recommitment as well to to the project and to the plan and each other.

Speaker 6:

I had an old mentor one time that told me if you're not a little bit afraid, you're probably not doing it right. If I came to you guys and said I'm going to start a business like this, what advice would you give me? What do you wish you knew before you did this?

Speaker 4:

So I definitely recognize this three years maybe maybe just this last year into the business about. It doesn't matter how good you are building product services, even when we're marketing, or you know how to do taxes. All that stuff is really only about 20% of the business, 80% of the mindset. So having the really good mindset is is very important. Having a mindset that's resilient, that doesn't want to give up, is always important too, because I can guarantee you that the good days is really is obviously going to be good day, but it's a lot more bad days. Good days there also will be more day. You're going to wake up and feel like you don't want to do this anymore or, wow, this is so much work. Why am I doing this? It's why you do during the bad days. That will determine the success of your life and your business. So it's a lot of disappoints, a lot of mindset. So I would say to focus on the mindset. So now, not just learning how to do business, but learning how to love yourself, learning how to go through challenges, learning how to be disciplined, learning how to set routine, knowing how to create habits All those stuff are more important than learning how to create a business.

Speaker 7:

Yeah, and I want to add on that too Like, if I look back and at the beginning, there's always that honeymoon period. When you start something new right Whether it's a new job, new relationship, moving to a new place, new hobby there's always that like shine on everything right and you're just really, really engaged. I would say, you know, managing that expectation is something that's really key, because eventually the shine does wear off, right Off of everything right, and so it's that again, it's that recombinant, that work on yourself that kind of reinvigorates that passion, that flame, and kind of makes things shiny again, you know. So it's definitely looking at yourself and working on it. You know, being in a job that maybe you don't like or maybe had some toxic environments, when we leave that environment, it's like breaking up with somebody right. There's those relationships. We still have those feelings of still being inadequate. We have those feelings that we still aren't giving enough or aren't doing enough. And so if I could look back and tell myself hey, you know, just take some time for yourself, because we jumped right into dumpling dues right after our job, we did not take time off, we went right into it and built the business and we got to a point where we plateaued and we were like, wait a second. Why do I feel the exact same way that I did back then? It's because we never really did that work on ourselves. We never gave ourselves enough room to be and breathe. Put that up their life aside. Right, there's a lot of lessons we learned from those old jobs that we carry into these new jobs. I'm not saying don't forget what you've learned, but take that time for self care all along the way.

Speaker 4:

I think that's really important yeah take of yourself first, and then you are going to have imposter syndrome as perfectly normal. I really mean, the other day, the only people don't have imposter syndrome are the narcissist. So which is such a true statement, right? So we all deal with it. You always feel like you're not doing enough. You feel like so it's just part of life, it's just part of business, part of life.

Speaker 6:

You're listening to queer voices and we are talking to Michael and Chi, better known as the dumpling dudes, and if you are looking for them online that is, dudes with a Z instead of an S If you Google them they will pop right up. We can handling things, managing things. How do you guys manage your business and your relationship at the time? I mean, I feel like a lot of people go to work to get away from their spouse, but you guys are there 24 seven, always together.

Speaker 7:

It definitely took in the beginning for us to kind of define our rules and responsibility is. That was one thing that was really important, and she comes from a very strong marketing background, initially from an engineering perspective and then into products and services marketing products and services Myself as a process engineer and before that worked in projects and home remodeling construction so we each have our own kind of wheelhouse of things that we're really really good at. Allowing the other person to have autonomy and control in those areas is really important. That's something that we definitely had to learn on the fly during COVID. Whenever we were shut down and we couldn't meet with people, we made dumplings and so we were in the kitchen all the time making dumplings and it got a little stressful. Once you know you get to 50,000 dumplings a year, you're like man, what are we doing? This is crazy. We're working on top of each other and eventually had to step back and say, okay, it's us or the business.

Speaker 4:

It's not easy, like anybody, kill you. They can work perfectly with a spouse 100%. They probably lying, it's probably not true. My tip is it's not easy. They're lay out day we're trying to kill each other. I'm especially like two years into COVID. We always make ourselves a promise that because we know the statistic of spouse having business together don't end up in a divorce or separated because of the business. So on day one we always say our relationship always come first, so have a commitment first. That's why our number one secret COVID we two years in I remember week Mike and I we were going to go get our COVID shot. I think it's a booster shot. We were waiting outside. We got into the big fight. I almost deleted dumpling deals social media account because I was so pissed and I think it's our relationship where now we're with dumpling do around us. So I actually we never should have thought with anybody but I almost did a dumpling do account. Thankfully I didn't. We definitely have to work out our differences to figure out responsibility, clear responsibility, figure out the issue that we have working together took us a couple months to get back to normal again. It's hard. You have to do a lot of practice on vulnerability, to really share how you feel, to look deep in, to figure out what's important to you and then to us. Each other is way more important in the business. So after that little incident not little after that arguments we have and we had to work through each other we decided we both as much, we love each other so much, we both need a little space and that's why that's how we created the yoga part of the dumpling deal that might get in charge of 100%, so he hasn't all that to do yoga. I get back into marketing consultants or not have another consulting firm called Little Big Creator. But our new business that we created is because we both need freedoms from each other and ever since we did that, dumpling do has been running way better and we are way happier. And then we're able to understand each other's struggle and respect each other's boundary. I think boundary is quite important, but it's really really hard to do.

Speaker 7:

There's a lot of like we talked about. When you break up with your old job, it is like breaking up from relationships, so there's a lot of pain, body that goes with that. So you'll be triggered from something like why am I triggered by this? And it's like, oh, it reminds you of your boss or something I'm like no, you don't. And then I think about, I'm like maybe it does a little bit. Oh, no, maybe that's something that it is happening and so that vulnerability is a super important piece to be with your and it feels kind of weird. We've been together for almost 17 years and to talk about vulnerability at this point. Right, it's like we should have, you know, something that maybe we didn't start developing until we started working together that really true vulnerability with each other. But again, we weren't around each other as much when we worked in industry. We were always working and we saw each other in the weekends for the fun time, right, that's the easy part, right? Not the nitty gritty day to day in and out.

Speaker 6:

So you guys are a couple and you're a gay couple and you're very prominent on social media. I see you everywhere Facebook, Instagram I'm sure it's part of cheese marketing background you kind of blanketed the entire internet with your images. I noticed that sometimes you get some strange response from that. And how do you handle the haters? How do you handle the people that come at you for being who you guys are and having that identity?

Speaker 4:

You will always get haters. We definitely get a lot of haters. We have a post we just did recently face on all different platforms and on Facebook. Somehow you went viral. We have about 50,000 views, 2000 likes. It's our coming out story. I talk about how we should follow me. Took me to become the one myself before I come out, but anyway, that post has so many negative messages at the same time. Regardless of being viral, people will send us Bible verse, people will say you guys are gross. People will say you are pedophile. That calls all kinds of names, but I didn't respond to any of those. I think I realized out of many of the dead they say don't kill people with kindness, kill people with silence because they don't deserve your attention. And that's very, very true. Like, don't focus on the negative, focus more on the positives. The negative people will always be there. I always remind people that as popular as Taylor Swift is, she still get a bunch of negative press too. So if anything, we just feel like we are Taylor Swift. There's nothing wrong with that. So if Taylor Swift is getting bad press, imagine us. Obviously will get bad press too. So it's just part of life. Just focus on the positive. We typically we don't engage with the negative comments.

Speaker 7:

I always say that means, we made it. I mean there was one time when we released it was way back in the beginning, I think it was a LinkedIn post that she had posted. It was one of our first like big hater comments, right, and it was. It was on LinkedIn, which is, you know, it's that's an interesting platform to post on, especially about being a gay couple and leaving oil and gas and all that good stuff. And I remember she was really distraught about it, like what do I do? What should I say? Should I say something? I'm like no, just let it go, just let it go. And sure enough, eventually somebody piped up for us, right? I mean I think you know they wanted, they got in there and they said some really good stuff. And then you know, you just let them do what they're going to do and you just keep being who we're going to be and just keep sticking to the message that that's driving you to do what you're doing. And that's really the most important part is that haters are always going to be there. Like I said, just consider it. You made it. You know if you're, if you're, making waves, I mean that's going to happen.

Speaker 4:

So yeah, treat them with silence, Don't give them any attention to study our strategy.

Speaker 6:

You know our ultimately strategy after four years to this point, Well, we're not talking with Taylor Swift, we are talking with the dumpling dudes. When I see your circle of friends, the people that are around you, I'm always amazed. I want a wide mix of people you guys attract and have as a support system. It's straight, it's gay, it's trans, it's like all nationalities, and you really differentiate yourselves from other gay couples that sometimes can be a little bit more insular within our community. Is that something that you guys designed or do you just feel like that happened naturally? How did you focus?

Speaker 7:

that that's a great observation. And when we look back and we look at how our friend group has grown even before this too, but significantly after this it was just it's the people that came to take our class. It's the people that supported us through COVID by buying dumplings or even just bringing us food because they thought maybe we were hungry, you know, not making any money. They just became fast friends and it was people that we didn't know, but they heard our story. We connected with them in a way like we were talking about in the beginning. Right, people are sitting at their desk wondering how can I get this started? What can I do to start following my passions and, I think, us just being so open and honest about our struggles number one to our successes, and three, just about the love that we have and the love we have for our community really draws people close to us and we're really thankful for that, like I love the fact that we have such a breadth and depth of people in our lives that we can draw on for inspiration and for guidance and just support whenever we need it.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, and if not by design, it just kind of happened. Naturally, like the tribe, I call it our tribe. The people we hang out with share very similar mindset. They usually very, very open-minded. So it worked out great for us because people just accept each other or welcome each other whenever we all get together.

Speaker 7:

And we know how to throw a party.

Speaker 6:

No, you guys live in Hido or East downtown. Why did you choose that part of Houston?

Speaker 7:

Oh, wow, that's good you answer that question, because that was your brainchild, your baby.

Speaker 4:

Mike was going to U of H at the time. So we definitely want a location that's close to the campus. We were looking for new built and at the time East downtown has a lot of new built. Also, it's walking distance to a lot of the stadium and then just the location is self-reliant. It's really it seems like it's very convenient to us. That's why we decided to pick East. It was. It took a couple of years. Now it's very, very popular. Back then it was up and coming A lot of warehouses. I remember my parents. They used to live in the Williams before they moved back to Taiwan. When my mom first came visit she, she pulled me to the side and she said you guys are both engineers, right? I was like yes, and she said did you not make any money? You had to live in this part of town. And I still remember that I was like wow, no, we just pioneered. We know there's going to be a great area.

Speaker 7:

That's why we decided to live here. Right, I felt like the same thing. They're like you live where we're like yeah, yeah, it's great, you know Well you guys are certainly pioneers in several different ways.

Speaker 6:

Thank you so much. Dumpling Dudes it is Dudes with a Z and you're trying to find them on social medias and things like that. If you want to take their classes, obviously you offer the cooking classes, you offer group gatherings, online stuff, and now obviously Mike has branched out into yoga, so tons of that happening as well, and you can check out all of that on their website, which I believe is dumplingdudescom, right.

Speaker 7:

That's the best way to get a hold of you guys right yeah. And on Instagram as well too. Yeah, you can reach us through Instagram, facebook, at gmailcom that's another way as well, too.

Speaker 6:

Well, thank you both for talking to me. Thank you for coming on Queer Voices and sharing a little bit of your story. Thanks for having us.

Speaker 1:

You're welcome, yeah.

Speaker 3:

Martha, what that fella on the wireless? Just say Something about him. Interwebs.

Speaker 1:

You don't have to ask Martha. We've got all the names, dates and web page links for people, events and anything else mentioned in the show right on our own website. It's Queer Voicesorg. We even link to past shows and other tidbits of information, so check it out, queer Voicesorg. Besides, martha is a cat. She doesn't know anything about websites.

Speaker 8:

One of the people that was involved in doing something during COVID was Don Jones Redstone, a Mexican American queer filmmaker currently living in Portland, Oregon, but originally from San Antonio. So, Don, in your journey as a filmmaker you have been doing shorts, but this new film, Mother of Color, is your first featured film. Tell me a little bit about how it came to be.

Speaker 9:

I'm a self-taught filmmaker and I had kind of learned by making short films, as many many writer-directors do, and after making maybe six of those, I felt like I was ready to take the leap to a feature film which is just so much larger of a project, which explains also in part why there's not many filmmakers that look like me that do this work, because you have to have a certain amount of privilege to be able to do this in terms of raising the money and being able to work on the side, because it doesn't really pay in the indie realm. I had a story that I wanted to tell that would be best told as a feature film. Mother of Color is the story of a single mother of two who begins receiving messages from her ancestors just as she sets out to try to make it to this last-minute job interview with a local commissioner, and it was inspired by my friend, ana de Rocío, who is a single mom who's been working in the political realm here in Portland for a long time, and I just always was like I don't know how she does this. She's someone who has such a mind for policy and is driven by the desire to make things better for people and seek justice through policy, and at the same time she also has to make hard choices between her family and her own ambitions. And so, while the character is not necessarily autobiographical, it takes inspiration from her to tell this other story, about someone who is struggling to get by and making hard choices and trying to figure out how to be able to follow other dreams and perhaps make it into public office someday.

Speaker 8:

And while she's not an actress by profession, she is your lead in this film.

Speaker 9:

Yes, yes, I mean, I think that's one of the best things about it in some ways, because one she's taking inspiration from her own life. You know, it wasn't this like huge stretch, she was working off of her own experiences to bring that to the character. But it also for someone like her who is interacting with the public or thinking about policy, in my mind it gives her this platform and it's another way for her to talk about issues that are close to her, and one of those is child care. So to have someone who actually has, you know, a hand in creating policy or thinking about that, or interacting with others who are thinking about that, have this tool to start the conversation is, in my mind, just like the perfect manifestation of a social drama. You know, not only are we observing and perhaps having these thrills or entertainment from it, but also we're learning about someone and we're thinking about how we might create change in the real world as well.

Speaker 8:

So you're not only telling a personal story of what a parent needing child care, looking for work, finding a wonderful possibility that they really want, but some of the barriers that may be in place, but you also you dove into what was going on social wise in some of the events that were taking place in the country that affected the way you wanted to tell this story. So what were some of the things that led to creating this? It's an immigrant story, but it's also, I think, a message of hope and getting through these difficult times. So tell me some of the things that were taking place that made you want to tell this story.

Speaker 9:

Initially the story was about a single mom trying to get to a job interview but struggling with child care. But what happened was the pandemic and during that time in Portland it was also the same time when folks were protesting nightly here in Portland against the death of George Floyd. It was something that was very much in my mind because we had to put the film on hold and also there were all these things happening in our world which I saw as like a reckoning with the way our entire country was formed under a white supremacist society, and I wanted to find a way to take this singular personal story and tie it to what's happening in our country, what's happening in the world right now. For one, portland is a backdrop for the story and we see some of the protesters during this time. We also see some of the images that one might have seen on TV of some of the migrant detention camps along the border and I mean those are just hints at where we are in time but also the ultimate message of the film, which I don't necessarily want to entirely give away, but there is a moment where she's having to untangle these mysterious messages that she's getting and she kind of makes contact with the ancestors and while it's not necessarily overtly or explicitly said, the idea is that we are all healing from these wounds of living in a white supremacist society.

Speaker 8:

In my mind, you talked about the police brutality, but also what was happening with the migrants coming from south of the border and what happened with the family separations and children in cages. So how did that come into play?

Speaker 9:

Those things are. They're the world that we live in, they're the world that the character lives in, and by choosing to include those in the characters world, it's just showing, like, how do we live in this world when these horrors are happening all around us? She's trying to take care of her family, she's trying to get to a job, but also, to be alive right now is emotionally devastating in some ways. You know, it's true that there's always, you know, something bad happening somewhere in the world. But it feels darker to me and it feels like how can we go on and create change when, also internally, someone like this character is just pushing things down because she doesn't have time to feel, she doesn't have time to think about these things? She has so much to do and you know her kids and her work, and the idea is that in this important moment in the film, she's given the gift of allowing herself to feel and, while that could be overwhelming, it also then frees her up to begin to heal, so that she can carry on and do things that she needs to do and some of that is political, like she does want to run for office someday. She wants to get a job with this commissioner to kind of start her on her path.

Speaker 8:

You have a lot of social responsibility elements to this film and the people that appear in it. Tell me a little bit about your viewpoint as far as giving voice to people of color and how that affected the making of this film.

Speaker 9:

Since I became a filmmaker, I've always been interested in trying to have that inclusivity behind the camera. For me, that started out as all women on set for some of my first shorts, and then I came out with this like, okay, I think I just want to try to have mostly women of color, mostly queer folks on set, and that was our intention with myself and my fellow producers. So when we set out to find our crew, as well as our cast, we tried to create this intention of family behind it and people that maybe might not always be the first to be hired on other sets and as well as people that were ready to move up, because we knew we wanted to have mostly women of color, mostly queer folks. That meant that in some cases there wasn't necessarily someone who had the experience level, but we said, okay, well, who's ready to step up into this role and deserves this role? And then how can we support them so that they can move into this position? That meant sometimes pairing them with a mentor. We also participated in a mentorship program with Oregon Film. We also connected them with other resources and people that could help them think about how they could fill off the role if it was new to them. And I mean, I think the result was that we had this really unique environment on set where people said that it felt like family. You know, when our wardrobe stylist brought her a kid to work one day, we had kids on set at various points. It's just there was a lot of dancing, like it was this unique environment, I think, because people saw what we were trying to do, because they believed in the story and because we had taken such care to create this environment. You know, we had like an anonymous call line where someone could, if they were having any issues on set, they could tell us about it so we could address it. We just we just did a lot of things to really try to create a special environment on set, which is not typical because, most especially, when you talk about crew and any position outside of production designer or wardrobe stylist or hair and makeup those positions are usually white, straight, folks.

Speaker 8:

So how did you go about getting this film made? Where did you begin? What was the step one?

Speaker 9:

Well, I have a postcard that has a quote on it from Oprah Winfrey and this may seem like a small thing, but it was kind of like my guiding light. It says you get in life what you have the courage to ask for. Because I was afraid and because I knew it was going to be bigger and harder than anything I'd ever done, I had to get comfortable with asking for help. So that was fundraising or script development or just even producing the whole thing. But I had been initially working with Anna the star to interview her so I could learn about her story and how that might inform an original fictional script, and she was really an amazing sounding board for me and also helped with our fundraising. She became an associate producer. Once I got Tara and Ashley the main producers of the film on board, we just started walking toward it. We knew it was going to be hard but we were going to do it and we did a Kickstarter. We had 384 backers. We raised, I think, like $45,000. Institutional funding, grants, family, just anything we could think of. We put out into the world and had the courage to ask for help in making this film and it came through. We were able to pull this off and we screened all around the country at festivals and did some educational screenings as well. We sold out our home local screening here 326 people. We then got a distributor and now we're available on Amazon Prime, google Play, youtube rentals and Tubi so on Tubi folks can watch for free, with ads, but the other places it's still a rental. But getting distribution was always the ultimate goal because we knew that then the film would be available to that many more people and it's just been really cool to see how people are starting to interact with it all around the country. This just happened in October.

Speaker 8:

You were at the San Antonio Film Festival.

Speaker 9:

Yes, I was at the San Antonio Film Festival. My cousins came out and my old high school friends and my mom and her friends, and that was fantastic to be there and just see how people might interact with it, just because every audience is different, and that was a real thrill for me to be at the San Antonio Film Festival, for sure.

Speaker 8:

This is Deborah Moncrease Bell and I'm talking with Dawn Jones Redstone, a Mexican-American queer filmmaker, about her new feature-length film Mother of Color, Dawn. How has the reception been?

Speaker 9:

Yeah, every audience is different at the festival. You never know who's going to show up. Sometimes it's a packed house, sometimes it's 12 people during the day. It just depends on the times and how the publicity goes if we can get the word out. But it's been. I don't know. It's like. The thing that you hope for is that anyone that comes to see it feels some sort of connection to it, and that has happened in a wide variety of ways. I screened at a festival in New York and that was probably one that was a little bit smaller, and I was like I don't know what people thought of the film. Sometimes there's a Q&A, sometimes people just walk out. There isn't a Q&A and you don't know, you have no idea. Somebody wrote me on Instagram I think it was like four months later and they were like you don't know me. I happened to be in the theater and when you were there and this film has had a huge impact on me she's like this is my life, this is my story, and it really made me think about where I wanted to be in the world and getting a message like that, where somebody just really connects with it. You're just like I'm done. That's the whole goal Just knowing that art is doing the thing it's supposed to do, which is to help us reflect on our own lives and think about how we want to be in the world. That was incredible. I've had somebody. Somebody came up to me at San Antonio Film Festival and was like, yeah, I had to come out during the pandemic as a single mom. My employer had no idea, but you couldn't hide it. Once the pandemic started and everything went online, just seeing the story. It just moved her as well as how she put it. It's stuff like that. Some people connect with the ancestral connection and talk about how they've sensed this ancestral connection and it's something that they're working on and trying to figure out what it all means. My cousin is in it as a Lyft driver. I've gotten more messages about her and how funny her role is and people asking who she is from. Here in Portland, whatever we screen, basically it's been well received. We've gotten great reviews. I don't think of it. No film is for everybody, but it has been well received, which is just the ultimate reward. There's always this question of why do you make something? Do you make it for other people? Do you make it for yourself? When you're dealing with something like a feature film, where you have to think about the market, I think you have to think about both. Basically, there's still always just this unknown what's going to happen? What are people going to think? I've been super delighted to see that people are connecting with it, and that's the goal.

Speaker 8:

You work with Anna to actually write the script, so you're the writer and the director. Where did you get the idea of this? Using these ancestral messages? I've seen it used in a couple of different things. I just watched the Monk movie and in that he's talking to his dead wife and there's things like that that comes up. Sometimes they'll use something that isn't a real life thing, but it has this element of I think it's been described as magical realism, but you say you describe it in another way.

Speaker 9:

Well, I think of it, as I don't think it's totally magical. I think she's having visions and I guess I believe in the idea that our ancestors might be all around us or might be connecting with us. I've resisted the idea of magical realism, something I think of like Isabella Yende or someone where it's completely make-believe, inspired by life in some ways. But that is the piece that did not come from Anna, that probably comes more from me, and it was a way to think back generationally and think about this character, who her parents immigrated and who knows how far back, how hard they have had to fight to get to this country, to survive in this country, and then to just like put up with all the crap one has to put up to as an immigrant in this country. To me, the ancestors make it generational, which then makes it a way to talk about what is happening over time in this country and some of it. Yes, there's this kind of like political element to it, but it's also really about connecting with yourself, just this idea that whatever is happening in the world, if we have the ability to go inward and connect with who we are, who we believe ourselves to be, who we know we can be, that's the thing that's going to help us heal and keep moving. I see so many troubles in the world and I want us to have the fortitude to be able to solve them, and it's going to take a lot. It's like a sort of my little, like pep talk. If we can connect, if we can turn inward to find that strength, then we turn back outward and we do what we need to do.

Speaker 8:

I take it that the ancestors provide guidance for her.

Speaker 9:

Yeah, they do. I mean, I don't want to say too much, but yes, that is the idea. Yes, of course that's going to make it a video. That's what the ancestors always do, right.

Speaker 8:

Tell me a little bit about how Portland is not only the backdrop but kind of a character in this film.

Speaker 9:

Portland is a unique place. I moved here from Texas and when I first got here I was just aware of how I stood out, because it is largely white folks here. But when I first got here someone said it's the end of the line, so everybody gets off the train because it's the West Coast, and I think that that's apparent in the culture that is developed here, because there's a lot of civic participation and that's where you get things like people that are not only upset about the murder of George Floyd, like people were all around the country, but people then took that to the streets and we're protesting and talking about it. And I think that she lives in Portland, the character lives in Portland, and we see how she connects with the protesters and also sees how her own people have also been marginalized and also face the exact same examples of police brutality, and that there is this solidarity and so the world that she participates in. She has her allies and her community amongst BIPOC folks, and so I think that's one way that Portland shows up Besides the literal landscape of the city and Mount Hood is this huge triangular peaked mountain that you can see from downtown Portland, and it also plays a role in her dreams and her as a symbol of her spirituality. Slash connection with the ancestors.

Speaker 8:

Well, it sounds like a very intriguing film. I haven't had the opportunity to watch it yet, but tell folks again where mother of color may be seen.

Speaker 9:

Yeah, if you'd like to watch mother of color, you can watch us on Amazon Prime or 2B or just Google us and you'll find us. There's a lot more information on our website and we also have a special edition Blu-ray on pre-order right now. That's got all the behind the scenes stuff about how we put together the film and DVD commentary and all that other fun stuff. So thanks for the opportunity to talk about it, Depper.

Speaker 8:

Don Jones Redstone. Thank you for being with us on Queer Voices.

Speaker 1:

This has been Queer Voices, which is now a home produced podcast and available from several podcasting sources. Check our webpage QueerVoicesorg. For more information. Queer Voices executive producer is Brian Levinca. Andrew Edmondson and Deborah Moncrief-Bell are frequent contributors. The News Wrap segment is part of another podcast called this Way Out, which is produced in Los Angeles.

Speaker 3:

Some of the material in this program has been edited to improve clarity and runtime. This program does not endorse any political views or animal species. Views, opinions and endorsements are those of the participants and the organizations they represent. In case of death, please discontinue use and discard remaining products.

Speaker 1:

For Queer Voices. I'm Glenn Holt.

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