Multicultural POC Neighborhood at Black Rock City

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The Multicultural POC (People Of Color) Neighborhood is a self-organizing community committed to co-creating a global multicultural POC neighborhood at Black Rock City.

Camps looking to seed a global multicultural POC neighborhood at Burning Man 2022:

Indicated interest previously:

  • Kosmic Kamels, Middle East (Moose Tafa)
  • Que Viva, California (Favianna Rodriguez)
  • Gauchos Del Fuego, Argentina (Watermelon)
  • Camp POC, New York (Kristina Leath-Malin)
  • Chinese Beyond Borders, Asia (Tina Liu)
  • Comfort & Joy (Joshua Smith)

The original founding message posted on September 19, 2019 in the Multicultural POC [Neighborhood] at BRC 2020 Messenger thread:

  • What if…
  • There was a multicultural people of color neighborhood at Black Rock City in 2020…
  • What if it had multiple healing ceremonies held by indigenous people from around the world…
  • What if it had Zendo harm reduction support for people of color...
  • What if it had music from around the world, with an art car connection to bring it to deep playa…
  • What if this was co-created where it emerged from the ground up vs top down…
  • What if there was a collective effort to assist those who feel there is a high barrier to entry…
  • What if it were a safe place to profoundly experience the cultures of the world, with radical self expression…

A Brief History

  • 2014: Project Radical Inclusion (PRI) cofounded by Laura Diamond and Neil Takemoto. Laura and I connected through the Playa City Facebook Group (applying the 10 principles to our neighborhoods) I created after my first Burning Man in 2013.
  • 2015: Laura and Neil submit PRI proposal to Burning Man to support underprivileged artists of color: PRI gathering at Burning Man, with three sponsored artists represented by three camp leads supporting PRI: Que Viva (Laura Diamond), Camp POC (Kristina Leath-Malin), IAMU (Roman Haferd). Laura was killed in a scooter accident a month later.
  • 2016: DC community previews ‘Burning Man: A White People Thing?’ documentary at Burning Man Global Leadership Conference (GLC).
  • 2017: ‘Burning Man: A White People Thing?’ is posted on Burning Man YouTube page: with 13K views. Project Radical Inclusion Panel at GLC.
  • 2018: Burning Man Global Leadership Conference discontinued, in part to be reinvented to be more inclusive than its invite-only model. Racial inclusion session held at annual Burning Man Convening at Esalen, though largely devoid of people of color.
  • 2019: Announcement of Kindling in Reno 2020. Racial inclusion petition and march at BRC. Multicultural POC Village Facebook Group and Messenger thread created in September. Heavy discussion on race at Burning Man Convening at Esalen in October where Multicultural POC Village idea is formally presented and supported by attendees and Burning Man Project. Trippi Longstocking promises dedicated track on radical inclusion and session on POC Village.
  • 2020: Black Rock City 2020 canceled. First Burning Man Diversity Forum held on April 9, Multicultural POC Village idea is re-introduced and supported by Burning Man Project staff and executives, and changed to ‘Neighborhood’. Global Multicultural POC Neighborhood pilot group created on Burning Man Hive in November.
  • 2021: Burning Man creates R.I.D.E. (Radical Inclusion Diversity Equity) Stewardship Group with a mission to profoundly address the lack of diversity at Burning Man. Nicholas Power introduces Melanin Cures Covid as a pilot camp for the Multicultural POC Neighborhood.

Why/how am I involved in this? What’s my story?

  • JD: Yes! IPOW (Indigenous Peoples of the World) would like to be there! We are an Indigenous group welcoming a mix of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to a majority Indigenous family-friendly camp. We will be having story telling, cultural exchanges, appropriate ceremony, and learning opportunities for the BRC community.
  • Neil Takemoto: I have always had a passion for living in the kind of community where there is a steady, reliable access to a flow state of bliss, joy, meaning and deep connection - a kinship among neighbors. Car-free. Local businesses. Truly affordable housing downtown. Green building. Co-ops and community ownership. Heart connection and conscious dance events in the center piazza, which I catalyze here in DC on a regular basis. How do I/we get there? I live by this principle: Projects are primarily designed, governed, and where feasible owned by communities. My day job is developing a cooperative, Be The Change Cooperative, to enable communities to design, govern and own their own community development. In 2013, Laura Diamond of Que Viva (see ‘A Brief History’ above) reached out to me through a Facebook Group I created after my first burn (2013), titled ‘Playa City’, applying the ten principles to our own neighborhoods. I was immediately struck by the diversity of Que Viva, and their kinship approach to providing access to underprivileged artists of color to BRC. The ‘A Brief History’ essentially chronicles my involvement since then, with the last one being my leading a track at Burning Man’s annual convening at Esalen called: Radical Collective Impact for Catalytic Neighborhood Development: I’m currently working on a similar track for the Burning Man Reno conference in May, and have the opportunity to include this document’s topic in the programming if there is interest. The role I really prefer in all this is also my burner name, catalyst.
  • Nicholas Powers: I am a professor, novelist, reporter, and poet. My books “The Ground Below Zero: 9/11 to Burning Man, New Orleans to Darfur, Haiti to Occupy Wall Street” and the vampire novel “Thirst” were published by Upset Press. Currently, I am writing a book on race and psychedelics for North Atlantic Books. I am starting a stop gap, one year camp called Melanin Cures Covid, and have ten people who are interested. I will ask placement if we can be placed in case the Burn is going forward. If so, which is a lot of "ifs" then it can be one of the seeds of the POC Neighborhood.
  • Milagros Phillips: My story… I have been doing Healing Racism work for more than thirty years. What I’ve learned from the process of creation and transformation could fill volumes. I’m also an artist, a painter and writer. Neil Takemoto attended one of my seminars years ago and has been a supporter of my work ever since. My deepest desire is to live in a world where we are conscious that we are one human family, that we are deeply precious and that we all count. I desire to live in a world where everyone has the opportunity to bring forth their greatest gifts and to pour into the soul of the world their greatest treasure!
  • Tina Liu: My story… I have always been passionate about my heritage being Chinese. After discovering my other passion virgin burn 2013, I founded camp turned artist collective Chinese Beyond Borders (CBB), with the mission of contributing to diversity through the sharing of Chinese culture on Playa and off. The experiences in my homeworld of Taiwan that year, lead me to repatriate back Stateside and dedicate the last 6 years of my life, exclusively to our mission. More on this back story is here page 10-12: In 2017, I was one of the recipients of a gifted ticket from the PRI program, thanks initially to the introduction from Laura Diamond’s husband, who by playadipity answered my call, seeking photography help for my wedding at the temple in 2016, despite him sending Laura off there, that same year. From then on, I learned more about PRI, through Neil and Favianna (Que ViviaCamp’s co-founder). Over the years, Chinese presence in BRC grew from individuals scattered in different camps, to identifiably 4-5 camps from the Greater China region. In 2016, I camped for the first time with folks from my region of origin at Mazu Camp from Taiwan. The experience allowed me to see my vision of a major Chinese theme camp partially realized, where the Chinese from different parts of the world and background, Sinophiles and allies, came together and helped celebrate our culture for 2 weeks at the event. With these encouragements, in 2018 for my 7th burn the following year, I attempted to organize a Chinese theme village again on Esplanade a second time, and learned of a different set of challenges. I ended up helping a 2nd year Chinese burner as co-lead, to resuscitate her camp within the Black Rock French Quarter village. Previous years, I camped with other large Esplanade villages and camps, such as another oldest, Dust Fish Village, Decadent Oasis and first-timer Ice Pyrates. CBB’s’ costuming work, The Lantern Girls, has become the poster child of diversity in BRC and beyond, currently radically including ourselves, especially in light of this happening in Oakland right now, where we’re based since 2014: Here’s more on CBB:
  • Mostafa Ismail: Everything in my life has led me to find you. The butterfly effect is real. At the age of 16, I attended a summer camp program called seeds of peace, which brings teens from across conflict regions, specifically, USA, UK, India, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Israel & Palestine, to a summer camp in Maine, to learn how to transform conflict through dialogue and community. 6 years later, at the age of 21 I started working at that summer camp, and worked there for 7 years, and for the last 5 years I’ve been managing the project in Cairo. The camp is not just a camp, its a virtual community that holds follow up programs that help the youth find their voice and discover their inner selves more and more. Last year a group of friends and I, some of which who are involved in SOP, decided to start a BM camp that brings people from across spaces of limitations within the middle east to the playa, but we extended, as our first year on the Playa, Kosmic Kamels, we were able to bring 40 humans, from the middle east, some of which are based in the MENA region, some in the US, some in Europe to the playa to create our diverse middle eastern camp. BM was a life changing experience for me. I met Neil shortly after and now I am here.
  • Uncle Vern, aka Vern Andrews: I’ve been burning since 2009, so that makes 11 straight years, if you forget Covid/2020. I’ve been deeply involved in many communities at Black Rock City. Black folks have been talking about a Village/Neighborhood since the Burn right after Michael Brown was killed. I’ve helped spread the “idea,” but now to see it near fruition is wonderful. I’ve been a member of POC camp before and also Que Viva. Laura Diamond was a friend. The kind of friend you make bloody mary cocktails for on the Playa. Time I gave something back and gained something in return: New family and friends. I’ve spoken at the GLC and get interviewed here and there, but progress has been slow. And steady. I volunteer with Census and write with Census in the Burning Man Journal. And here we are -- staring at our future. For me the Burn represents play and the possibility that we can lead the nation forward towards a more perfect union. I think that future begins in the dust.
  • KLM aka Kristina Leath-Malin: Kristina Leath-Malin (aka KLM) has been a member of the New York City RC team since 2012. She is a national co-lead for an employee resource group that tackles Equity for Women in Technology and is a member of NAACP (Brooklyn chapter). Kristina first experienced Black Rock City in 2008 and was later a co-founder of the People of Color (POC) camp, consultant and team member of Project Radical Inclusion (PRI) and is a Black Rock Explorers family camp lead. At the end of April 2021 She will be moderating a RIDE conversation for the Regional Contact Network. She’s also a member of Media Mecca, has volunteered with Everywhere and advocates often for POC, Families and ALL fringe members of the BM community to have a seat at the table. Kristina expresses herself creatively as a feminist horror fiction screenwriter & scholar. Personally she and her Jewish partner co-lead the Brooklyn Leath-Malin family of one child, two cats, and two red-eared slider turtles.