Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Significant Queer Women of 2014

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Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Significant Queer Women of 2014

It is with great honor that Velvetpark announces our Top 25 Queer Women of 2014. Each year we ask for nominations from within our community for queer identified women and/or non-gender-binary persons who have contributed something noteworthy in the categories of the arts, academia, and activism. This is our sixth annual list, and as with past years, we have not yet repeated any honorees from previous yearseven though many of those individuals continue to contribute significantly within their fields year after year.

This year was a tipping point for LGBTQ activists, who took their bodies and voices into the streets in service of our larger civil-rights issues. Since the shooting deaths and strangulation of unarmed men of color, it has become abundantly clear that our LGBTQ issues are no longer strictly contingent on our particular status as queers. Our social justice lies at the intersection of all people who continue to be oppressed and marginalized, both at home and abroad.

In light of this point, an honorable mention goes to Leslie Feinberg, who passed away last month from complications due to Lyme disease. Feinberg was a pioneer and remains an icon to our community. Hir novel "Stone Butch Blues" sits at the cornerstone of queer literature and gender studies. Feinberg was an author and a social justice activist throughout hir life. One of hir last acts of protest this year to fight fiercely for the release of CeCe McDonald, a woman who was incarcerated for manslaughter after surviving a racist and transphobic attack.

Without further ado, here is Velvetpark's Top 25 of 2014:

1) "BlackLivesMatter" – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac, and Opal Tometi, Activists / Community Organizers

(pictured left to right, Garza, Cullors, and Tometi)

When three powerhouse community activists got together, after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, to form a grass roots organization to combat racial profiling and police brutality, they had no idea how their expertise under the banner of one hashtag would become the rallying cry of our current civil-rights movement. #BlackLivesMatter was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac, and Opal Tometi, each a distinguished community leader in her own right. Based in San Fransisco, Alicia Garza is the Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance and has been the recipient of numerous awards for her organizing in both Black and Latino communities. Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac, based in Los Angeles, is the Executive Director and founder of Dignity and Power Now, working to protect inmates and their families through projects like the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence, Freedom Harvest artist collective, the Dandelion Rising Leadership Institute, and Building Resilience.  Opal Tometi is the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, based in New York City.

2) "When Art Meets Activism" – Reina Gossett, Activist / Writer / Artist

Reina Gossett is one of those hyphenates whose work flows seamlessly through both her art and activism. As for the former, Gossett collaborated with Sasha Wortzel to write, direct, and produce "Star People Are Beautiful People," a film about the lives of Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. Gossett had previously researched and written about those activists for outlets such as Captive Genders and The Scholar and The Feminist Online. As an activist herself, Gossett serves as Membership Director at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and has been named the 2014-2015 Activist-In-Residence at Barnard College’s Center for Research on Women. Gossett has also worked with Queers for Economic Justice and Critical Resistance, and was awarded the George Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship by the Open Society Foundation to support LGBT people navigating criminalization. Her efforts in the field of prison abolition helped halt New York City’s Department of Corrections from building of a $375 million jail in the Bronx.

3) “The Pioneer”– Minnie Bruce Pratt, writer / educator / community leader

(pictured, Minni Bruce [right] and Leslie Feinberg)

Born in Selma, Alabama, writer and activist Minnie Bruce Pratt has long been a stalwart champion for those marginalized due to issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. An esteemed poet and essayist, whose work has been widely praised in venues such as The New York Times Review of Books and Publisher’s Weekly, she is the author of several books, the most well-known of which chronicled losing custody of her two sons after coming out as a lesbian in North Carolina in the ‘70s, at a time when homosexuality was still criminalized in that state. Today, a professor of Writing and Women Studies at Syracuse University in New York, Pratt was recently invited to help develop the university’s first LBGT Studies program. Recently widowed, Bruce lost her partner of over 20 years, transgender activist and warrior Leslie Feinberg in November.

4) "Bohemian Rhapsody" – Jibz Cameron (aka Dynasty Handbag), performance artist

Dynasty Handbag emerged from the shadows of the downtown scene, gaining notoriety at nightlife proving grounds such as Murray Hill's Miss Lez Pageant. Over the years, Cameron, as Dynasty Handbag, continued to perform seemingly on the periphery of the art world while steadily gaining in renown to those in the know. This year she broke through with her acclaimed show, "Soggy Glasses, A Homo's Odyssey," originally commissioned by Franklin Furnace for the Brooklyn Academy of Music's 2014 Next Wave Festival. Cameron had won support for her work through residencies at Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony, as well as other prestigious awards. Its not possible to fully capture Dynasty Handbag in words, but it's safe to say you will laugh, cry, recoil, be mystified, mortified and walk away knowing you've seen a genius in action. "Soggy Glasses" will get another run in 2015; you would be remiss to miss it.

5) "Mighty Millennials" – Alexis Templeton and Brittany Ferrell, activists

(Templeton and Ferrel on the steps of City Hall in St Louis., MO)