A Change is Gonna Come

Hi All,

You may have noticed we have been a bit quiet lately. This is because we are working hard to take our work in new directions to better serve our communities. Part of that new direction is that we will no longer be managing the retreat center in Yorkville. We decided that work was detracting from our ability to create unique programs that serve LGBTQ* communities and individuals.Now, we will be focusing all our efforts on the retreats and conferences that you’ve come to love these last few years, such as TRANScend, Muse, Lavender Leadership, and Xrysalis. Plus, we will be bringing them to you in a greater variety of venues, including some in the SF Bay area itself.

We will have more news soon about upcoming dates and places for these programs. For now, you can save the date for TRANScend, our retreat for trans and genderqueer folks, which will be coming up October 5 – 8 at Saratoga Springs in northern California, a larger and more accessible venue.

And, as a special treat, we are publishing our website content for the first time, for your reading pleasure. Please understand, this is just for you to personally read and be inspired by – it is not available for reproduction or redistribution. All rights are reserved by Groundswell Institute. You can download the published content here.

Through the Looking Glass to Last Year’s Muse

Muse-lgbt-queer-arts-retreat-workshopIt’s the beginning of spring and in the mornings the fog lays low and heavy across the redwoods. A group of queer artists are gathered on the dining hall deck, coffee in hand, as Rik Lee demonstrates how to create little plaster trolls from some casts he has brought. Inside, Thor and Joe lead a guided discussion on how to talk about impact as artists, looking glamorous in their wigs and lashes. Some listen and take notes while others take it in while they knit or weave. It’s March 2016 and it’s our second annual Muse, a retreat for queer creatives.

Muse-lgbt-queer-arts-retreat-weavingMuse is our first big event of the year, with more than 60 people attending last year. We created it to build a space for LGBTQ* artists of all types to come together, share art, grow skills, and be inspired. Art has the potential to inspire all of us towards a better world, and we feel by helping queer artists grow stronger we can help them create a larger impact in the world. And, it’s been a smashing success. People leave Muse feeling a renewed excitement for their art, with new ideas brewing, and access to new friends and resources.

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Unite and Fight: a Call for Action

These past 36 hours, nearly everybody I speak to is in shock. We didn’t think we would be here again – our rights and safety now in a state of regression after so many years of progress. This is true not just for queer communities, but also for women, for immigrants, for people of color, for disabled people, for indigenous people, for the sick, and for all who are other. The consequences of this election will be felt for decades to come.

And, what is the lesson from this all? We must unite more and fight harder. We let our communities become fractured by petty politics. We let our community organizations be taken over by conservative corporatists. We let ourselves become complacent by the advancement of a few civil rights, while the rights of the many continued to be trampled. Too many of us have lost sight of our grassroots, rebellious history and how essential it was for gaining those few rights in the first place.

Now, we need to right our course, to unite and fight with all our strength the tide of bigotry and violence that has already begun. It’s time to put aside petty differences and petty entertainments, to turn off the screens and take to the streets. We will not be forced back into closets and shuttered bars. We will be louder and prouder than ever before.  Read more

The Queer Menagerie: A Glimpse into the Livestock Internship


photo credit: Kegan Marling

As I reflect on my five months here at Groundswell, it is clear to me that this was a place that I had been calling for both consciously and unconsciously for most of my life. After working on and off in the South Bay since 2009 on a 1600-acre farm and wilderness preserve called Hidden Villa, I found myself craving queer spaces that integrated farming, community, and social activism. Groundswell seemed to be that place, a perfect fusion of both farming and intentional queer space.

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Queer Heroes for Cabin Names Revealed

osh-tischFollowing a month and a half community submission process and some voting, we have chosen the nine queer heroes that our cabins will be renamed after. Each cabin will then get a plaque, telling that person’s story to all of our visitors. We specifically chose queer heroes that are lesser known, so even history buffs are likely to encounter some new names.

We are working with some esteemed queer history experts to create truly accurate herstories to be shared. In the meantime, here are these all too brief descriptions. Most of these heroes were lifelong activists; please take some time to poke around on the internet and learn even more about these inspirational individuals.


~ Paula Gunn Allen, a queer Native American poet, novelist, and lesbian activist who helped draw attention to the powerful and essential role women played in native cultures.

~ Kiyoshi Kuromiya, a queer Japanese American born in a U.S. internment camp who fought for social justice his whole life, including by the side of Martin Luther King, Jr.

~ Marsha P. Johnson, a queer African American and transgender activist who was essential in the start of the Stonewall Riots and continued community organizing all the way through AIDS and ACT UP.

~ Sylvia Rivera,  A queer Latina American and transgender activist who was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and worked alongside Marsha during the Stonewall Riots and in STAR, the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.

~ Marie Equi, a white American lesbian doctor who became involved with the very early struggles for access to birth control and abortion, as well as labor and anarchist struggles.

~ Osh-Tisch, a Native American warrior, poet, artist, and tribal leader, who was one of the last in a revered position of the Crow Tribe that today might be identified as queer.

~ Domingos Rodrigues, born in 1595 in Lisbon as the son of a black slave  and a white slave owner, Domingos was a slave and a gender variant dancer who was tried and executed by the inquisition.

~ Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua, a queer Latina American who was a prominent scholar on Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory.

~ Magnus Hirschfeld, a queer Jewish German physician and sexologist who is considered one of the earliest advocates for gay and transgender rights, the books of his Institute for Sexual Research were the first major book burn by the Nazis.

We honor you all and the many other queer heroes who have helped us come so far. Thank you.

Some More Queer Heroes for Us to Honor

***Our cabin naming project stops taking submission at the end of the day TOMORROW Friday April 22nd. Please get yours in so your queer heroes can be honored***

Tomorrow is the last day we are taking submissions for the Queer Heroes cabin naming project, so we wanted to share a couple more of the inspiring queer heroes who have been shared with us so far. Just as a reminder: some of these amazing heroes will be memorialized by having Groundswell’s cabins named after them, with plaques sharing their stories. We want you to let us know about all the lesser known LGBTQ heroes that should be celebrated by our community. Please help us share the stories of these leaders by telling us about your queer heroes through this simple form.

Gloria AnzalduaGloria Evangelina AnzaldĂșa was an American scholar of queer theory, Chicana cultural theory and feminist theory. She wrote about her experience as a Chicana lesbian growing up in Texas and about her struggle to assimilate to a world full of binaries. Writing was her life and she won many awards for her brilliant works: National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Award, Lesbian Rights Award, and the Sappho Award of Distinction. Once she said, “A woman who writes has power, and a woman with power is feared”. She died in 2004 from complications with diabetes. We honor you Gloria.

kiyoshi kuromiyaKiyoshi Kuromiya was born in a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming. He became a committed civil rights and anti-war activist, fighting the good fight his whole life. He helped found the Gay Liberation Front in Philadelphia and acted as an openly gay delegate to the Black Panther convention that endorsed gay rights. Kiyoshi was also an assistant to Martin Luther King Jr. and took care of his children immediately following the assassination. During the eighties he was part of ACT-UP and helped facilitate distribution of AIDS medication to many people. He also fought indecency laws and bans on medical marijuana all the way to the Supreme Court. He died in 2000 from complications with AIDS. We honor you Kiyoshi.

Submit the queer heroes your want honored here.

Queer Heroes Cabin Naming Project

Cabins at Groundswell by Kegan MarlingWe have decided to rename our cabins in honor of our dead queer heroes, and we want your help to do it. Our goal is to rename the cabins after lesser-known LGBTQ heroes and share their stories with all those who visit Groundswell (thousands a year). We will take submissions until April 22nd and then Groundswell’s staff and board will rename the cabins and place plaques honoring their story on the outside of the cabin for all to read. You can submit a queer hero to be considered for this project through this quick form.

In addition to renaming our cabins and all that, we also will be sharing some of these herstories online through our website and social media. There are a lot of important LGBTQ heroes who have helped our community get this far, and a lot of them are not well know. We want to help share their important stories with our community.

Marsha P JohnsonWe have already been getting some truly fabulous heroes shared with us. One of them is Marsha P. Johnson, renowned transgender activist and revolutionary drag queen. Born in 1945, Marsha became one of the most famed drag queens in New York City. Her and fellow revolutionary Sylvia Rivera started STAR, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, and are widely credited with being the first to confront the police brutality facing the queer community, helping start the Stonewall Riots and then leading community action. Marsha was well known for her generosity and helped many young drag queens get food, clothing, and shelter. She was also part of Hot Peaches, a radical drag troupe that has been compared to the Cockettes. Her work as an organizer and activist continued into the 1980’s as a marshall for ACT UP. Sadly, Marsha’s life was ended abruptly in 1992 by an apparent homicide. Her fierceness remains a beacon of inspiration to all queer people. We honor you Marsha.

Marie_Equi_(1872-1952)Marie Equi, born in 1872, was a lesbian medical doctor who was devoted to the care of the poor, provided access to birth control at a time when it was illegal, and was involved with the labor and anarchist movements. As a doctor, Marie had the varied career of both being awarded a medal by the army for her service as a volunteer during the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco fire and of providing illegal abortions (though she, unlike many of her colleagues, got to keep her medical license). In romantic relationships with other women since high school, Marie would go on to raise a child with her partner Harriett Speckart in an early example of same-sex families, and had numerous other lesbian relationships throughout the years. During a protest of work conditions at a cannery with mostly women workers, Marie was beaten by a police officer after protesting the violent treatment of a pregnant woman. The event radicalized her and she worked for socialist and anarchist movements until her death at 80 years of age. A fellow activist friend described Marie as “a woman of passion and conviction (and) a real friend of the have-nots of this world.” We honor you Marie.

Help us share the stories of more important queer heroes of our past. All it takes is 5 minutes of time with this simple form. Thank you.

Bees & Cheese at Groundswell

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Bees & Cheese
Talk, Tour & Tasting
Sunday April 3, 2016 2-5pm

Join BeeRepair at Groundswell for an afternoon farm experience. You’ll get a tour of the layered animal systems  which include alpacas, llamas, goats, chickens and rabbits, followed by a talk on honeybees and native pollinators, and finishing with a meet and greet and tasting with farm fresh snacks including cultured butter, cheese, jam, honey and mead. $10-25 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds. Purchase tickets in advance at iuhoakland.com or at the door. Friends from out of town can stay for dinner and sleep overnight at Groundswell on a donation basis, RSVP for overnight stays appreciated.

BeeRepair, a project of natural Beekeeper K.Ruby Blume, promotes the health and well being of honey bees and native bees through education, consultation and hands-on services. Learn more at BeeRepair.com.

K.Ruby Blume is a beekeeper, educator, gardener author and artist working 100% treatment free in alternative hive systems since 1997. Ms Blume is founder and director of The Institute of Urban Homesteading and co-author of the book Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living Ms Blume lives, loves & farms on 1/10th of an acre in Oakland CA.

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An Inspiring Treat for Queer Creatives

Groundswell Institute is  a place for queers to come and be MUSE: Inspire 2016 Queer Creative Retreatinspired. Whether this be inspiration to seek community, creativity, or connection with nature, we hope that to be a space for these explorations. With MUSE, our annual retreat for queer creatives, we will delve deep with our theme “Inspire.”

What gets you all artistically hot and bothered?

Who helped inspire your queer artistry?

Where do you go to seek inspiration?

MUSE is a one-of-a-kind retreat for queer creatives of all types. No matter what your art or skill level you are welcome.

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We’re getting hot tubs – thanks to you!

A huge thanks to everybody who donated over the last month to make our hot tub fundraising campaign such a smashing success! With your help we were able to soar past our initial fundraising goal of $8,000 and raise a total of $12,171 through the support of 96 donors. That extra money is going to help us get even better hot tubs and make the overall complex a beautiful, relaxing space to be. Our donors weren’t the only supporters who helped make this campaign such a success. Many friends supported us by spreading the word. This included a super sexy and silly video created by Kegan Marling, and starring himself, Ross, Sasha, Maureen, and Hrayr. It’s simply fabulous, and if you haven’t check it out yet, here it is for your enjoyment!