Africana Studies Program and Black Students Association host conversation with activist Asanni Armon

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Last week, Muhlenberg’s Africana Studies program and Black Students Association hosted the event “In Celebration and Support of Black Trans Lives: A Conversation with Asanni Armon, Activist and Founder of ‘For the Gworls,’ a Collective for Black Trans Communities.” The event took place over Zoom, and it had an excellent turnout with over 90 participants. Dr. Emanuela Kucik, professor in the English department, co-director of the Africana Studies program, and the faculty advisor for the Black Students Association co-facilitated the event along with both current and former Muhlenberg students who are involved with the Black Student Association. The conversation began with questions posed to Armon by the panelists, then Armon would answer questions posed by the audience either anonymously or directly.

The speaker for the event, Asanni Armon, is a Black, genderqueer femme organizer who has been doing organizing work for over six years. They are the founder of an organization called “For the Gworls,” which raises money for Black trans people who need help funding their rent and gender-affirming surgeries. The organization has over 50,000 followers on social media, sparked largely by when the organization went viral in June 2020.

Armon’s idea for “For the Gworls” came to fruition in July 2019, when they wanted to help two of their Black trans friends who were facing eviction. Armon had the idea to host a party where people would pay to come, and this money would be used as a donation to help out Armon’s friends. 

Through an idea of a guest at the party, Armon decided to start having parties like the first one once a month because there were many more people who could be helped by these donations. About three or four months into this endeavor, Armon had to add an online crowdfunding option because there were so many requests for donations.

Armon began working as an organizer during their sophomore year at Princeton University. What began as protesting with a group following the acquittal of Michael Brown’s killer, eventually led to Armon’s work founding the Black Justice League at Princeton, which focused on creating an equitable space for Black and queer students on the campus. The group also was concerned with the campus, national, and international levels of white supremacy. During the conversation hosted by Muhlenberg, Armon explained how their work with the Black Justice League helped them  learn how they would work as an organizer in the future. 

Armon explained that, although the Black Justice League had to deal with a lot of bureaucracy and challenges, “I think that we did the best we could, given the resources we had.” However, Armon added that they would definitely go back and change certain things with the Black Justice League to do them differently.

One of the many informative and interesting parts of the conversation was when Armon was posed a question about the legacy of activists and organizers of which they are now a part. The history of organization by Black queer people was clearly important to Armon, who gave an impressively long list of names of organizers and activists that they were inspired by.  Specifically, they noted activists who were involved in creating clubs and other safe spaces that are still in place today: “Queer spaces often do revolve around clubs because there are not many safe spaces outside of LGBT centers.”

To conclude the panelist portion of the conversation, Armon offered their advice for young activists. They offered both emotional and practical advice, beginning the conversation by offering that “If it’s really something that’s tugging on your heart and tugging on your mind, do it.”

Throughout their various words of wisdom, Armon emphasized the importance of transparency about the work you do as an activist, dedication to the work that you do, and gratitude that you are able to do the work. They also acknowledged how even though social media can be helpful in boosting the organizing being done, “You can have such an impact without having the numbers […] you just have to be dedicated to it.” In regards to their own work, they added, “I am blessed to be doing the work at the scale that I’m able to do it at.”

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