By Julia Curtis-Burnes, Initiative Space, Founder
Has this ever happened to you?
You get invited to an LGBTQIA networking event, walk into the room, and quickly realize that you can count the number of queer women of color in attendance…on one hand?
Something. Has to. Change.
Imagine a room of 30 of your closest queer women friends and all of the soon-to-be women friends they have been meaning to introduce you to, getting together to connect, chat about a specific topic or showcase, catch up, and celebrate each other. (Yes. Don’t worry. Don’t panic. Wine, cocktails and food are involved…don’t want you to show up to a networking event hungry, girl.) That is Initiative Space. And this is how and why I created it.
Yes, clubs are fun, and I love to show the young ones my moves on the dance floor, but all that being said, in my late twenties, I was at the point where not only were my knees hurting and my eyes burning after 11 p.m. from a lack of sleep, I just. Simply. Needed more.
I am 30 years old, I have a Master’s degree in Teaching and I am a Black queer woman. I’ve grown up in New York City my whole life, with the exception of college and graduate school. I consider myself to be pretty cultured and pretty cool (hair flip…except my hair is short, so it’s more like an air flip) but I find, despite the beauty of the internet, there is a genuine challenge in meeting other women like me, in real life.
Because of this, I have made some really cute attempts to live in other cities, but something has always pulled me back to NYC. I love the diversity, the vibrancy, the energy, and the niches that only New York can foster and maintain.
This diversity, unfortunately, is not always present in the LGBTQIA community, especially for women of color, like myself, looking to connect to other women of color.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are clubs, and yes, I like a little bit of ratchet, sometimes. (Stop. You know you do too, girl. Don’t be shy.) And New York has plenty of clubs for that, from Henrietta’s to Hot Rabbit to…oh wait…what? Hmm, right. My thoughts exactly.
And yes, clubs are fun, and I love to show the young ones my moves on the dance floor, but all that being said, in my late twenties, I was at the point where not only were my knees hurting and my eyes burning after 11 p.m. from a lack of sleep, I just. Simply. Needed more.
I needed a place to have conversations, build my professional network, and make genuine connections that would lead to long-lasting friendships, in my community, with other women I could identify with, who looked like me and understood my experience. Because, it is important.
It is important, in a world where you may go to work every day and be the only Black woman in your office and the only queer-identified person, to have a place where you can unwind and share space with other women, like you. Who get you. Period.
I simply wasn’t seeing the environment for queer women professionals of color that I was yearning for and craving. And, so I thought, why not be bold and innovative and create it myself?
I started where I was, with what I had. I began hosting monthly professional networking workshops for women in my inner circle at friends’ houses and after I had a solid following and had hosted these workshops for a year, I thought, well, this is going pretty well and I enjoy it. Why not make this official and combine my passion for empowering women with my background in teaching and education?
In August 2014, I took a risk and left my job to start my own business and founded Initiative Space, which launched in September 2014 with our first event, Initiative Ball.
It was important to me to create a place where women, who look like me, knew they could regularly come to meet and connect with a solid network, at an event made just for them, and if she dares, could showcase her creative work with attendees. That is the Initiative Space experience.
Initiative Space designs, hosts, and facilitates monthly, creatively themed, fashion enthused networking and empowerment events for queer women and women friends. The goal of Initiative Space events is to create a positive, vibrant, intellectual and awesomely creative space for women to showcase the things that drive them—whether it is an App she is developing, health and beauty products she has handcrafted, clothing she has designed or beautiful artwork she would like to display. Initiative Space gives women of color a platform, foundation and receptive audience who looks like them, to cheer them on, connect them to resources, and provide outstanding feedback, all while they groove to the beats of awesome DJs.
Check out our website and follow us on social media for more details. I look forward to meeting you at an upcoming Initiative Space event! Cheers!
Julia Curtis-Burnes received a Master’s Degree in Teaching from Brown University. She has experience in workforce development as a Job Coach and Professionalism Trainer. An educator, Julia was a history teacher and advisor in both high school and middle school college preparatory institutions and an Adjunct Instructor at New York University. Julia is committed to developing a global understanding of education, the workforce, women’s development and environmental justice and has studied abroad in China, Argentina, Morocco, Barbados and India. She is passionate about women’s empowerment, the LGBTQ community, education and leadership.