Celeste Chan
Celeste Chan

The out feminist artist on co-founding Queer Rebels Productions and representing queers of colour in the arts.

Feeling there was a strong need for queer artists of colour to come out on stage and shine their talent, Celeste Chan and KB Boyce founded Queer Rebels Productions based in San Francisco in late 2008. Their goal: is to showcase queer artists of colour, connect generations, and honour histories with art for the future. Chan and Boyce delve into the more profound understanding of art and history and put them together to create incredible projects and shows for the community and beyond to further advocate for LGBT equality.

Before developing their production agency, Chan studied International Feminism and video production at Evergreen State College. Later, she got involved in community-based work in the Bay Area, working with Incite: Women of Color Against Violence (Oakland, Calif), Shifting Narratives Film Collective (San Francisco) and the Femme Conference (National). On the other hand, Boyce is a two-spirit musician developing a solo act called TuffNStuff: The Last Dela Drag. Boyce served on the Trans March steering committee and co-produced the Radical Performance Fest. Chan and Boyce both curate and always scout talent and reach out to queer artists of colour. This past year, they ran their first open call for submissions to Exploding Lineage: Queer of Color Experimental Films. Chan tells us how Queer Rebels came to be.

What inspired you and KB Boyce to found Queer Rebel Productions?

Queer Rebels emerged from KB Boyce’s performances as TuffNStuff, a cross-dressing musician. We both saw a need to create a dedicated space for queer artists of colour. As James Baldwin said, “the place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.” No one was going to do it for us. We had to do it for ourselves. We approached the Queer Cultural Center, and they let us produce Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance for the National Queer Arts Festival. The result was a standing-room-only, enthusiastic evening. We couldn’t leave it at just one event. We honour older generations who paved the way for our creative, sexual, and intellectual freedom today. We want now to break down doors for queer artists of colour, amplify our collective voices and visions, create a loving community, and change what we even think is possible.

How do you advocate for LGBT equality?

We advocate through art. From the poets of Angel Island to Transatlantic spirituals, art has long been a tool for resistance in communities of colour. For us, this work shines a light on our collective histories so that we may transform the future. It is queer cultural reclamation. We do this to energise our community through the arts, to create our own culture, and to inspire hope. We want to build something for generations to come. Something that goes much farther than us. Amidst so many tragedies and racist realities, we can create the world anew.

Why the name ‘Queer Rebels’?

We are riotously gay—from KB’s teenage punk rock days in ’80s N.Y.C. to Celeste’s post-riot grrrl/Olympia days. We call ourselves Queer Rebels because queer of colour art is urgent, we are outsiders, and we will not let our histories be whitewashed and erased. We are mighty together. We pay homage to our ancestors and march boldly into the future with aesthetic, experimental, joyful, liberatory zeal!

What are some future projects that we can expect from you and Queer Rebels?

Look out for…Exploding Lineage! Queer of experimental colour films (coming to MIX NYC this Nov); SPIRIT: A Century of Queer Asian Activism; and Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance. We also have smaller salon shows in the works. We want to tour! Please bring us to your town!

Individually, Chan is working on a new film, and Boyce will release a new CD with her Queer/Trans of colour indie band, the Go2’s! [QueerRebels.com]

Queer Rebels-MIX NYC 25 trailer from Queer Rebels