by Mioi Hanaoka | June 2, 2014

It all started with QWOCMAP

Back in 2011, I attended my first QWOCMAP Film Festival, the annual film festival for the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project. I never identified as “queer” or even as “a person of color” before that. Working in the tech industry, living in the middle of San Francisco, I really had no clue what I was missing from my life. Attending the film festival initiated my politicization.


A friend from church had invited me to the closing night of the QWOCMAP Film Festival. I was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect. In fact, I was even skeptical and hesitant. I showed up anyway.

The entire theater was filled with warm and loving energy I had never experienced in my life. I remember the audience giving mad love to each and every person who came out on stage, from the community partners to the festival volunteers to the filmmakers. The short films, made by queer women of color, were received enthusiastically. I remember laughing, crying, and feeling my heart! I felt so connected with everyone.

Growing up in this society with my marginalized identities as a woman, as Asian, as queer, I often felt inferior. However, seeing these hundreds of people just like me coming together at this film festival, expressing our emotions, our experiences, our voices creatively and in such an uplifting space, made me realize how powerful I was. It made me realize that my emotions, my experiences, and my voice matter. It made me realize that complacency is not acceptable. So many of our voices go unheard, unappreciated, unvalued. I realized at that moment I needed to do something.

Eventually, it led me to where I am now, a volunteer and Leadership Team member of API Equality – Northern California, helping to develop leaders and preserve our histories.

The QWOCMAP Film Festival is taking place June 13-15, 2014 at SF’s Brava Theatre. Go check it out! Perhaps it will impact you the way it did me.