Message from the HBIC @colleenjolly — I deviated from this script a bit. But the key points are below if you don’t want to watch the whole thing.
I wanted to take a moment to talk about what PoleCon has done and will continue to do to help the black pole dancers and black businesses within our community. I prefer to let my actions do the the talking but it occurs to me that not everyone who even goes to PoleCon knows all the things we’re doing since there is so much going on at one time. Everyone also has their preferences for what they do at PoleCon — some of you might spend the whole time in workshops or shopping and never see the stage or the panels.
When I purchased the convention in 2014, I wanted to make sure that the entire pole community was represented at PoleCon. I wanted to make sure that people could come to PoleCon and be treated with respect. That they would be able to see people that looked like them on the main stage. That they could take classes with people that looked like them and that they could talk to people that didn’t look like them so we all could get better and learn together.
We’ve hosted a Black Girls Pole showcase every year since 2015 which was the first year under my tenure. My background is corporate, and in the corporate event world, the key note speaker in the morning on the first day is the most prime spot. So that’s when I put the first Black girls pole showcase at PoleCon 2015. That was clearly a mistake since no one is up that early! Moving forward in 2016, the BGP showcase was moved to Friday nights and it’s stayed there ever since becoming an important showcase for not just the black pole community but for others who want to celebrate and uplift the black pole community.
We hosted the first panel discussion in 2015 and called it “the future of pole.” It was clear from that discussion that we needed to talk more about alot of really important topics that had nothing to do with music licensing or marketing or getting into the Olympics — all still important things but not part of what made us a community. I repeated that panel in 2016 and added a panel discussion on sex workers since at that time, the intersection of sex workers and pole was very negative. There’s still alot of work to do in that arena but we’re seeing less #notastripper hashtags which is some progress.
In 2017, we dropped the future of pole panel in favor of helping the community through more specific and pressing issues and continued with the sex worker panel.
In 2018, there was a high profile competition in Europe where one of the performers wore black face. Seeing the reactions online which ranged from outrage to no big deal, I realized that we needed a safe space to talk about this so that we could all do better and contacted Black Girls Pole to lead the discussion. They have since run that panel discussion on race and cultural appropriation at every PoleCon ever since then. The first free Black Girls Pole meet up also debuted that year to educate and inform people about the movement.
In 2019, after many discussions in the Race and Cultural appropriations panel turned towards questions about gender and queer spaces, we added the Queer pole panel in addition to the Queer Pole Showcase which debuted at the 2018 PoleCon.
In 2020, in August this year, we have added the Plus-Size pole panel to address continued questions and issues around body positivity. We have hosted a Dangerous Curves showcase every year since 2015.
Having these discussions at PoleCon are wonderful. However, we need to keep having them throughout the year with all members of our community. We need to have a space to ask difficult questions and educate. There are plenty of resources online for white people to learn about their privilege. I’m not advocating that persons of color spend more emotional energy and time doing that. This is about sharing and growing together.
It is important to note, that while we have showcases arranged around both themes like “comedy” and affinity groups like Black Girls Pole or Dangerous Curves, this does not mean that black people can only be in BGP. Or plus size dancers can only be in Dangerous Curves. Progress is intersectional. None of us is one thing. Look at all our showcases and see many body types, many colors and many genders and many sexual expressions.
PoleCon, like most of my life, is a work in progress. Every year I look at the pole community. I talk to leaders in our community, I listen to what they have to say and I adjust and adapt the event to respond to our needs. It is my goal that everyone can come to PoleCon and be uplifted. That everyone can come and learn something new. Everyone can find their tribe.
We were supposed to start our event tonight but due to COVID-19 we have postponed until August. Things are still very dynamic in the world and we are still moving forward presuming we will be able to safely hold a live event in August. Right now, I am also working on scheduling our 2021 live event and a virtual event to be held in the fall. More info on all of these things as I have them. Let me get some contracts in order before I go announcing all the things!
Please everyone, stay safe. Listen to black voices. Uplift your fellow black pole dancers and black businesses. Not just now, but always. Pole can be a safe space for people who have no where else to turn. Who don’t feel safe in their homes, their work or in their community because of what they look like, what they do or who they love. We have an opportunity to do more than swing around a metal thing and get a good work out. We have an opportunity in every class, in every studio, at every competition and every gathering of pole people to create something special. A place where everyone is actually respected. Uplifted. We can do this if we work together.