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Wellness Wednesday

Creating safer spaces as live events return

Sequeerity staff wear distinctive shirts to identify themselves.
Sequeerity staff wear distinctive shirts to identify themselves.Sequeerity
  Play Now [9:36]

by Jill Riley

June 16, 2021

This week we want to jump into the topic of staying safe in the music scene. That can mean a lot of different things to different people. This is an upcoming topic for the LineCheck series: supporting safe music spaces in Minnesota.

My guests this morning are Kimmy Hull and Shannon Blowtorch, co-owners and co-partners in Sequeerity: a Minneapolis-based security team that is owned and operated by queer and BIPOC women. Their goal is to create and maintain safe spaces for everyone.

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Every Wednesday morning at 8:30 CST, Jill Riley connects with experts and local personalities for some real talk about keeping our minds and bodies healthy — from staying safe in the music scene, to exercising during a pandemic, to voting and civic engagement. Looking for more resources and support? Visit our friends at Call to Mind, MPR's initiative to foster new conversations about mental health. Subscribe to Wellness Wednesday as a podcast on Spotify, Apple, RSS, Radio Public, Stitcher, or Amazon Music.

Jill Riley: Could you just tell me about Sequeerity and what it is?

Kimmy Hull: Sequeerity started as an idea 20 years ago, mainly because I've been doing a lot of security work for a lot of venues around the city, and I realized that most of the security at most of these venues all get trained in pretty much the exact same way. I feel like there's a huge difference between being a bouncer and being an as a security person; the biggest difference was having people that are on your staff who are going to react to a problem. They should be proactive, and try to stop the problems from even entering or gaining a foothold in anything.

There's also a lot of disrespect. I mean, have you ever gone to a show, and you walk in and the first thing you see is going to be security, and they're standing there and they're just like, "IDs? Okay." I mean, some of them are friendly, but there's a lot that's not. Then you get into the venues, and all you see are just these really big people that a lot of times will have attitudes, because they're waiting to see somebody do something, and then they grab them and they just throw them out of the club.

Especially with the atmosphere that our communities are living in right now, call out culture is definitely there. So a lot of these bars were getting negative reviews and everything, and that's where I ended up stepping in as a queer BIPOC person. They would hire me to work as a security liaison between the venue staff and their security and the queer community. So that way, we could bring in these events and the communities that have been suffering a lot of discrimination: they actually had a safe person that they could go up to if there was a problem. And then vice versa. It would also help out with a lot of these venues knowing that they're inviting people in and trying to be more inclusive.

We'd go over security procedures and stuff, how to address gender identities and pronouns. It was education, and also retraining their way of thinking. For me, quite honestly, it all came down to: my community was suffering, because of lack of knowledge. And that's where I stepped in was that I wanted to change that scene. I wanted to make all the communities feeling a little bit more safe for many people. You're going for a good time. It should be like you're going to visit a friend and you're having a get together at a party.

Shannon, what's your involvement in this project?

Shannon Blowtorch: I do a lot of the admin stuff. I do a lot of behind the scenes stuff. Kimmy and I do a lot of planning together. We also co-teach Minnesota permit to carry [firearms] classes.

Kimmy Hull: We are offering a scholarship for one BIPOC woman every month for the permit to carry class and that includes the training online classes and then we get an hour of personal training. We're totally willing to do like a safety Zoom meeting, you know, just going over basic safety tips and situational awareness stuff for any of the neighborhood communities or whatever that are looking for some suggestions or help. So that is something that like we I would absolutely do for free, because that kind of information needs to get out there.

We're based with the firm belief that everybody deserves to be safe. Your situational awareness. I know that's a term that not many people were familiar with until upon probably the last year or so. It's amazing how many people aren't aware of simple safety steps that they can take to protect themselves, not only when they're out, but elsewhere, and especially for females. I mean, where do people go to learn how to be safe? That's something that we care very much about.

The safety of women, the BIPOC community, the LGBTQIA+ communities have not always been prioritized in shared common space.

Shannon Blowtorch: No. I feel like I turned blue in the face as a DJ and a promoter, like constantly in clubs, trying to like...even if before a monthly party, or before a weekly party or something like I would sit down with security, and have talks with them. Gender pronoun talks, respect talks, stuff like that. And it's like, I just started turning blue in the face, because it's like I've been doing that for years and years. And you do what you can as a promoter to create [a space] as safe as you can, as [safe as] they're allowing you to create it, but and then if there's a high security turnover, then you're starting over from scratch again, because the management usually doesn't care.

Things are going to be different when we return to some form of and I say, normalcy in just the fact that people are getting back together. But, you know, normal is dead.

Shannon Blowtorch: Yeah, I cannot wait for a new normal in that sense. So if there's a way to come in, and to have like a comfort level of like, you see Kimmy at the door. Kimmy's gonna smile at you and greet you. And then let's say something happens to you, or there's some patron in the club that's harassing you, you're gonna feel comfortable going up to Kimmy, and being like, "Hey, this is happening." And Kimmy is gonna have a different perspective, too. Because if you got a bunch of guys watching, for instance, example, sexual harassment of a femme-bodied person, they may not know what to look for, whereas Kimmy, or another security person on our team will understand what to look for. We get those nuances and those cues where others might not.

Having a security team owned and operated by queer and BIPOC women. I mean, it's about time and it sounds like it's something that's just so needed in these spaces.

Kimmy Hull: Yeah, we've been having a lot of inquiries into our services. Hopefully, it'll be a great year for us to grow even more and bigger and bigger.

Shannon Blowtorch: It's nice to see people having these engagements and conversations. It's been a struggle for so long, and no one has listened. Women or trans folks or BIPOC folks in the music seems like they've just had to kind of go with the flow, right? And now it's like, everything is turning on, it's back, and it's like, no, we're changing stuff. It's fantastic.

Wellness Wednesday is hosted by Jill Riley, and produced by Anna Weggel and Jay Gabler. Our theme music is a portion of the song "F.B. One Number 2" by Christian Bjoerklund under the Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 International License.