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Asanni Armon On Raising Funds Through Parties

For the Gworls is a Black, trans-led collective that curates parties to fundraise for Black transgender people pay for their rent, gender-affirming surgeries, smaller co-pays for medicines/doctor’s visits, and travel assistance to wherever they fill their prescriptions and handle medical visits. You can also follow their activities on Instagram  

Profile photo of Asanni Armon and Ahmaad, founder and resident DJ for Black trans led mutual aid organization in New York For The Gworls

 

Asanni Armon (left) is a Black, genderqueer artist. They are the founder and Head Doll in Charge at For The Gworls, party curator, and up-and-coming rapper. They are from Atlanta, Georgia and currently live in New York City. When they aren’t curating parties, they’re usually somewhere carrying, writing, or both. 

Maahd (right) is a Black, genderfluid transfemme artist and serves as the Resident DJ at For The Gworls. Raised in Chicago’s South Side and now living in New York City, they are heavily inspired by house music and other Black electronic dance genres. When they aren’t on the decks, Maahd finds peace learning about herbs and trying new recipes.

Party hosted by Black trans mutual aid organization For The Gworls at Bushwick venue Luv Story

          Party hosted by For The Gworls in January 2020 at Luv Story, Brooklyn 

 We're hearing a lot about mutual aid these days, including For The Gworls. What do you think is the main advantage of mutual aid compared to other nonprofit structures?

The main benefit is that we give resources directly to the person. We bypass most of the bureaucracies in order to give donations to people who need it the most, as opposed to making it difficult for them for the sake of complying with the IRS. We have a fiscal sponsor who then is compliant (with the IRS) so I can just focus on getting money to people. 

“The main benefit is that we give resources directly to the person. We bypass most of the bureaucracies in order to give donations to people who need it the most”

In what ways is your application process, specifically, more accessible? 

The application is very short and simple. We don’t ask you to beg and tell us your life story, or to submit receipts. We sometimes have to Facetime you to make sure you’re the person who submitted the application. We trust that people who don’t need help are not applying.  

And, as For The Gworls grows in size, do you ever run into dilemmas in reviewing and selecting applicants equitably? 

Totally. Things blew up very quickly for us to the point where we had to shut down the application since this year. We’ve been getting through people on the waitlist so we’ve still been helping every week for rent and every two weeks for gender affirmative surgery, but we couldn’t take anyone new. It wouldn’t make sense to have people wait, say, ten months when they need rent right now. We’re almost done (going through the waitlist) so we’ll open back up again, hopefully, in a month and a half! 

Poster for For The Gworls, a Black trans mutual aid organization's medical fund during COVID-19

For The Gworls' new medical fund founded during COVID-19

 What was it like to shift from in-person events to mutual aid over the past year? Were there any new strategies you had to learn? What were the main differences you had to work around? 

The good part about it was that we had already been doing online crowdfunding so the transition was fairly seamless. I was a little upset because I really enjoyed the party aspect of it, of course. But people’s wellness and livelihood is more important than that. 

What made it difficult is that we had to then open a new fund because so many people needed help. Rent and affirmative surgery was helpful but people also needed immediate things like hormones and co-pays. Figuring out compliances to laws for that was a little difficult. 

In June, everything blew up and had to really buckle down on the scamming. Until July, I had been doing the work by myself but I had to hire new people to be able to deal with the increased applications coming in and verifying them. 

And tell me more about the upcoming $1,000,000 Pride campaign! What are the main goals and who does it benefit? 

It’s manifesting $1,000,000 so we can knock out the rest of the aforementioned waitlist so we can open applications back up again. It still benefits our main goals of raising funds for affirmative surgery and rent for Black trans people. 

Photo from party hosted by Brooklyn based Black trans led mutual aid organization For The Gworls

 

In the interview with Slate, you’ve talked about the history of clubs as a place of refuge for Black queer people, an alternative to churches that did not embrace them. Can you describe one memorable experience at an event where you were like: “This is IT”? 

Everyone might have different experiences, but generally churches teach doctrines set by Judeo-Christian ideas of what gender and race means - boundaries which queer people often transgress. So we had to “make church”, a sanctuary, out of clubs and bars

And on the second point - totally, every party embodies that spirit of the sanctuary. Everyone feels blessed, thankful, and protected. Even down to the online activities we’re doing now, we get nice messages saying “this is what I used the money for and you’ve really turned my life around”.

There’s a lot of conversation between genres anywhere but especially in Brooklyn. Even poster designs are sheer art! Is there a visual artist or visual influence you’re inspired by? 

The resident Dj Ahmad also designs our posters so that’s one visual element.

Before the pandemic, we were planning on incorporating many different aspects of visual art. We wanted to start booking venues with screens so Black queer artists’ works can be projected - but then the pandemic hit. *laughter* 

I want parties to not only be a safe haven a place to see works by Black queer artists. It is foremost about helping people but it’s also about showcasing the talent we have.  

Ahmad, resident DJ at an event hosted by Brooklyn based Black trans led mutual aid For The Gworls at Luv Story

Resident DJ Maahd spinning at one of For The Gworls' parties

 How do you recruit the artists to feature at parties? 

I would go to different venues I like, or go to Instagram. The power of social media makes it so that we can put out a flyer saying “if you are a Black trans DJ, put your name on this list”.  

What is your dream venue to play at? 

I would wanna do C’Mon Everybody. They opened another space called Good Judy’s. I want to do Standard Hotel….so many different places. I would love to have a daytime/nighttime party at a huge rooftop.  

 

All photos courtesy of For The Gworls and Asanni Armon. 

 

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