RUDE is Toronto's most relevant queer collective
Inspired by an underground, inclusive and incredibly diverse queer nightlife he experienced last summer in Montreal, Devonish not only met the man of his dreams, but his calling. RUDE had to happen in Toronto. In a city hailed for its diversity, the are still divisions within our own community. This is especially true for queer people of colour.
So he slowly gathered a fierce team of collaborators and artists to launch not only a monthly party, but a movement. A place and space where everyone is welcome, where everyone feels like they're somebody and dialogue happens right along side dancing.
We spoke with Denovish about the roots of RUDE, why gay Toronto needs to check itself and why the city needs this party so badly.
YOHOMO: Tell us about the spark that ignited RUDE ...
Mark: I moved to Montreal this summer because every time I visited it reminded me of the Caribbean, a very open minded type of society. I met a really brilliant, beautiful soul in Montreal who said 'I’m going to introduce you to the coolest scene in Montreal. 'I remember the first event we went to started at 2 am and I was like, what?
It was black, Latino, indigenous and Caribbean and french Caribbean and white. Every single race, every type of gender identity that you can think of present at this event. It didn’t seem like a big deal at all. I thought, is this just Montreal? Or just this scene? It was that scene.
So you wanted to bring this vibe back to Toronto?
We don’t have that scene in Toronto and if we do it’s definitely not accessible and it’s not advertised enough so that the majority of my queer POC friends know it’s out there. So as soon as I moved back, I thought, it’s time, I need to do something about this. I got a group of friends together and created this. We thought, no one’s gonna do it for us, so let’s do it.
We created the collective and I didn’t just want it to be a party. What’s gonna make people come to another “queer party”? What’s gonna make us stand out? We need to go beyond what’s expected, so we started to think about art and how we can combine it with a queer dance party, but not just an exhibition at a party. I wanted visual, video graphic art, something you can engage with throughout the party and something that comes from artists who may not be approached for most queer events, in the west end or away from the village scene.
The first time you go to the village it’s very 'gay white male,' then there’s the queer west scene, but it’s still very predominately white. So for us we wanted to reach out to the artists that were creating very progressive, forward thinking, relatable art from queer POC people. To see art that we completely relate to from the Caribbean, Somalia, …. RUDE is not just to create a queer POC friendly event space, but also a catharsis for queer POC expression in Toronto.
How is the party inclusive to all of these communities then?
Just because we understand the need for it, doesn’t mean we think it’s anti-white. We don’t want to exclude people in that queer space. And we’re not going to move forward by excluding another group, making them feel how you used to feel.
Everyone is excited by it... your social media activity is on fire and your following has blown all the way up. Why do you think that's happening?
Why are we successful? Transparency. We engage with people. We don’t have time to be PC, I want people to disagree on our page and have a conversation. There’s a lot of white men throwing POC friendly events in the city and they ask me 'why can’t we throw events like these and not be racist?' It’s not just about throwing an event an playing black music, you have to go beyond that. There’s a certain level of accountability.
You can’t just play hip hop and black people will come. Actually a lot of us like indie and disco, but you don’t know that because you’re not engaging with our crowd.
This is your first major event and it seems like people are into it before it's even happened, you must be excited...
I’m extremely thrilled about where it’s heading. It’s not that difficult to process anti-racist work. It doesn’t have to involved going to a Black Lives Matter march. It can, but it can also be supporting POC artists. I’m nervous, but I know how much I needed this, how much our friends needed this, I know we it. So badly.
The political climate has drained a lot of radicalized queer people, we need some healing, Solange vibes, chill times.
RUDE is Mark-Ché Devonish, Morgan Elena, Ferdinant Ngo, Josh Riley, Hakeem W
40% of RUDE profits go to LGBT homeless youth centres.
All images by Josh Riley. Video was directed by Morgan Elena.