The project, which was initially called The Holdout, was started in 2011 by a group of mostly white anarchists as a social space, events space, bookstore and bike workshop. The initial project was largely unsuccessful at living up to its goal of being a true community center– in that those representing the space could not address or engage with the issues plaguing the largely black and brown surrounding communities. Through many open discussions that involved diverse individuals and communities, a transformation process occurred in which management of the space changed hands from the original organizers of the space to a group of revolutionary people of color.
These people reorganized, diversified, and reimagined the space, while maintaining principles of non-hierarchical organizing and decision-making. Through this process, our organization reopened its doors as Qilombo, and was reorganized to address the need for a true community center for black and brown communities in February 2014– one that sees its neighbors, one that provides nourishment and empowerment, and one that stands beside them as they face compounding oppressions.
Most importantly, Qilombo opens it doors and provides public space to all peoples during these times of intensive gentrification, systemic oppression, and displacement, while also striving to empower those whose political and economic voices have been marginalized. This has been a long process and is still ongoing as we seek to find more ways to empower our communities. People are increasingly building connections and working to solidify relationships and resources. This kind of work takes time and patience to flourish, and has meant that in a short period of time we have experienced a lot of growth out of our challenges.