Peter Molof joined Standing Together, Basic Rights People of Color Leadership Program, nearly six months ago and quickly became a leader within the cohort. I asked Peter to share with us why he does what he does.
Peter Dakota Molof is young, queer, trans, American Indian, Jewish, and a theatre lover. All of these things make Peter the awesome person he is! He was born and raised in Portland, leaving him without much in the way of support around ANY of his identities. This is perhaps why working around issues of queer and trans people of color are so important to him.
Being involved in BRO’s Standing Together cohort has been an incredible chance for him to both validate his experiences and do the work that ignites him.
After meeting Peter I knew I had to find some time to pick his brain and get to know him better.
Khalil: Hey, Peter! I’m glad to have this chance to find out what makes you tick. Basically we all want to know how you got to be so awesome! First off, tell me why you do this work, specifically with Standing Together and Our Families?
Peter: I love this work…I love the energy, the people, and the way I feel when I do it. But honestly, I think I have to do this work because places like Standing Together are the only places I can bring my whole self. There are so few places where I am safe physically, emotionally, and mentally…let alone places that push me to grow as much as this work does.
Being so many things is beautiful and I don’t know if I can stand to fragment or compromise myself any longer. Even more than that, I want to create more spaces so that people who have not yet been able to be them whole selves can.
What really excites me is when other people get involved.
Khalil: I love that! Being so many things is beautiful. Speaking of getting involved, how did you get involved with racial justice issues and community organizing?
Peter: I’m young but organizing has always just been something I did. I started out doing environmental organizing, but the people I was working with at the time weren’t supportive of the struggles I dealt with around racism. Being American Indian and working in mostly white environmental circles, specifically, burnt me out really quickly because I was both disregarded and held up as the authority on all things environmental simply because of my heritage.
When I enrolled at Portland Community College I was reinvigorated. There is so much wonderful organizing going on there. The student resource centers there put a lot of emphasis on leadership development.
I worked putting on countless events and days of action with the Women’s Resource Center, the Multicultural Center, and the Illumination Project, which is a theater program that uses Theatre of the Oppressed to educate the community on issues of oppression.
Now that I’m at PSU, I’ve been working with the Queer Resource Center Executive Board and the Queer Students of Color conference to build a thriving, visible QTPOC (Queer and Trans People Of Color) community.
Khalil: Wow! Sounds like you have done a lot over a short period of time. I appreciate your energy and passion for this work. I know that you became involved with Standing Together less than six months ago and already have become a strong leader. What has been your experience with Standing Together so far?
Peter: Everyone has been so welcoming. I didn’t know many people in the cohort and I was really set at ease by the time everyone took to get to know my interests and struggles.
I also really appreciate the attention paid to sustainability and self-care. Working as part of an organization demands so much of one’s self that it’s refreshing to see self-care as activism institutionalized.
Khalil: Self-care is truly important and vital to this work. Also, it is something that is too often overlooked or brushed over. Special shout out to Kodey at Basic Rights for helping us to remember our spirit. So Peter, why do you feel it is important for people to get involved?
Peter: I know that for many people, it is not possible to do this work right now. Being someone with so much struggle in my life, there have been times where organizing was not something I could prioritize. I did what I could but I needed to focus on keeping myself together.
But when I wasn’t there, people were doing this work. They were working on my behalf so that I could be safe and be my whole self. And right now, if someone can join this work, I feel like it is imperative that they do so because so many of us can’t.
Khalil: I totally agree. If we all just do something, for some a little for others a lot, we can do big things. What is your hope moving forward with Standing Together and the Our Families project?
Peter: I see and feel so much momentum building in the bigger QTPOC community of Portland right now and I know Standing Together and Our Families is an important piece of that. We are finding better ways of supporting each other, communicating, and finding each other. My hope is that we use the solidarity we have and the visibility we gain for tangible, institutional changes. That could be so many things…but I really am excited to see the changes within ourselves as individuals and our collective community reverberate througought the institutions that have isolated us for so long.
Khalil: It has been great getting a chance to talk with you. Your passion is tremendous! Just one final question before I let you go. Why do you love theater so much?
Peter: I love theater so much because I really get to dork out. I really am one of those people who would love to burst into song at any given moment or tap dance on the way to work. For a long time I felt like I had to be a, “SERIOUS ACTIVIST”, because I didn’t feel like I was taken seriously otherwise. Nowadays, I gotta do my thing and let the sun shine in. HAH! Get it? It’s a song from the musical Hair.