Rose “Slam!” Johnson is one of those people with so much energy, kindness and accomplishments I don’t even know where to start.
Slam is the Founder and Director of Queer Camp, an organization committed to fostering an inclusive, diverse and fun summer camp experience for adults by challenging societal norms, empowering authentic self-expression and building a thriving community through skill shares, dialogue, shared meals, and cooperative play. We sat down to talk community, Oakland, food and the awesomeness that is Slam.
Tell me about yourself!
I am fascinated with the way we use our resources and am constantly studying the different ways ‘we’ organize food distribution, transportation and community. I am amazed at the beauty that is created when things come together. People come together over food, dreams come together over conversations and connections, and meals come together with a little know-how and a lot of experimentation. I have found that by bringing people together around shared passions -food, bikes, community and FUN-, practicing awareness, inclusion, and compassion, and striving towards human connection, we are able to move past our fears, towards love, acceptance and healing.
You do approximately 8 million awesome things. Tell me about some of them.
In 2009 I founded Apothocurious. I started with a weekly delivery service of sauces and now focus on building communities centered around food, bikes and inclusion. The same year I hosted my first Queer Camp. Four years later, Queer Camp now offers a 3-day summer camp experience for adults. In addition to offering amazing programing, I organize, build and manage an outdoor kitchen serving 40-60 adults three meals a day. In 2012 I invented Hot Bike. Hot Bike is a mobile kitchen on the back of a bicycle that enables me to offer velo-food, culinary demonstrations, and unconventional fundraising in unique locations.
What is the history of Queer Camp? What inspired you to start it?
When I first arrived in the Bay Area, I noticed a lot of queer community was based around alcohol and sex. The retreat and education programs I worked with and visited focused on healing, cleansing, and growing. I wanted to create a space that combines everything; youthful exploration and fun, safe gender expression, skill sharing, and delicious healthy food!
In the spring of 2009, I convinced twenty folks to meet me at a free campsite, Bureau of Land Management Land, three miles northeast of San Francisco. We had access to a beautiful, riverside destination without running water or flush toilets. We packed a giant tent, gallons of water, and flotation devices. We enjoyed the very chilly river, the open fields of the west, and the hot sun on our backs.
The programing was very informal; I had no clue who would actually show up, or how many structured activities they would really want. We had a roaring fire in the afternoon and made tin foil dinners and roasted them over the fire. In the evening we had a fire show, a talent show, and shared stories around the campfire. The next day we enjoyed the river and slowly made our ways home. The experience was so positive, I realized I could take it to the next level and bring one of my camp dreams to life.
The next year I hosted a formal version of Queer Camp! I met with 3 folks weekly in preparation. Campers signed up and bought tickets in advance. I got t-shirts printed, we hosted communal meals, workshops and evening programing. The weather called for rain, and rain it did. But we had such an amazing time, the rain only brought us closer together!
Following camp, I took some time off to ride my bike up and down the coast. In September of 2012, I launched the experience again and this time 40 folks signed up! Thanks to weekly meetings with my co-lead Logi, countless volunteers with amazing camp experience, a 7 person counselor crew, 4 professional chefs and everyone volunteering in the kitchen (feeding 40 folks 6 gourmet meals in the woods!), we were able to offer workshops led by dedicated leaders, dynamic evening programming and games galore! Our Campers loved it so much, we went for round 4 with 61 participants in May 2013!
What are Queer Camp’s biggest successes?
The biggest successes of Queer Camp are that one, it still happens, mostly on the heart and sweat of a bunch of dedicated volunteers, and two, that we keep it as affordable as possible: no one is turned away for lack of funds!
Who can participate in Queer Camp?
Anyone can come to Queer Camp. I define “Queer”, or one definition of “Queer,” is defined as anyone who chooses to identify as Queer, and because Queer Camp is a celebration of Queer Community, the folks there tend to be “queer-identified,” but that looks a lot of different ways.
What do you do when you’re not queer camping?
I am riding my bike, cooking delicious food, teaching folks how to ride their bikes safely, studying Non Violence, laying in a hammock with my sweetie, or chilling on Indian Rock, my favorite spot to catch the sunset.
What do you love about living in Oakland?
The Bay is a magical place. I am grateful for the warm weather, slightly slower pace of life and my backyard in North Oakland. My only complaint is that my parents live too far away.
The next Queer Camp is May 23-26 in the East Bay! Regigaytion starts April 15. And don’t miss Queer Camps upcoming events: April 4 Flying Yoga @6:00-7 p.m. 4308 Telegraph Ave, Oakland; April 13 Variety Show doors @7:30 p.m., show @8 p.m., La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley; May 9 El Rio Happy Hour @4:00-6 p.m. 3158 Mission St, SF