About QORDS

A Camp that Empowers Southern Queer Youth

Our Mission

By empowering Southern queer youth and building community through music and the arts, QORDS is a vehicle for expressing gender and sexuality, and harbors an environment of self-discovery and social change.

Our Core Values

We are committed to promoting the creativity, affirmation, leadership, abundance and voices of Southern queer youth. We recognize that gender and sexuality are multidimensional concepts that intersect with issues including, but not limited to: institutions, race, class, heritage, ability, documentation status, language, or spirituality. We aim to cultivate intersectional spaces and claim music and arts as a vehicle of queer empowerment.

Our Story

QORDS (Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer) was founded in August 2012 and held the first overnight camp in Lenoir, NC in July 2013. QORDS is a grassroots, nonprofit organization.

We have four regional teams in Asheville, Durham, and Greensboro, North Carolina as well as South Eastern Virginia that outreach and fundraise year-round. Currently, all teams are seeking more volunteers. If interested, please see our Volunteer page!

Organizers

Déborah Ramos-Smiley

Déborah Ramos-Smiley

Co-Chair | They/Them

Déborah Ramos-Smiley is a public school orchestra director, professional cellist, and group fitness instructor. They have played acoustic and electric cello in a variety of musical styles and groups and have a passion for creating and teaching a love of music and physical movement. Although cello is a first love, they also play a variety of string instruments and work towards celebrating and encouraging diversity within musical and gym culture. In their free time, Déb enjoys spending time with their spouse, Seisha, and three fur babies.
Kaley Fry

Kaley Fry

Co-Chair | They/Them

Kaley is a Southern genderqueer organizer who has been involved with QORDS since 2016 as a camp volunteer and board member. Raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Kaley was brought to America by their two moms when they were 6 months old from Lima, Peru. Kaley identifies as a second-gen queerspawn meaning that they have queer parents and they also identify as queer themselves. With four years of non-profit management experience at the national level, a certificate in non-profit management from Duke, and a passion for youth empowerment and Southern organizing, Kaley joined the QORDS board in 2020 as the co-chair with Déb Ramos-Smiley. Kaley and their family currently live in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Natalie Watson

Natalie Watson

Board Member | They/Them

Natalie Watson has been a part of QORDS since the fall of 2014. They are a current board member and former treasurer of the board. Originally from Durham, NC and raised in the South, QORDS holds a special place in Natalie’s heart by bringing together queer folx to give back to LGBTQI+ youth. Natalie is the Operations Manager at the LGBT Center of Raleigh and the board secretary at the LGBTQ Center of Durham. When not working, Natalie enjoys building legos, playing with their two dogs, Niko and Chowder, and performing as a drag king in a local drag house in Durham, NC.

Kevin Dorman

Kevin Dorman

Marketing & Development | They/Them

Kevin is a speech-language pathologist who specializes in long-distance transgender vocal training. They have become more and more involved in QORDS since initially volunteering as a singing instructor in 2017. Kevin currently serves as a coordinator of fundraising and website maintenance. They live in Greensboro with their husband, Kelton and three other queer/trans close friends.
Felix Pittman

Felix Pittman

Marketing & Development | He/Him

Felix is a social worker who lives and works in Durham, NC. He is queer, disabled, and nonbinary transmasculine. Felix has been playing the trumpet for over 20 years and started playing ukulele in 2019. He has a passion for music, hiking, running, and knitting. He has been serving on the QORDS board since November 2018.
Gabriella Soto-Lemus

Gabriella Soto-Lemus

Board Member | She/Her

Gaby is a Florida swamp thing currently living in Durham, NC. After spending her whole life studying dance she has shifted her focus to mental health care. Gaby has 3+ years of experience working with adolescents in an eating disorder treatment facility. She joined the QORDS team as mental health support in 2018, and became a board member later that year. When not working, Gaby can be found dancing all over town or knitting a blanket at home. She is always dreaming of a better, more magical world.

Raafe-Ahmad Purnsley

Raafe-Ahmad Purnsley

Marketing & Social Media | He/Him

Raafe-Ahmad Purnsley, a North Carolina native, has a great love for the environment of the state and chose to get his BS from  Elon University in Environmental and Ecological Science. With a background in education that has focused on local NC history and science, Raafe has added a focus of social justice and activism to his teachings. Currently, Raafe is the Community Outreach Coordinator for his home co-op market in Durham, NC. When he isn’t connecting neighbors to resources or leading tours of the market Raafe moonlights at the electrifying Stormie Daie, who is a part of Durham House of Coxx. 

Lazarus Letcher

Lazarus Letcher

Board Member | They/Them

Lazarus Letcher lives on unceded Tiwa Pueblo land in Albuquerque, New Mexico – bringing the Southwest to this Southern program. Laz has been playing and performing for twenty years, traveling the world and country playing viola with the St. Olaf Orchestra, Eileen & the In-Betweens, and as a solo artist. Laz is wrapping a PhD in American Studies – focusing on Black transgender folklore and teaches about queer liberation in the University of New Mexico’s Peace Studies Department. Laz had the pleasure of being a volunteer for QORDS 2019 and loved every minute of it!