Thousands of St. Louisans have enjoyed Circus Flora’s world-class productions annually for over 30 years. However, the end of the circus season does not mean the clowning around is over.
Offering healing through humor since 2012, Clowns on Call is Circus Flora’s program that ensures young patients at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital receive a healthy dosage of laughter as often as possible.
Yet with the onset of the pandemic, physicians of fun Dr. Pepper, Dr. Too-Me, and Dr. Celia have had to adapt to the cyber realm to maintain a connection with and provide a distraction for hospitalized children of all ages when they need it most.
Without her red nose, Dr. Pepper is Audrey Crabtree, professional performer and coordinator of the program. “This is all new territory,” she said referring to their digital approach.
Before the pandemic, the Clown Doctors visited a few times per week. But since their virtual return in September 2020, they have to make the most out of a one-time weekly check-up via Zoom video calls.
“It’s a little bit of a learning curve but they’re ecstatic to be back,” Circus Flora’s Managing Director Karen Shoulders said.
Dr. Pepper and her comedic accomplices meet their patients on an iPad that on-site child life specialists carry from room to room — after sanitation, of course. Whether they are miming fetch with a ball that is imaginarily thrown through the video or juggling props between one Zoom window to another, Crabtree said, “We’re having fun finding creativity within the confinement of the screen.”
Regardless of the way they connect, Crabtree emphasized that the Clown Doctors are best friends with the children during their time together.
“In the moments we see them, we are always on their team; we always follow their lead,” Crabtree said. “If they’re in a sad mood and want to stay there, we’ll go there too … We just try to engage with them wherever they are and just make a real connection as much as we can. We all need that.”
The fun and games prove to be beneficial for not only the patients, but also the hospital workers, family members, and the Clown Doctors themselves.
“I do different kinds of theatre work and performance, but this hospital clowning is the very best thing I’ve ever done. Big audiences and huge crowds do not compare to this one-on-one engagement,” Crabtree reflected.
Unlike any program in the bi-state region, Clowns on Call features experienced and professional performing artists skilled in a wide variety of genres including clowning, music, juggling, magic, improvisation, puppeteering, dance, and slapstick. “It’s not just a volunteer putting on a nose,” Shoulders said.
Crabtree elaborated by adding, “We have ongoing training and rehearsals, and we’re a part of a national organization that has standards. It’s serious work to make it possible to play in a healing way.”
While the Clown Doctors have found a way to continue making their rounds through Cardinal Glennon, they hope to spread contagious laughter to more patients across the region. “There are other institutions that we could be working with, but we just don’t have the funding,” Crabtree said.
‘Tis the season for giving, and this holiday, we reached out to our resident artists and organizations for links to their online stores and rounded up some of our favorite gift ideas. While you find something unique for everyone on your list this year, rest assured that your purchase is an investment in the future of the local arts community.
Click on the following links to shop the items in the gallery above and explore more.
“It’s up to independent filmmakers to show what filmmaking could be here.”
That’s what filmmaker Josh Guffey believes when it comes to producing for the silver screen out of the Gateway City.
“I think this community is ready. The talent is here … There’s great infrastructure and the Kranzberg Arts Foundation is a big part of that now.”
From gaining access to tools and training to pitching to investors and more, Guffey, says filmmaking is “hard as hell,” but he wants to help up-and-coming film artists better navigate the scene through the Kranzberg Arts Foundation filmmaking residency.
An Iowa native and filmmaker who launched his career in Los Angeles, Guffey relocated to St. Louis in 2014 with his family in the middle of researching and developing the movie “All Gone Wrong.”Inspired by films that portrayed cops and robbers, Guffey tells a realistic story about narcotics policing with Tony Todd in a leading role, who is well-known for his unnerving performance in the 1992 film “Candyman.”
“What really encouraged me to get going and to shoot the movie in St. Louis was a movie called ‘The Ghost Who Walks,’ shot in 2018 and released 2019,” Guffey said. “The filmmakers — producer Dan Gartner, David Johnson, and the writer/director Cody Stokes — they were super encouraging and instrumental and just really open with their time. I peppered them with questions … and it really gave me the ability to believe in myself to try to make it here.”
In 2019, Guffey was awarded the residency through the In Motion Filmmaking Conference and granted access to a wide array of resources provided by the Foundation including vital infrastructure for planning and production.
“For us, we were in the middle of making the movie, so we held an investor event at the .ZACK Theatre and had a reception where people could see the business plan and just kind of hang out and meet us. That got us money to go into post-production,” Guffey said. “It can be very expensive to get locations, and if you don’t have the money, it can be a barrier.”
With his film now “in the can,” Guffey plans to host a workshop for producers and aspiring filmmakers, “to help people and show that it’s a step-by-step thing.”
“Everybody has a voice, but if you can’t express that voice in the way that you desire … And then you see other people who have advantages and the path to expressing their voice through filmmaking is much easier and much shorter, it can be very frustrating,” Guffey said.
From access to venues for planning and production to theatre space for hosting investor screenings and premieres, Guffey mentioned that “you really see the benefit through all the stages as a filmmaker,” in the Kranzberg Arts Foundation residency program.
“I think so many people who are filmmakers still struggle with these parts of the whole process,” Guffey said. “It’s like, ‘here’s one less thing to worry about,’ and then all of a sudden you have more energy to think of how to make it better, rather than just how to make it.”
In addition to infrastructure, the residency also connects the filmmaker to a network of other local artists and entrepreneurs. Guffey recalled a situation in which he needed the help of a music producer to bring a song in the movie to life.
“It just so happened that Owen Ragland, who’s a former musician in residence, was our guy, so it was nice to keep it within the resident family,” Guffey added. “Just amplifying who these artists are … it creates connections. It’s really cool how that went down.”
Despite the hurdle that has been COVID-19, “All Gone Wrong” is in the final stages before it premieres. Guffey said he feels a responsibility to be a good steward of filmmaking in St. Louis, to help others along the way, and the Kranzberg Arts Foundation filmmaking residency feels like a good place for that.
“We need to support filmmakers and give them a platform to create. It’s just like all arts; there are some mechanisms in place to help artists create, and the more we can do that for filmmakers, the better the movies will be.”
Kranzberg Arts Foundation partners with Open Highway Music Festival for month-long brunch and live music series
By Caitlin Lally
Sundays in October are about to get a little louder in Grand Center.
The sound of banjos strumming and voices harmonizing will fill the air outside The Grandel as the community gathers, safely, for brunch and live performances by local Americana and bluegrass musicians.
On the artist lineup for Oct. 18, and also the founder of Open Highway Music Festival is John Henry, (pictured above), who said he is very grateful for the opportunity to work with Kranzberg Arts Foundation to produce the October concert series.
“It was nice to be able to do something a little different from what we do. It’s strange putting on a show during daylight. And while the [music] industry is shut down in a lot of ways, I feel there is a need for music,” Henry said.
“It’s nice to be able to present these shows in a way that supports the artists and gives the fans something to look forward to … it gives people a sense of normalcy in these really unnormal times.”
Like countless events this year, Open Highway Music Festival delayed their ninth annual festival that was scheduled for late July and into August at Off-Broadway due to health and safety concerns caused by COVID-19.
“We saw the industry shut down, so we’ve had to abide by the guidelines set forth by the city, but most importantly we want to put the safety of the patrons and bands at the forefront of everything,” Henry said, who also books talent for the South City venue Off-Broadway.
However, Henry acknowledged that the support for and among the local music scene has grown amid the pandemic.
“In a time of uncertainty and struggle, it’s good to see that many local artists have grown tighter and embraced a sense of community because, without that, things just fall away.”
While the state of the music industry is open-ended as it currently stands, Henry said it’s nice to see the local support for artists.
“I appreciate the efforts of everyone involved to give local artists an opportunity to present their music to people,” Henry said. “It’s been a rough year, obviously, and any little bit helps.”
For more information about Blue Sky Brunch including the full lineup and ticketing details, click here.
In an effort to build sustainable infrastructure and feed artists, The Dark Room and Urban Harvest STL have been collaborating to donate pantry items including fresh produce to local families in need.
From radishes and collard greens to oregano and thyme, Sally’s Rooftop Garden — which is located above .ZACK and maintained by Urban Harvest — has produced over 550 pounds of organic produce so far this year, according to Drew Hundelt, Urban Harvest’s Director of Urban Agriculture.
“Urban Harvest strives for building stronger communities around food, so like making every process of food available to the surrounding communities, from growing it to eating it,” Hundelt said.
Food and beverage director for Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Gene Bailey explained that the vegetables and herbs were originally destined for the menu at The Dark Room. However, when the pandemic hit, he started thinking about how the food could still be put to use.
“We wanted to be able to donate it in a way that it would still carry its mission. We intended to sell it at this restaurant that showcases local artists, so we were looking for a way to use it that might still focus on benefiting artist communities. Me and [Executive Director Chris Hansen] went back and forth on it,” Bailey said. “We didn’t want to dictate who it’s for, but we wanted to put it through a channel for a community that was artist-rich.”
“Gooseberries, a restaurant in Dutchtown South, has now been doing weekly food pantry donations every Saturday since May to people in that community, which includes a lot of artists, as well as families in need,” Bailey said estimating that about 15 families per week have benefited from the donation bags.
In the earlier months of summer, leafy greens and herbs from Sally’s filled the donation bags. Hundelt said the later summer harvests produce larger crops including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and corn. After Hundelt and his team gather the food, Bailey divides it among bags consisting of hand sanitizer from local brewing company, 4 Hands, and pantry staples such as crackers, peanut butter from Performance Food Group.
“We plan on continuing this project … It’s something I want to make sure that we can carry on,” Bailey said. “It’s been good to tangibly do something with those resources.”
While some may see wearing masks or standing six feet apart as hindrances to artmaking, one St. Louis theatre company has welcomed the new norms to reignite their production methods.
After hosting virtual auditions, rehearsing for hours over Zoom, and then recording scenes in small physically-distanced groups, Ignite Theatre Company will present “A Chorus Line (High School Edition),” online Aug. 26, through Aug. 30. The 5-day streaming event marks a first for the organization.
Brionna Lacy, 16, who plays Richie Walters in “A Chorus Line (HSE),” has been with the company for almost two years. She said one of the biggest differences between this production and previous ones was connecting with her fellow cast members.
“We do a lot of character and cast bonding to mesh with each other, and we didn’t really have the opportunity to do that this time around,” Lacy said. “It’s been difficult being apart from directors, too … and coming to rehearsal and not being able to connect with them has been hard.”
With new methods, came new challenges, as well as new learning opportunities for the students of Ignite. Lacy, said she unexpectedly enjoyed learning about film production. “I’ve always been interested in the filming aspect of theatre, it’s really cool to dive into that sort of thing,” she said.
Daphne Kraushaar, 16, who plays Al DeLuca in “A Chorus Line (HSE),” said she also liked the “move-making” side of this production.”It’s not like we’re performing a typical musical with cameras … it’s more like we go scene-by-scene and get different shot angles,” Kraushaar explained.
Instead of filming a single show like previous Ignite productions, this musical was filmed in several takes by a local volunteer videographer, Jorgen Pedersen, and then edited together.
“That’s one of the benefits of filming — if one of us makes a mistake, we can do it again,” Kraushaar said. “And also, different clips can overlap, so if someone makes a mistake, we can put in a clip of someone else … we can sort of ‘Band-Aid’ for each other.”
However, filming the production in scenes wasn’t the only difference.“We’re dancing and singing, but almost never at the same time, which is one of the biggest differences with this [production],” Kraushaar said. “For example, we are recording our voices first … and then they are put together to make one track. Then we will dance to that track, lip-synching to ourselves … some of the dialogue is even [pre-recorded].”
“I think that the directors and everyone have done a good job of keeping the rules in place to keep everyone safe,” Kraushaar said, noting that she felt very comfortable during the production process.
“We’re really thankful for the guidance of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation with the reopening and mitigation policies to feel really confident that we’re creating art in the safest way possible,” Managing Director Kimberly Kavanagh said. “We’re [also] grateful for the opportunity to innovate and still be able to not only create something but also be an outlet for students during such an unsure time.”
“This is the first time we will not know what the final product will look like,” Kavanagh said. “I’ll be so proud of the kids no matter what the final product looks like because they worked so hard at something new.”
The selection of plays for a theatre group’s season is always an exciting, wildly hopeful, sometimes frustrating process. The scripts must play to a company’s strength, while often exploring new themes and production styles to encourage artistic growth. It has to take into account the appropriateness of available spaces for the plays selected, as well as the available pool of talent and their appropriateness for roles needed to fill. Also, a group has to consider scheduling issues such as holidays that might fall during a show’s run, necessary rehearsal schedules, performer availability, and more. And then, you have to secure the rights for a play — not always an automatic.
At The Chapel: Kicking Off The Season — And Punting It Into Next Season
2020 has proven to be a challenging time for everyone, including theatre companies, most of whom have decided to shut down all theatre for the calendar year. The Midnight Company’s challenges started at the very beginning of the virus outbreak. They’d scheduled their first production for May at a space new to the company: The Chapel. The show they chose would be a reprise of a one-person play they’d initially presented at the 2018 St Lou Fringe Festival, “Now Playing Third Base For The St. Louis Cardinals…bond, James Bond.”
Written and performed by Midnight Artistic Director Joe Hanrahan, the script focused on 1964 when a teenage boy — set back by world events like the Cuban Missile Crisis and particularly the assassination of John F. Kennedy — finds the world coming back to life with the emergence of the Beatles, a sensational new movie featuring one of the first superheroes, James Bond, and the race of the hometown Cardinals to a pennant and World Championship. The play explores such diverse themes as the racism black Cardinal players had to face as they made their way into Major League baseball, the role WWII played in JFK’s assassination and the history and growth of one-person shows in the theatre scene.
Because of Fringe restrictions, that production was limited to a handful of performances and limited to less than an hour in length. But still, the show was very enthusiastically received by audiences. Never had Midnight experienced such a visceral reaction to a play. So, thinking that the play (with its crowd-attracting title) could draw larger audiences, it was decided to bring it back to The Chapel in Spring 2020; this time with an expanded script that added depth and new stories to the incidents of the script.
But the outbreak of COVID-19 altered opening plans and Midnight made the cautious decision to postpone the show until July. And as the virus strengthened its grip on the world, it was postponed again until August.
And it was only in mid-July when discussions between the small cast and crew resulted in the difficult decision to reschedule the show for July 2021, at The Chapel. The decision was particularly difficult because the people at The Chapel were unfailingly supportive and enthusiastic about the show, right up until the moment of cancellation. They were preparing to undertake all of the safety precautions pioneered locally by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation. But the final decision rested on the entire team’s belief that a greater number of people might want to see this show, and it should be given the chance to draw those crowds.
If you’d like to take a look at the script of the Fringe production, click here.
At Kranzberg Arts Foundation Theatres: The Fall Shows — October
As a resident company of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, The Midnight Company had two slots to fill in their 2020 Calendar: mid-September and late October, each for three-week runs.
The October show was the first engagement filled. “It Is Magic” premiered in Chicago in Spring 2019. Midnight management saw the production, and it never left their mind. The play was written by Mickle Maher, playwright, and co-founder of Theater Oobleck in that city. Midnight had already produced two plays of Maher’s: “The Hunchback Variations” and “An Apology For The Course And Outcome Of Certain Events Delivered By Doctor John Faustus On This His Final Evening,” first as individual productions, and then on the same bill in September 2018 as part of Faustival, a St. Louis celebration of the work, which involved five different St. Louis companies doing their own take on Faust.
Midnight loved Maher’s work and loved Theater Oobleck. It’s on hiatus now as are most groups, but you can check out their fabled history on their website: theateroobleck.com. They’re a very small group that gets very big recognition and very good reviews in the very competitive Chicago theatre scene.
“It Is Magic” takes place in the basement of a community theatre. Auditions are going on for a new play — an adult version of the Three Little Pigs. Upstairs, in the main theatre, opening night for the Scottish play is underway. Holding the auditions are two sisters — one who has written the new play, the other an actress. Both have volunteered for this community theatre for years, but neither has ever got the opportunity to contribute artistically. Now one sister has written a play that will be produced, the other wants the lead role of The Big Bad Wolf. Auditioning for them is an actor (in a kilt, expected upstairs soon) who also wants the Wolf role, and who also has been with the group for years without a good role. As the play develops, the arrogant artistic director of the group comes down and causes havoc, and later, an actress appears out of nowhere to audition — yes, she is the “third sister” of Scottish play fame.
The play is brilliant, as is all of Maher’s work. It explores the love/hate relationship many people (and many aspiring artists) have with theatre but confirms the magic that infuses the stage. It also has a touch of black magic, so it qualifies as a show that can open on Halloween weekend. (Midnight, like many companies opening a show at that time of year, first looked around for a more traditionally-themed script, like a “Dracula” adaptation they’d always liked.) And with a cast of five, the show gave Midnight a chance to work with more local talent than their usual cast sizes of one or two.
But as the COVID-19 crisis continued, Midnight saw little choice but to reschedule this show. It’s now slated to run Oct. 21-Nov. 16, 2021, at the Black Box Theatre inside The Kranzberg.
At Kranzberg Arts Foundation Theatres: The Fall Shows — September
After deciding on “It Is Magic” for October, Midnight still had a calendar slot to fill in September. After considering several works, one prominent theme continued to echo for the Company. With the current political turmoil and the upcoming sure-to-be hotly contested elections, Midnight decided to do the one thing it could do best to contribute to possible positive solutions for the country.
It brought back a play it had done before (at The Missouri History Museum, during the dawn of the Obama administration) — “Give ‘em Hell Harry” by Samuel Gallu, the one-man show depicting the life and times of Harry S. Truman. The play premiered in 1975 with James Whitmore in the role. The show was shot on the then-innovative format of videotape and released as a major motion picture (for which Whitmore received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.)
The play begins with Truman’s days in the White House, a tumultuous time. After three terms of Franklin Roosevelt guiding the nation through the Depression and World War II, FDR’s death propelled Truman into the Oval Office, introducing a new president that the nation knew only slightly (as FDR knew him only slightly.) Truman’s first four months in office were some of the most critical and overwhelming any President has ever faced: Four months that saw the founding of the United Nations, the fall of Berlin, victory at Okinawa, firebombing in Tokyo, the Nazi Surrender, the liberation of concentration camps, mass starvation in Europe, the controversial decision to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the surrender of Imperial Japan, and finally, the end of World War II and the rise of the Cold War. After Franklin Roosevelt died, and the unknown senator from Missouri took the oath of office, what was called Truman’s “Accidental Presidency” began. But his performance as leader of a changing world in crisis during those whirlwind four months, and after, continues to enhance his reputation and regard.
Two recent books underline the continued interest in and appreciation of Truman’s term in office. Chris Wallace’s “Countdown 1945” focuses on those first few months of the Truman presidency, narrowing in on the final preparations and Truman’s decision to use the Atomic Bomb to end World War II. And A.J. Baime’s “Dewey Defeats Truman” moves ahead to 1948, when Truman’s whistle-stop tour of America helped his underdog campaign win back the White House. (Baime also wrote 2017’s “The Accidental President,” which explores the first four months of the Truman presidency in detail, but also gives a good, balanced overview of his early life and career in Missouri.)
Through research, Midnight (along with most everyone else) came to the conclusion that Harry S. Truman was, at minimum, a decent human being who sat in the Oval Office. It was their goal through this play to offer that example, and to instigate more thought about the type of person that should lead our nation.
At the time of this writing, “Give ‘em Hell Harry” is still scheduled to run this Sept. 17-Nov. 3, at .ZACK Theatre.
At The Kranzberg Theatres: The Fall Shows – New Show For October?
And for an on-going theatre company, the selection of which plays to present never ends.
For Midnight, with the rescheduling of “It Is Magic,” there are now open dates in late October. Midnight does not have to fill those dates, but already has a play in their pocket that — worldwide pandemic allowing — will run at that time.
And also for Midnight, that leaves June 7-June 27, 2021, at the Black Box Theatre inside The Kranzberg waiting. Hoping things will be back to some kind of (new) normal, the Company is currently looking into a number of scripts for that time.
Joe Hanrahan is the Artistic Director of The Midnight Company. As an actor and director, Joe has worked with many St. Louis theatre groups, including the St. Louis Rep, the Black Rep, Upstream, Stray Dog, Metro Theatre, New Jewish Theatre, the West End Players, R-S Theatrics and SATE. As a playwright, his scripts have been produced by companies and festivals in Kansas, Brooklyn and St. Louis. As a company, Midnight has produced many works new to St. Louis in a variety of spaces, as well as performing at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and the Jesse James Farm in Kearney, MO.
This pairing was recommended by artist Hayveyah McGowan ahead of her virtual opening reception for the exhibition “Feelings of Home: A need to simplify,” on Friday, July 10, at 7 pm on Instagram Live.
“In this context ‘maternal surroundings’ are not bound to the idea of a certain sex rather its the qualities of birthing receptivity, nurture, and sensuality, all expressed through the subtle realm and reinforced in the physical. Through this alchemical process I want to call attention to, not only, the unique ways that the black maternal lineage creates safety but also the synchronicity and rooted need for safety that we share.”
“We’ve been trying [to find an office space] since we were established in 2015,” said Harvey Lockhart, executive and artistic director of HEAL. “We’ve been with the Foundation since 2016, and [Kranzberg Arts Foundation Executive Director Chris Hansen] has been actively trying to find a fit for us. It’s been a long time coming.”
The Foundation invested in rehabbing the house after acquiring it in 2019, and the space opened for the resident organizations in June 2020, with COVID-19 mitigation policies in place.
“Having our own location gives us the flexibility to create the programming we know students need,” Lockhart said.
HEAL offers music programming for students including lessons and camps, and according to Lockhart, they will now have more adaptability to generate income in the new space. The organization formerly worked out of local high schools, which was convenient for the students, though not having a centralized location proved challenging at times.
“COVID-19 definitely is causing us to think outside the box a little in regards to what we do,” Lockhart said. “There’s definitely space [at the Hansen House] for us to have a virtual studio where we can do some live-streaming courses and pre-recorded courses.”
HEAL’s curriculum not only teaches students how to play music, but it also teaches them about the music business, including negotiating contracts and booking gigs for the ensemble Point of View, which tours regionally.
Similarly, Fly North Theatricals Artistic Director Colin Healy said the new office space also allows him and the Fly North team to make digital resources amid the pandemic.
“We’ve been producing online content — we’ve sort of switched over to that this summer, and that became our new summer plan, which is kind of awesome and has been fun,” Healy said. The theater company originally planned to present “Assassins” this summer at .ZACK Theatre, however, the production’s opening night has been postponed until Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.
“We’re making lemonade,” Healy added.
Now the organization occupies a space that includes an office where Healy will conduct voice lessons when it is safe to do so (bookings available in September); a rehearsal space for private, physically-distanced dance lessons (bookings available in July); and a production studio.
This summer, Fly North has launched a new podcast called “Grown-Up Theater Kids,” an episodic program called “Gin & The Tonic,” which is a “reckless unpacking of music history’s weirdest stories,” and another video series that spotlights local actors.
Prior to moving into the Hansen House this summer, Healy said the organization was challenged by not having a centralized work and rehearsal space.
“We were renting three different spaces essentially,” Healy said. “It was totally inefficient and, not to mention, expensive.”
“Infrastructure is one of the hardest things for arts organizations to maintain and fundraise for,” said Andrew Warshauer, Marketing and Communications Director for Kranzberg Arts Foundation. “That’s why our mission is to provide the arts with the infrastructure they need to thrive. It helps to fill a gap, and allows our city’s art scene to flourish.”
“We’re so grateful to have our own home and grow and really provide the services students need,” Lockhart said.
Healy echoed the sentiment, “It’s just such a flexible and beautiful space, and it means really everything to us. We’ve finally been able to consolidate all the things that we are … To the Kranzbergs, thank you.”
We asked our Kranzberg Arts Foundation family, “What does Pride mean to you this year?” Here are some of the responses we gathered.
“I came out of the closet in my early 20’s during the mid-’90s. When I came out I vowed to never go back in; not for a relationship, job, or any reason whatsoever. It has been a long road filled with daily battles for equality… every battle has been totally worth it.
“I live in a state that hates me. It fought against my right to live as an out and proud homosexual man, marry my husband, adopt a child, and even still to this day allowed others to discriminate against me in my workplace.
“If there is a right for a straight man in Missouri the state government will actively and openly work to keep that same right away from a gay man.
“Missouri may hate the LGBTQIA+ community, but Lady Liberty loves us and she proved again [this month] that love always conquers hate.”
“I’m thinking about Rem’mie Fells, Riah Milton, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, Kiwi Herring, & way too many other Black trans folx murdered at the hands of state-sponsored violence, white supremacy, transphobia, & other systemic oppression. I’m thinking about all of the Indigenous trans & two-spirit folx who are murdered and missing, whose stories are usually erased and unheard under the same violent systems of power that are taking their lives. And how none of them get to live to celebrate their queerness, their joy, their magic, their fierceness, their aliveness.
“As a queer mixed-race east Asian femme artist, this time for me is another reminder of how acutely I (& we, but to speak for myself) need to continue to examine and use my roles, my art, and my relationships to power, privilege, and oppression to co-shape the reality many of us want to see. One that centers Black and Indigenous liberation & life & pleasure & creativity & wellness & leadership — especially that of Black & Indigenous trans womxn & two-spirit folx & non-binary folx & queer folx.
“These are celebrations [Juneteeth and Pride] of our human rights. What we do now and from now on will contribute to the changes we need for our future, for equal rights, and for equal treatment as a human race.”
“For me, PRIDE is about celebrating diversity, inclusion, and the LGBTQIA+ community. It is a time to actively promote one’s self-affirmation and for everyone to reflect on the true meaning of acceptance and love for all of humanity.”
“I salute Pride Month. I honor my LGBTQ colleagues in the Arts. And I’m so happy about this [month’s] landmark Supreme Court decision, making this month, perhaps, the most significant Pride Month ever.
“And I salute all my fellow humans, of whatever stripe, who are carrying on through the challenges of our time to lead us to a brighter future for all.”
“It’s fitting then that Juneteenth and Pride are celebrated in the same month. Both groups have endured struggle, hardship, and inequality, fighting tooth and nail for every inch of acceptance within the majority culture. Black and LGBTQIA communities have much to celebrate, but their celebration is bittersweet, not just this year but every year. The fact that these two groups share celebratory space isn’t all that weird when we consider how inequality and injustice found in American society are often interconnected by systems, institutions, and individuals.
“One of my favorite Black authors also happened to be a Gay man; James Baldwin. He is the originator of the quote in the illustration. He reminds us that our character, integrity, leadership, love, is determined by how we treat those who have been pushed to the bottom, denied their full expression of humanity, left to be forgotten.
“Celebration, with its twin sides of lamentation and joy, helps us to combat this desire to forget people not like us. It helps us see the other as just as human as us, full of the same emotions of joy and sorrow, fear and courage, hope, and despair. I hope [this] month gives you an opportunity to learn about the many beautiful aspects of Black and LGBTQIA culture, why they are worth celebrating, and that you not shy away from the sorrowful bits, but instead learn to sit with others in both their grief and their joy.
“We can never be the America we say we want to be if we do not learn how to love our neighbor as fully human, worth of dignity and justice, and worthy of our care and concern, regardless of color, nationality, orientation, gender, age, ability, religion, political affiliation, class, and any other distinction we could put out there. “