SGN – The members of Voices Rising share inspirational stories

by Scott Rice – SGN Contributing Writer

Voices Rising is a literary performance and spoken word event series designed to showcase LGBTQ artists of color from the Pacific Northwest, according to the program from the December 5, 2008 performance at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. Friday’s show exclusively featured artists under 25 years old.

I often find myself wondering if the young Queer people are really connected to the history of our civil rights movement. I came out in the ’80s when being young and Queer meant you were automatically a member of a larger community, a politically and culturally homogenous community that developed in response to the pandemic that was so pervasive and devastating. We marched, we boycotted, we disrupted, and we sewed quilts, and we did it together. Yes, the sense of community was overshadowed with a dark cloud, but the sense of community was tangible.

Today, in spite of recent setbacks precipitated by a tyrannical majority of breeders in California and elsewhere, it’s easy to think of young Queer people as having little invested in a community that is more fractured and less essential. It’s easy to believe they are less connected to today’s elderly Queer community, the same people who literally put their lives on the line daily simply by coming out as little as 40 years ago.

After Friday’s performance of Voices Rising, I won’t be wondering about these things any more. The artists performing Friday night were smart, talented, and well-read. They obviously have engaged both the community of color and the Queer community artistically and intellectually. Keep an eye out because these kids are going places.

The powerful yet fun show was emceed by the charming Justin Huertas, a singer/actor/musician with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater from Pacific Lutheran University. Performers included Landon Longhill, a biracial Trangendered Washington State poet with a rich and honest voice, a wonderful young poet who asked their name not be used for this article, Jus Moni, a beautiful young singer with a golden voice, Crystal Ybarra, a 25-year-old mother of one whose father is serving life in prison and whose mother died of AIDS when she was 14, and THEESatisfaction, a groovy twosome with a penchant for fusing nebula jazz, intergalactic soul, and astronomical a capella (their description, not mine).

Voices Rising was created by Storme Webber, a self-described Black Native Lesbian involved for over 30 years in LGBTQ of color arts communities in the Bay Area, NYC, London, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam and Brazil. Webber is the artistic director of the series that debuted at the Richard Hugo House in July 2007. It was intended as a single performance, but the response was so powerful and positive that Webber partnered with other community members and turned it into a series aiming for four performances each year. Look for a performance in April 2009 and another performance to coincide with Pride festivities in June.