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Hip-Hop Against Homophobia: The fight rages on
Bedlam Theatre. It's only the first in a month-long series of events designed to raise awareness of queer and social justice causes, and how hip-hop can be a part of that movement.
• Promoting queer and ally hip-hop artists
Hip-hop, of course, is no stranger to political movements, yet given the frequent usage of terms like “faggot” and “bitch nigga” by male MCs to denigrate and feminize other MCs, the use of hip-hop to combat homophobia might seem a bit counterintuitive. “Hip-hop is lots of things, but one thing it can be is an art form for social justice,” says Jessica Rosenberg, one of the organizers of this month's events. “If hip-hop is working for social justice, queer rights are a part of that.” She went on to list a number of goals she shares with the other organizers of Hip-Hop Against Homophobia:
• Promoting queer and ally hip-hop artists
• Building queer allies in the hip-hop community
• Educating around queer and progressive issues
• Bringing the vibrant Twin Cities hip-hop and queer communities more deliberately together
• Creating safe spaces for queer folks to attend hip-hop shows
Finally, she says, they want “to put on a damn good show, and raise money for queer causes while we do it!” Those planning on attending the event had best get to the Bedlam early, as the Nomad quickly filled to capacity in January and the doors had to be locked, leaving many locked out in the cold.
Performing at Bedlam will be Tori Fixx, Chicago's Johnny Dangerous, Lindsey of 2 Flytz Up, Bottom Feeders and EZRA of Death Ray Scientific, See More Perspective and the Point of View Band, Poetic Assassins, and DJ Blowtorch spinning all night long. Tori Fixx and Johnny Dangerous are featured in Alex Hinson's excellent documentary on queer hip-hop Pick Up the Mic, which will be released on DVD later this month. The show will benefit Color CoordiNATION, which aims to connect all LGBT communities of color; GLBT Host Home Program, a group dedicated to finding homes for homeless people who identify as LGBT (especially youth); and Reclaim, which is dedicated to increasing access to mental health services for LGBT youth. The event is sponsored by Culture Bully, Cypher Coalition, TrúRúts/Speakeasy Records, and the Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance.
Hip-Hop Against Homophobia is not just about making MCs change their lyrics. It is also about achieving queer rights on a much broader scale, as well as expanding people's ideas of what the fight for queer rights means. “There is this appearance that the only thing that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people care about is gay marriage and don’t-ask-don’t-tell," says Rosenberg, "which is totally untrue. I’m motivated to show the diversity of things that we as queer people care about, politically, spiritually, musically, everything. We have so many goals, and we know we can't do them all with shows. That's where community conversation and ally education comes in.”
Before the show, a community conversation about hip-hop homophobia will be held in at Bedlam's Fireplace Lounge, where fans are invited to help set the movement's agenda. On Tuesday June 23, the organizers will hold a hip-hop ally training session at the Pillsbury House Theater. Led by Rosenberg, Kyle “Guante” Myhre, Cypher Coalition, and the Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance, the event will focus on the basics of gender identity and sexual and gender liberation, and then how to build on those goals in and through hip-hop. (There will also be an all-ages show in Hopkins on June 27th featuring Guante and Big Cats!, Barton Stink, and Phonetic one.)
All of these goals, however, start with the potential inherent in a night of beats and rhymes. “We want to create a space for folks who have similar social justice visions to come together, break down boundaries -and build relationships having fun and dancing,” she says. “Then we are all more familiar with each other, less afraid, less convinced by the forces that try to divide and conquer us.”
Justin Schell (612to651 [at] gmail [dot] com) is a freelance writer and grad student in Minneapolis, working on a book and documentary about immigrant, refugee, and diasporic hip-hop here in the Twin Cities. For more on the project, see 612to651.com.
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©2009 Justin Schell