POP+ Pride: Centering the Work of Black Queer Creators
(still image of Meysha Harville from the play 'Don't Call it a Riot!'; photo via Gracian Grabowski)
Disclaimer: Due to the graphic and exploitative nature of the violence perpetrated against Black bodies often being sensationalized, this blog will feature images of Black queer joy and Black joy out of respect for the sacredness of those black bodies and to contrast the historic cultural voyeurism that often accompanies Black pain and death.
As a Black, queer creative, it has taken me many years to feel secure in embracing the multitudes that exist within myself and within my art. I am a performer. I am a writer. I am an artist. I am an educator. And while these are often the things I choose to announce about myself, it would seem, however, to the world at large, the loudest thing about me is my Blackness. My Blackness, though not a choice, is an integral part of the art I create. And like so many fellow Black artists who came before me, I choose to let my art speak on my behalf.
For centuries, storytelling has been the way to preserve Black history and to educate younger generations. The movements for Black liberation, LGBTQ+ equality, and pop culture are linked through expression and activism. We chant song lyrics at protests. We recreate history on stage so people can visualize the need for change. We create hashtags on social media to raise awareness. We incorporate current events into TV shows like Star, 911 Lone Star, and Elite. These platforms are used to spread awareness and create opportunities for representation and set the stage for change. Series like Pose, centered on the LGBTQ+ community of color and the ballroom scene of early-’90s New York City help bring awareness to aspects of our culture that have been largely ignored by the mainstream.
Pride month is upon us and while a large portion of the LGBTQ+ population are exalting the many rainbow-themed advertisements and trinkets pushed upon them by corporations, Black queer and trans artists are occupying Pride month by raising resources by way of funds, foods, housing, and advocating for important causes on our platforms. As we leverage our creativity and do our own organizing, Black queer and trans folks are exercising our agency in a way that echoes the words of Malcolm X: "Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything... you take it."
As I reflect on the history of the Stonewall riots 51 years agothat evolved into what we now celebrate as Pride, during 2020—one of the most tumultuous years in recent history—I find myself feeling most proud of my fellow Black queer creators who, despite needing to fight for survival daily, are still finding space to create and support other artists. Right now, local youth artists are performing educational sit-ins in an area of Seattle now called CHOP (Capitol Hill Organized Protest) and are using music, spoken word, and visual art to call for defunding of police in the city.
At MoPOP, we have been celebrating all month with POP+ Pride virtual events and content. Nearly every week this month, a different local drag artist took over MoPOP’s Instagram for a live show (join us Thursday, June 25 to see Kylie Mooncakes showcase a MoPOP-inspired pop culture look). In our MoPOP Book Club, we're exploring two short stories from N.K. Jemisin’s collection How Long 'til Black Future Month? (register for our Monday, June 29 virtual discussion right here). And we'vealso partnered with Seattle Pride and Three Dollar Bill Cinema for a handful of online activations this Sunday, June 28, curating a special block of activism webinars and short film watchalongs that spotlight QPOC actors, creators, and stories. Head to togetherforpride.org to learn more about this weekend's events.