So I'm stuck in Chicago during that whopping blizzard. Dang. Luckily I have a six pack, some ramen, and a giant lollipop. Hopefully I'll be able to get out of here in the next couple of days to be on my way to Creating Change.
I miss Indiana and all the amazing people I've met so far. Chicago is ok, but too cold for my bones. I arrived on Sunday night since I had planned to go to the Green Mill slam for the first time. I was so excited to be going to the country's oldest slam hosted by the founder of the modern slam competition himself Marc Smith, but unfortunately it was terrible.
The host was kind enough to let me on the open mic even though I arrived late, and then proceeded to welcome me to the windy city with nagging New York haterade. As soon as I asked the amazing jazz band for loving and sweet accompaniment, he began to hate on love poems. When I finished, he claimed not to have a heart. For a queer and trans person who fights for and struggles with love and being loved, it has taken me a long time to write love poems. The poem I read that evening entitled 26 Steps was a love poem that examined being trans within a romantic interaction, transition and memory, and queer dynamic. He obviously did not care or listen because as soon as I finished he mocked me by parodying my poem and then pointing out all the ladies now approaching me. What was actually happening was that a friend of mine was there and we were catching up. His offensive, inappropriate, and queerphobic banter made me feel incredibly unsafe and uncomfortable. I especially felt unsafe with the restrooms being at the front of the stage in a packed house with clearly marked gendered doors and the mens room stall lacking a lock and also having a revealing gap making it impossible to use without being exposed. This kind of anxiety I am used to, but it was unexpected in a free speech slam venue.
I was incredibly disappointed and embarrassed by the man who claims to be the founder of slam. I thought he was going to be so cool, but he was the antithesis of everything I thought slam was founded on and ran a venue that was so hostile I could hardly believe he was the same man who told the New York Times that slam poetry is for the people. I had never been to such an oppressive venue. The other highlights from his hosting included rape jokes, transphobic drag jokes, a poem about wanting to be a sex seeking hound dog (consent neither addressed or implied), and calling himself a lecherous old man.
The audience did have a number of queers since the feature was Cin Salach and some of the slammer were openly queer. The feature read beautiful poems about love and mother hood and the slam was exciting and fun. So it wasn't a total loss, but it was certainly tainted by Smith who seems like the kind of guy you avoid talking to at a party wanting to tell you about his upcoming trip to Mexico(he was leaving the next day) and how awesome he is, blah, blah, blah.
If Mr. Smith ever happens to read this- no I will not educate you. There is a a thing called the internet you can use to google some resources and probably a yahoo group you can join on how to be a better ally and person.
After all this, I found comfort in talking to my friend and fellow spoken word artist Kay Ulanday Barrett who has spent a lot of time in the area. He confirmed that the venue was not the best place for a trans person of color and that the venue has a history of being hostile. He is kind, patient, and understands the landscape of the Chicago arts scene. Admittedly, I should have checked in with him before attending.
But all this does make me remember that there is a reason I remained in slam for so long and a reason why I keep going back even though I know every night is a mix of amazing talent and offensive turds- we cannot let them kill us. I appreciate and love the readings, slam, and open mics that have come from rejecting the mainstream slams, but sometimes we have to go back and kick some ass to remind them that we haven't died, that we're out here and that we can play with the best of them and beat them at their own game.
Ok, I'm tired of ranting. But I do have a renewed energy to continue my work and to am looking forward to Creating Change where thousands of queers from all over the country will be building a creating strategies, art, and resources for a better world.
Above you will see the lollipop to keep me entertained during the storm, a very exciting store front I saw in Indiana, and a word I got to make during bananagrams.
It's been an adventure already! So far I:
1. Had an amazing show at Eastern Michigan University for Gender Week through their LGBT Center, and tried a beer that knocked me off my ass. Michigan beer is hella official.
2. Made my way down to Indianapolis to the K.U.N.T. Collective run by Rexy, where I did my first house show and really felt the kind of love that a beautiful and intentional queer community is filled with. I almost got a tattoo from Kat the tattoo artist I stayed with and the ink outline is still on my arm. I'm thinking about going back for it on my way up, but I'm a little bit scared since it'll be my first. I also fed ducks and saw a chicken limo.
3. Drove down to the BloomingOUT radio station and had a nice chat with the djs down there about my upcoming shows and life on the road.
Everyone here in the midwest is really nice which I am not used to living in NY. It keep surprising me every time someone says hi to me on the street or asks me how I'm doing. I could get used to this.
I'm currently sitting in Bloomington, IN at Rachel's Cafe before my show tonight at Boxcar Books where I once performed with the Tranny Roadshow. I remember the last performance was a full house, filled with college students and community members packed into this progressive bookstore and meeting place and feeling like Bloomington is the kind of place that I could stay forever. Last night I met up with my new friend Taylor from Boxcar books at the Bloomington LGBT Film Festival and get to watch the opening performance by the Bloomington Burlesque Brigade and then I stayed for the Film Slam and all the shorts.
I went to bed thinking about the burlesque performance and the short films that both made me laugh and cry. Living in NY, I have been exposed to tons of hawt, weird, and cutting edge burlesque acts that have ranged from confusing to brilliant. Here in Bloomington the troupe here is a large one with 15-20 people of various burlesque personas and presentations. I was impressed by the staging and the production, since I didn't expect such a highly produced show in the limited time that they had on stage. The pieces were very well thought out and at times very queer ex: red riding hood+ high femme big bad wolf kiss scene and a butch star in the opening number. The closing number showcased the entire troupe in which the personalities of each member was allowed to shine from a riot girl to pin-up girl and that's when I understood their aesthetic and performance mission. They created a troupe of body positive, gender variant, and beautifully choreographed numbers in which queer, feminist, and other political themes were used to add a new layer meaning to the songs. As I watched the troupe undo their corsets at the very end of the show I was taken by the beauty and statement in that very simple act of expression and defiance. Someday I'll come back and watch a full show since I only got a taste of their show.
The short films were also pretty great the standout for me being Bury Me In Red a film that made me cry with it's story set at a transgender woman's funeral where she is dressed in a suit to the horror of all of her friends and chosen family. I won't say too much since it's a short and if I give a synopsis, I will give a lot of the story away, but I will say that the honesty and simplicity of the emotions in the characters was what made the film stand out.
I have sound check in 15 minutes, so if you're in Bloomington come on down to Boxcar! More later when I get to my hotel room in Chicago! Bai friends!
Happy New Year! It's midnight and I'm still packing to hit the road for the next 3 weeks in the Midwest!
Before I get going, I just wanted to send a quick update with what I've been doing:
1.Spring and Fall 2011-2012 still booking- I'd love to come to your town or school this year and we're still booking! Please get in touch with OUTmedia for available college dates or OUTlaws for other venues!
2. New Live Album- This past summer I went on a little tour with my good friend and talented musician and singer-songwriter Sharon Mok and we recorded a live album that I'm really proud of. Visit my store to purchase one or to see some of my other new merchandise items! I now have posters and "My Gender is Fuck You Mind Your Own Business" tote bags! Lots of Stuff on clearance too to make room for new merch!
3. Tour- I'm gonna hit the road for a 3 week run in the midwest tomorrow morning with dates in Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Check my tour calendar to see if I'll be in your area. This year I will again be at Creating Change hosting and performing at the MasQueerade Ball!
Thank you so much for staying with me and all your love and support.
Keep on the lookout for news from the road.
Here's a pic of the new Tote Bag!
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Upcoming 2013 Shows:May 14: City College of New York, 6:30-8:30pm, The Rifkind Room, 137th and Convent, Harlem, NY.
May 17: Sidewalk Cafe, 8:00pm, NYC, NY.
June 1: Staten Island Pride Festival, 1:00-5:00pm, Staten Island, NY.
June 1: Pride Afterparty: 120 Bay Cafe, 6:00pm-10:00pm, Staten Island, NY.
June 28: NYC Pride Rally, 7:00-10:00pm, NYC, NY.
Kit is also booking for his 2012/2013 SLAMMED:Poetry Seen Tour. Please visit Booking Information to reserve your date!