Non-binary talent shines at Roxbury’s OUT’hood Fest
Celina Colby | 11/1/2017, 11:36 a.m.
Last week, The Theater Offensive debuted OUT’hood FEST, a music festival featuring original works by LGBTQ artists of color, at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. Born from the OUT’hood Residency Program, a Theater Offensive program that supports artwork by and for LGBTQ people, the festival featured six talents over seven days.
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To learn more about the OUT’hood artists, visit: www.thetheateroffensive.org
Black Venus, a Boston-bred writer, actor and vocalist kicked off the festival with their multimedia piece “Speculum” over a two-day period. In their artist statement Black Venus wrote, “To be black and queer is to be rendered invisible. Throughout our existence, black queer and trans people have carved out our own spaces to overcome dominant social perspectives that invalidate our lives and experiences.”
Hip-hop artist Billy Dean Thomas, known as “The Queer B.I.G,” performed from her 10-track conceptual album Rocky Barboa. The album follows the narrative of a boxing match while drawing parallels between the bob and weave of the fight and the rhythm and rhyme of the hip-hop genre. The fight theme also references Thomas’s own experience fighting for recognition as a queer artist in a male dominated genre. Thomas graduated from Smith College with a degree in Cultural Psychology and that intellectual background shines in her lyrics, which highlight intersectional feminism and #blacklivesmatter among other topics.
The festival represented inclusivity in both gender and sexual orientation and artistic media. In addition to traditional performances, the festival also hosted experiences and installations with crowd participation. OUT’hood Resident Artist Eddie Maisonet led “The QTPOC Mixtape Project,” an interactive piece meant to make space for the stories of Boston queer people of color. Storytelling stations facilitated by Queer & Trans People of Color (QTPOC) and Community Storytellers Erin Ebony, Danny Harris Sr., J.D. Stokely and Cheyenne Harvey, fostered a group dialogue about the changing culture of Boston, and what that means for the queer community.
Maisonet is an Afro Puerto Rican queer non-binary artist, who aims to create healing in his community through storytelling. Through sharing experiences, people can both come to terms with their own stories, and learn from those of others.
The OUT’hood Residency Program supports local artists with mentorship, resources and
financial assistance. The Theater Offensive itself has been supporting LGBTQ artists and making work for an LGBTQ audience since 1989. Their mission is more important than ever in a cultural climate where artists of color and LGBTQ makers still struggle for representation.
OUT’hood Fest provided a platform for both underrepresented artists and bold, important artworks. It begs the audience to imagine what spectacular work could be created, and shown, if every festival included these groups.