If you are looking for QPOC spaces in the Pittsburgh community and are interested in some great entertainment, come out to the 9th Annual My People Series on Saturday, November 18th from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.
According to the official description, the “My People Series explores the life of queer people of color through award-winning films, community conversations and performances to celebrate the rich contributions made by LGBTQIA people of color. This program is a platform for new works and alternative perspectives that amplify underrepresented voices to build a strong, active, and vibrant community.” The My People series aims to “celebrate the strength and diverse talents of LGBTQ POC through innovative artistic practices in our 1st annual Queer Artist Showcase.” There will be a pre-mixer from 7 p.m.-8 p.m. with performances kicking off from 8 p.m.-9 p.m. followed by a post-show discussion with the performers and a dance reception at the end.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Duane Binion, Senior Producer, at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, and Xo-Executive Director of True T PGH (formerly True T Entertainment). We spoke mainly about the purpose of the Annual My People Series, the importance of having QPOC platforms in the LGBTQIA community, and about the talented artists performing in the 1st Queer Artist Showcase.
Renata Mitchell: What can queer enthusiasts expect when they attend the My People series?
Duane Binion: Folks can expect to see a diverse lineup of talented artists that are no strangers to the stage. This weekend’s lineup includes Princess Jafar, Brittney Chantele, Trevor Miles (of Trevor C. Dance Collective), Mara Daviis and Tinky Younger (of #kNOwSHADE Vogue Performance Ensemble), Nick Daniels – The DANA Movement Ensemble, and Lamar Williams. All of these artists have been taking major strides over the past few years to solidify their mark in the local art scene and will join us to share their artistic practices through dance, through singing, and through visuals.
RM: In what ways is the Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) involved in the LGBTQIA community?
Binion: The KST has always been a strong supporter of queer artists. Through its inception, KST’s Executive Director, Janera Solomon, and KST in general, have worked with a variety of queer artists of many ethnicities including Igor and Moreno, Sean Dorsey Dance, Nick Daniels – The DANA Movement Ensemble, Anthony Williams, True T Entertaiment, Jean-Paul Weaver, and Billy Porter. Though every artist might not necessarily be billed as “THIS AMAZING NEW GAY ARTIST,” the Kelly Strayhorn Theater is a strong believer in providing inclusive and diverse atmospheres to educate and creatively express yourself through multi-disciplines of art. Since 2009, we have strived to provide the LGBTQIA communities of color with meaningful resource sharing, art, entertainment, media, community activism, and giving folks a voice when otherwise left unheard.
RM: What is this year’s mission for the My People series?
Binion: In past years we have highlighted the many films and documentaries, both new and old, created by innovative forward thinking people of color in honor of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s namesake (Billy Strayhorn), who was a black queer man native to Pittsburgh, specifically Homewood. This year it was very important to me to create a platform for our local artists to share and express themselves through whatever artistic practice they might choose, in order to highlight the many stories of the various LGBTQIA people of color residing today in the city of Pittsburgh.
RM: Why is the My People series important to you?
Binion: The My People series is important to me because there is little support for providing meaningful platforms in which queer artists (especially those of color) can comfortably come together to share their art without the fear of being judged or ridiculed. Many queer artists of color find themselves struggling to understand exactly where they fit in today’s art scene, and though as times continue to change and the mindsets progress from 1900 to 2017, the My People series will continue to provide that safe space for coming together.