I just saw tonight’s performance of An Evening with Warriors: Speaking the Unspoken at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica and came away profoundly touched by the raw stories and testimonials of people of color in the LGBTQ community. Their voices are often untold and unheard within the greater struggle for equality and recognition, and the night was dedicated to acknowledging their stories, their challenges and their triumphs against oppression and homophobia.
Patrisse Cullors, the writer, director and producer, was kind enough to be interviewed before the show by Alexandria Marcus, of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s Leadership LAB. She spoke about her personal journey as both queer and a person of color growing up in Los Angeles, and Marcus alluded to how timely and important the show is in raising awareness as California’s new law AB 1266, protecting transgender students, is already being challenged.
Tonight’s opening show was a sold-out gathering as family, friends and allies packed the cozy performance space and gallery. The show also featured powerful art by D. Edwin King, whose art addresses racial disparity, homophobia and oppression. The evening started with a monologue, A Warriors Memory, by Cullors, tracing the arc of her life, growing up in LA’s inner city neighborhoods. From witnessing both gang and police violence, to coming out as queer, and becoming empowered as both an artist and an activist, the monologue was deeply personal, touching upon every intimate milestone in her life.
The second act, Warriors: Dressed in Queer, Cloaked in Now, is a reading of “coming out” letters written by 4 queer and trans people of color: Hala Dillsi, a Palestinian Muslim with devout parents. Vic Quintanar, a Black Latina raised by a single parent. Rey Fukuda, a Japanese-Paraguayan, whose mother lived under dictatorship. Jermond “Set” Davis, an African-American who found acceptance in a street gang.
None of them are actors and every letter they took turns reading was of their own personal life narrative: 4 very different stories, from places of pain, confusion and rejection, to ultimately healing, acceptance and love. Two of them became overwhelmed in tears from the powerful readings and I doubt there was a dry eye in the place, with so much poignant emotion in such a close, intimate space.
Each vulnerable, honest reading ended with the mantra, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to hate so stubbornly…is because they sense that once the hate is gone, they have to deal with the pain.” Powerful and deeply affecting truth — so much so, that thankfully, the audience was given breaks in between acts, to take it all in and discuss and share their own feelings with each other.
There was a great Q&A following the show and Cullors noted that when they first performed this in West Hollywood, they felt like they were part of an Occupy movement — to have voices of color heard is in itself revolutionary in the predominantly white gay community there. The show is only being performed one more time tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 1 at 8:30pm and tickets are still available. Family, friends and allies, I highly recommend you get your ticket before it sells out like tonight and see this show!