A queerness in Harlem, finely revived

Burlesque favorite The Lady Vagina Jenkins performs at Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance

Visual alchemy, fabulous feminist story-telling, and something deemed “hyper-literate busking” abound at 2012’s Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance fesitval, three nights of art and performance (Thu/28-Sat/30) by 21 LGBTQ African Americans.

Part of the 15th National Queer Arts Festival, Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance continues the legacy of the droves of artists, performers, and activists who questioned stale societal standards in a myriad ways during the heyday of the New York City neighborhood's 1920s and 30s creative blossoming: from sensual lyrics of Bessie Smith to the pointed poetics of Langston Hughes, the artists of the Harlem Renaissance continue to testify to the assertion that social causes are rarely separate and constantly progressing.

“The explosion of artistic, intellectual, and sexual freedom during the Harlem Renaissance created new possibilities,” explains Celeste Chan over the phone. She co-directs the performance series with Kali Boyce -- together they're known as the Queer Rebels. “We think that dialogue on race, gender, and sexuality grew naturally during the Harlem Renaissance because these were people’s real experiences, and what they wanted to create art about. We’re thankful for the elders and the artists who paved the way for us, whose shoulders we stand on.”

Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance reinforces the idea that it is necessary to understand a past in order to create a future. Thus, paying proper homage to the Harlem Renaissance artists who opened the possibility for social change and activist dialogue, the performance schedule for Queer Rebels consists largely of dance, story-telling and readings, and music. Earl Thomas, Sista Monica, and "Drag King of the Blues" TuffNStuff operate within the jazz and blues traditions -- however, the show also expands to mediums of artistic expression not so common in 1920’s America, such as political film,  contemporary music, and visual alchemy with appearances from the likes of short-filmmaker Crystal Mason, punk rock dancer Brontez Purnell, and visual artist Adee Roberson. 
(Check out the incredible-sounding lineup here.)

“Artists and queers are up against a lot, and have always been society’s outsiders, the ones who have and will lead the way,” says Chan, “Today, we are able to live unapologetically queer lives and create our own spaces because of the work that the Harlem Renaissance artists did.”


Thu/28.-Sat/30, 8pm, $15-$25

African American Art and Culture Complex

762 Fulton, SF.


Tickets:  www.brownpapertickets.com/event/246312


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