Pop Culture Watch!

Even as I stewed in my disappointment over Proposition Eight passing in California I was planning this post. As the struggle for LBGTQ rights continues on there are many inspiring artists out there expressing their outrage, hope, determination, and all of the emotions that go with this battle in beautiful and inspiring ways. These are just a few that I’ve experienced myself… enjoy!

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“Alix Olson is an internationally touring folk poet and progressive queer artist-activist. One part peace vigil, one part protest rally, and one part joyful raucous concert, Alix ignites audiences everywhere she performs. Olson’s innumerable stage, broadcast, radio and print appearances include twice headlining HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” (Russell Simmons), and an inclusion in Utne Magazine’s InRadio compilation.”

ao_hoodieAlix and her friend Pamela Means (also awesome, check out her music!) came to perform at my college in November of 2008 – they were fantastic! Alix’s poetry is inspiring and incites a strong desire to do something for women’s rights, gay rights, and just generally human rights. meanwhile, Pamela’s beautiful singing and guitar playing provided a musical backdrop that made the experience significantly more memorable and unique. I rarely purchase CDs but I had to run right over to the merchandise table once they was done performing to get myself a CD! Eve’s Mouth is probably my favorite Alix Olson piece but pretty much anything she’s done is fantastic! Look her up on myspace or youtube if you need something socially-conscious and upbeat to get you through the day.

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Ok, the name Athens Boys Choir can be a bit deceiving but you can’t blame a Jewish Transsexual man living in the Deep South for having a sense of humor about the whole ordeal. So Katz, the Choir’s now solo member, travels the country speaking “the good word” throwing down hard hitting spokenword that deals with issues of Gender, Politics, Love, Sex, and everything in-between including but not limited to spooning. Katz’s spokenword is raw, unapologetic, witty, and soulful.

1_k4q1125-1-1Although I only caught the end of his performance at my college I haven’t been able to forget the Athens Boys Choir since. After seeing his posters around campus and reading about him online, for some reason I expected to be intimidate by someone who is so talented and outgoing about his beliefs. However, I should have known that anyone who could describe himself as, “a sassy gendah’ bendah’ with a tendency towards homosexuality. An educator, activist, Jew-boy, dog-loving, beer-drinking, kareoke singing fool.” would be someone I’d feel right at home with. Although I did not get to speak one on one with Katz, the “choir’s” single member, due to time constraints his warm and inviting stage presence left me wishing I could call him a friend. Katz’s music is well written, catchy, blunt, and totally engrossing. I especially loved his song Fagette which can be viewed here. The title of this piece also provides an excellent example of removing the power behind hatespeak by reclaiming the word as a positive (more on this later in the week!). If you’re presented with the opportunity to see the Athens Boys Choir in action (he performs at a bunch of colleges and universities among other places!) don’t hesitate, do it! I know I will be there the next opportunity I get, and this time I won’t miss a second!

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“Milk” is not about a man; it’s about a movement. This is not the life story of Harvey Milk, the first openly homosexual man elected to a major office in America. We get glimpses of how he used to live his life before coming out of the closet, but the film focuses on the his final years and how he found his way into public service and the constant struggle to give a voice to the gay community.

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Next up I’d like to talk about Milk which, as I’ve mentioned, I finally got to see the other day.  Harvey Milk – the first openly gay person elected to public office – lived an inspiring life that lends itself well to the bioepic format. However, I agree with the content of the review above: this film is less about Harvey Milk, the man, and much more about the movement that he championed. This movie is not for the faint of heart – for those who don’t know Harvey’s story (which happens to be a true one) it does not end well. However, despite the depressing end to the story Van Sant did an amazing job of preserving the hope that Harvey Milk tried to hard to create during his life as a public figure. This movie left me feeling so many emotions; frustration, sadness, determination, anger… and so much more; I’m still processing this movie days after the fact.

This movie also provided a chilling parallel to the Proposition 8 battle that was lost earlier this year. As the LA Times explains,

Perhaps the defining political fight of Milk’s career was his successful battle against Proposition 6, a statewide measure that would have banned gays from teaching in California public schools. Milk saw this not as an economic issue but a cultural one, a reason for gays to come out of the closet and tell everyone who they are. “They’ll vote for us 2 to 1,” Milk says in the movie, “if they know one of us.”

California could have used a Harvey Milk this November – to remind us all that gay rights are human rights, everybody rights. Harvey Milk is an inspiration to all and this film does a beautiful job of putting a face (or many, many faces) onto the gay right’s struggle and reminding us that even though the battle may have been lost in California (and several other states) that doesn’t mean it’s over yet; as Milk always used to say, “you’ve gotta give them hope.” That’s what this film did.

 

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