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GUEST POST: Mixfest Recap

This weekend, history was made. Mixfest—the first international LGBT film and arts festival for people of color—was held in Atlanta, GA, April 12–14. People from across the country came out to participate in this celebration of freedom and wholeness. Appropriately enough, the majority of this celebration took place at Morehouse College with the help of the ever-evolving LGBT student group, SafeSpace. By the end of the festival, it was clear that queerness is beautiful, that blackness is striking and that the personal is indeed powerful.

Things kicked off Friday night at Morehouse with the unveiling of the return of The DL Chronicles—the extremely popular television/web series which depicts stories of African American men working to negotiate their race, sexuality and gender expression as this negotiation complicates their relationships with the people around them. The room was packed and the ambiance was defined by the audience’s laughs, gasps, smiles and tears in reaction to the thrilling new episode of the hit show and its newly created prequel The Chadwick Journals.

After the showing, the directors—Deondray Gossett and Quincy LeNear—and the lead actors of the episode—Gabriel Corbin and DeLarosa Rivera—stood at the front of the room for an informative Q&A with the audience. It was such a beautiful sight to see so many Black queer bodies in a room openly and critically engaging in ideas that affect them and their families every day. It was even more beautiful to see the cohort strategically plan to have better representations of people from all parts on, above, beside and adjacent to the gender spectrum.

Following the showing of The DL Chronicles, Mixfest resumed promptly at noon on Saturday back at Morehouse. Things kicked off this time with a panel about representations of the Black LGBTQ community in popular media. The panel consisted of prominent Black queer producers including Jussie Smollett from The Skinny, Maurice Jamal of GLO TV, Deondray Gossett and Quincy LeNear of The DL Chronicles, and Teresa Dowell-Vest of Genesis. Moderated by Riann Lippe—President of Spelman College’s Afrekete—this discussion was another critical engagement of issues around identity. Panelists worked to re-conceptualize masculinity and femininity and to engage the ways in which multiple identities collide. The energy in the room was intense as the casual discussion of media and identities became an important site of theory-building among social activists.

Following the panel, the documentary The Way to Kevin was shown. This thrilling and insightful documentary followed the life of a youth minister turned porn star turned youth minister. The audience laughed and cried as Kevin’s seemingly odd personal narrative sounded more and more like the standard narrative of young, Black queer people. There was a collective sigh of relief in the room as the audience found comfort in unabashedly discussing and claiming their sexualities and the forms of sexual expression they enjoy. Kevin’s story and many others like it must continue to be told. After Kevin, a series of short films depicting diversity in gender expression and social problems among Black LGBTQ’s were shown. These showings demonstrated the power that exists in simply documenting our lives.

Mixfest rounded off with a community talk back and movie showing at the Evolution Center—Atlanta’s safe space for young, Black, gay and bisexual men. Things drew to a close as the community shared their feelings about the conference and reveled in the power of their narratives—an appropriate end to a wonderful conference.

In short, Mixfest was a beautiful, resourceful and informative celebration. The audience from each event left empowered and inspired.

– Marcus Lee

Marcus Lee is a Sophomore Sociology-Philosophy double major at Morehouse College originally from Charlotte, North Carolina. He currently serves as the Special Programs and Events Coordinator of Morehouse SafeSpace, the President of the Morehouse Sociological Association, and a resident advisor in a freshmen residence hall on campus. His future interests include being a scholar-activist for marginalized communities.

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.