Spoken word performers stormed the Barn on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. to confront today’s hatred against the LGBTQ community. These poets and musical performers represented not only people who are queer and/or trans, but more specifically those of color. The Barn set up rows of chairs before the stage while in the adjacent room, organizations were tabling, passing out flyers, and selling trans awareness T-shirts, and a brief open mic took place before performers took the stage at 7:30 p.m.
First, a representative from PRISM of La Sierra University informed the audience that because the university is Seventh Day Adventist, they did not allow a Slam the Hate event on campus. This set up the evening for compelling performances from the LGBTQ community for hate awareness. J Mase III, a black, trans, queer poet served as the MC and introduced Crystal Cheatham.
Cheatham, a gay, Christian singer-songwriter, performed both covers and original songs on her guitar. These included Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning,” and originals about breakups and her own sexual and religious identity. Through her stunning voice, various themes emerged, both hopeful and empowering. While the lyrics were not overtly gay in theme, they suggested themes of defiance and an open love for God.
Next, a former student from Cal Baptist University shared their story about being expelled for marking their gender as female on the school application and consequently being charged with fraud. They emphasized the distinction between sex and gender. Moreover, love became the focus of the event while the speaker expressed that challenges are what shape our lives.
A brief video presentation then introduced Emotions, a therapist, activist, poet and entrepreneur. Emotions, who identifies as an African American, masculine, lesbian B.O.I. (born obviously incredible), recited spoken word and poetry. They were political and colorful in confronting social norms as well as turning hate into love. Lines like “I just want to love you,” were repeated and “let your spirit breathe,” reflect the social norms and assumptions that the LGBTQ community faces. In the last poem, “B.O.I.,” Emotions said, “I’ve always followed somewhere in between,” then confronted the homophobic world by acknowledging its oppressive structure.
J Mase III, an organ donor and author of a chapbook titled, “If I Should Die Under the Knife, Tell My Kidney I Was the Fiercest Poet Around,” took the spotlight in her own performance of original poems, which she recited aloud with fiery enthusiasm. These ranged over subjects of love, sexual freedom and misunderstanding due to social norms. Furthermore, she dedicated a poem to a murdered, transgender woman. Here, J Mase III, unpacked the meaning of the greeting, “Hello,” and the following question of “How are you or what are you?” This poem in particular encouraged compassion. Her presentation was interactive and energetic with audience participation and poems full of innuendos that kept the audience laughing. Then she and Cheatham performed “You’re Just Too Good To Be True” for a friend who committed suicide in 2011. Cheatham played guitar and sang while J Mase III performed spoken word interludes. They stressed that when you’re fine, you forget about others. It’s important to support one another.
The final performer of the evening was Regie Cabico, whose performance incorporated themes of both religion and sexual identity. His presentation was highly entertaining and comedic as he wove in stories and poetry into his conversation about growing up in a Filipino-American, Catholic family. He recited one poem about an ex-boyfriend by comparing his anatomy to poetic terminology then enacted a story about living in an apartment with two other gay roommates and himself being the only butch gay man. His astrology poem was particularly thrilling as he took out a box of chocolates and asked for the audience’s signs. He’d then stand before a Sagittarius and say a hilarious and hate-slam poem, and then graciously offer them a chocolate.
Overall, Slam The Hate was packed with music, poetry and a drive to both create awareness in a homophobic world and empower the LGBTQ community. As Cabico said at the end of his performance in a one-sided dialogue with his mother, “Don’t ever think that I am not your son or love you any less.” The theme of the night was acceptance.