At the Neptune, in a theatre full of beautiful Black and brown people, words were spoken that allowed many of us to heal. I saw my fellow trans and QPOC community members laugh and cry. I can only imagine that they felt the same chills creep up their spines as I did, as the beautiful truth, the beauty the is being trans and black was laid out before us.
BlackTransMagick is a showcase of local and nationwide poets and musicians, all black, all trans, each with their own story to tell. The event, a joint production from awQward, the only Trans and QPOC talent agency period, and Seattle Theatre Group, presented the realest and most beautiful performance that has probably ever graced the stage at the Neptune.
The poets performing were KOKUMO, J Mase III, Zora Seboulisa, and Ebo Barton. The stage was lit with purple, blue, and pink lights. There was excitement in the air as we sat waiting for the performance to begin. Surrounding yourself with your own people can have that effect. As the poets were introduced and took their seats a sense of optimism of pride swelled within the room.
J Mase III, the mastermind behind the project and founder of awQward, playfully introduced the first group piece by checking to see if the audience was of aware of rhythm and how it worked (we’re in Seattle y’all, you have to check with people about that) because the show would involve some audience participation, snapping and clapping.
KOKUMO, a poet and musician from Chicago, began the piece with a simple beat asking the audience to join along. I’m going to be real y’all, some of us were off beat, but we carried each other through cuz that’s what community does. She began to sing a capella, and this wonderful ethereal cotton candy-like goddess pulled my heart right out my chest. Each poet then recited a few lines of how they identify themselves, as ancestors, as bodies of water, as trans people.
KOKUMO’s rich voice asked “will the sun ever shine again” – beautiful, painful, honest. She then immediately began the first round of poems. The format was a round robin – each poet performed 3 poems. As the lights dramatically changed from red to green to purple each poet stood to perform their piece. Hitting different emotions, performed with passion and skill, the audience was lost in every word. The artistry of the poets, the production and content of the poems, reflected the beauty of what it is to be trans. Seattle-based poet Ebo Barton questioned in one of their poems “Please explain to me how my autonomy is worth less than your grammar. What am I worth to you?”
Their combined presence on stage shouted trans is beautiful. Giving space to Black trans folk to speak their truth allows our community to feel free from the oppression of society, if only for a night.
Touching on a variety of traumatic experiences, the poets skilled use of words, rhythms, and honesty created a space for healing. Black trans folk were felt, seen, heard, and appreciated last night – a type of respect that is rarely experienced or given to trans folk in the Black community, let alone our society. Their words told us that being black and trans is painful and traumatic.
During one of her poems, Zora Seboulisa’s words echoed through the theatre – “waiting for the concrete to become a burial” – reflecting the fears of black trans POC across the nation.
Just this week, a talk show popular in the Black community was a platform for hateful transphobic rhetoric. Just this week, TeeTee Dangerfield, another Black trans woman, was murdered. The Black community continuously rejects their own and deny their right to be considered human. But BlackTransMagick was a space provided for Black trans folk and QPOC folk to come together to celebrate each other to cry with each other.
Our society is sick with transphobia and racism, but the art I had the privilege of listening to can provide us with some kind of hope for a better future for our community. The magic of BlackTransMagick was that the show provided a space for healing while providing liberation for the artists. We need to support art that uplifts the experience of Black Trans folk, and there isn’t a better way than keeping an eye out for their future projects, maybe slide a little money into those venmo. To find out more about J Mase III and BlackTransMagick, check out awQwardtalent.com. Kokumo can be found at facebook.com/kokumo.kinetic.5, Ebo Barton can be found at EboBarton.com, and Zora Seboulisa can receive donations on venmo at @Zora-Seboulisa.
Photos by D.J. Martinez