We are so excited to share the work of the twenty recipients of the Southern Equality Studios special grant round! This grant was created to lift up the wonderful work that has been developed by Southern LGBTQ creatives, whose work tells the stories of the resiliency of queer experience. This grant round was dedicated to resourcing and celebrating LGBTQ artists and creatives across the LGBTQ South who are BIPOC. Grants of $500 supported 20 BIPOC LGBTQ Southern artists working on a wide range of creative projects. In all, $10,000 moved to hands in all corners of the South to LGBTQ BIPOC people doing inspiring and inspired creative work.
Applicants had the option of nominating themselves or someone else. The nominations were then reviewed by Southern Equality Studios team members and the top 20 were selected based on a rubric that considered the following questions: Does this work benefit or function on behalf of BIPOC LGBTQ Southerners? How compelling is the reason for nomination? What is the quality or quantity of art created- –Does this person invest a great deal of time and/or effort into their creative endeavors? Priority was given to nominees who had not yet received any kind of SEF funding.
It is through the generosity of East Fork Pottery that this grant round was made possible. We offer our gratitude to East Fork, nominators, and these artists for making these connections possible.
This special grant round was a part of CSE’s Southern Equality Fund, which has been making grassroots grants across the LGBTQ South since 2015. Since its inception, the Southern Equality Fund has prioritized supporting work led by BIPOC, transgender, and rural organizers.
Jump to Artist Profiles
Javetta Sabra Clemmons
Photographer / Videographer
“As someone who deeply believes in community building beyond the illusion of borders and in a fluid, expansive way, I often travel throughout the South and beyond by car to document stories and to tell stories. Because of this, I’ve had the great privilege to witness folks in multiple communities in ways that have reshaped my understanding about the immense power storytelling holds for both the storyteller and for the community in which stories are shared. It’s developed my mission as an artist – to showcase the stories of our communities IN our communities wherever they may be found, but especially in places of isolation.”
— Javetta Sabra Clemmons
See other work:
“Jae House has an extraordinary portfolio of photography, music videos, and recordings. Most recently he released his EP, Fools Journey, on Apple Music, Spotify, and other streaming platforms. He is committed to the representation of Black subjects in his art and has made his own queer relationship with his partner, Lucas, the subject of several breathtakingly curated photo series. Jae’s backdrops are a blend of the natural and urban environments of North Florida, giving his photography a distinctively Southern identity.”
– Lauren Kelly-Manders
Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa
Chaos collagist & Archivist
Between New Orleans, LA & Nairobi, Kenya (preCOVID19)
Join newsletter at www.freequencyspeaks.com
SEE OTHER WORK:
Noirlinians: An AfroFashion & Culture blog based in New Orleans
FreeQuency is a Black gender renegade nomadic humanoid who self identifies as masculine off center, femme adjacent, an AunTea and/or a prettyboi. An internationally known poet & storyteller, FreeQuency frequently dabbles in what they’ve termed ‘chaos collaging’ and kiondo making (traditional Gĩkũyũ basket weaving) as modalities of creative self care. All their work interrogates and occupies the in between spaces of gender & geography while exploring the mundane, nuance and stark contradictions of everyday existence under racialized capitalism. The 2018 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, they are also the founder and a collective member of Paza Sauti: Kenya, a fundraiser with the Trans & Queer Solidarity Fund: Kenya (which is looking for monthly donors to support Ushoga/LGBTQ+ Kenyans for a 1 year period of time with as little as $5 per month) and the founder of CONVERSATE, a multipronged creative collaboration between 20 community based artists interested in having intentional conversations to catalyze our creativity in a liberatory trajectory and an eventual podcast.
“My work is referential directly to a deeply personal connection to the rituals that have been passed down to me by my bisabuela and Boricua womxn. I am nuyorican at my roots but moved to Virginia when I was 13. I use my work to share my narrative as a brown nonbinary boricua person with afrotaino descendants. My work is a sense of comfort as I am displaced yet not alone.”
– Amarise Carreras
New Orleans, LA
“I am a film composer, violinist, writer and scholar based in New Orleans. My research focuses on the Black presence in classical music and I combine ethnomusicology with a psychoanalysis of sound, lineage and memory. I am a composer fellow with Sundance Institute and the co-founder of Alphabet Sound Observatory, an engineer library for Black and Indigenous women and LGBTQIA+ artists of color in New Orleans, LA.”
– Sultana Isham
“Myela Waabankwe Slattery, is a Native American (Anishinaabe, Ojibwe) queer artist, social justice advocate, mother, and mountain mover. She has been instrumental in providing artwork for THE HIVe 828 (Western North Carolina Community Health Services’ HIV prevention and care program) and is branching out to establish herself as a professional working artist. She and I are in the process of jumpstarting OUTthINK Studio, the purpose of which is to leverage and elevate queer POC lens to visual art communications, believing that this perspective is invaluable to sharing and showing our lived experiences and values in art, as this representation is greatly missing in mainstream media, marketing, and so on. As an artist, her work is beautiful – but it’s far more than that…it’s how she sees and moves in the world translated in a way that others are also able to see and be moved by the power, grace, and brilliance of the Other.”
– Michael Hoeben
Founder and Artistic Director of Different Strokes
“As the founder and Artistic Director of Different Strokes@ Performing Arts Collective, Stephanie has dedicated her life to making theatre, building community, facilitating awareness, and changing the world, one play at a time. Motivated by the belief that the arts are capable of bridging cultural and social gaps, DS!PAC works to increase and sustain opportunities for diversity within the Western North Carolina performing arts community, and to present works that confront issues of social diversity in a provocative way.”
– Rae Geoffrey
“Cindy is a brilliant visionary who showcases the humanity and community of Black people living, and displaced, in and from east Austin through her work. Her contributions to the art world has gained her a much-deserved following, as she has been published and featured in GQ, Sightlines, Statesman, The Austin Chronicle, and exhibited her work in a myriad of museums and galleries. Currently, she is working on a series focused on COVID-19 and another one on rallying the vote. She is a social justice-minded creative who challenges the mores of today’s society and deserves all the support from her QPOC community.”
– Enya Ganguly
“I am a queer Asian American writer who has lived in North Carolina for 10 years. My first book of poetry, THE GUTTER SPREAD GUIDE TO PRAYER, contended with the deaths of multiple young queer men in my life and what the inevitably of queer tragedy meant for my own life. My poetry and essays marry queer joy and grief, ask how we might participate in queer and brown diaspora while also deeply engaging in local communities. Queer culture is not passed down genetically and yet there are shared, profoundly moving experiences that bring us closer than blood family. I am at work on my second book of poetry, which merges queer joy and loss, place, Asian American identity and inheritance, and the desires and vices at work in the body.”
– Eric Tran
Mixed Media Artist, DJ, Program Coordinator for Word on the Street / La voz de les Jovenes
“DJ-La Inconforme/Laura Padilla has dedicated the last few years to curating ARTivists events for the queer and BIPOC community in Asheville. Laura has volunteered to play music and organize for many of the Black lives matter protests, they are an independent immigrant rights organizer, mix media artist and youth and program coordinator for Word on the Street/ La voz de les Jovenes, which centers the leadership and creativity of Black and Latinx teens through the production of bilingual mixed media representing youth culture.”
– Laura Padilla
for QLatinx, Painter, Graphic Designer, Artista plástico contemporaneo, Soñador.
“Carlitos Diaz has truly been instrumental in developing visual graphics and art for grassroot and nonprofit Organizations; such as Planned Parenthood, Contigo Fund, Heart of Florida united Way, and the LGBT Center to name a few. His vision is creating spaces and visual conversations that connect with those most marginalized. One of Carlos most recent initiatives, are using digital art to spread awareness of language Justice and latinx media representation, when it comes to know your HIV status and seeking care and prevention tools to end the HIV epidemic, for our large Spanish speaking community here in Central Florida.”
– Gabriella Rodriguez
“I am a photographer, performance artist and video artist. I live and work in Athens, GA where I am an MFA candidate at the University of Georgia. I am also an educator, working with intro photography students. My work is about my life, its intersecting contradictions and identities, and staking a claim for people like me in the archive. My videos are poetic and experimental essays and collages, as well as my photo work. I make this work in order to show other folks who have had similar experiences to mine that they can be loud and messy and vulnerable about their traumas, be it sexual assault, abuse, or otherwise. I aim to illuminate the complexities of the human condition as much as I possibly can.”
– Ronika McClain
Markeisha Nesbitt & Coasia Gilliam
Entrepreneur, Painter, Photographer, Community-builder
“Proud Village SC is an organization that provides affordable photography and painting services to community members through collaborative efforts with local entrepreneurs. Proud Village SC was founded in 2019 by Kei Nesbitt and CoAsia Gilliam. Through mobile efforts, painting services have been provided across the state of South Carolina. Artistic expression can be therapeutic for participants of all ages. Through collaborative efforts, memorable family moments have been captured at affordable rates for all community members.”
– Kei Nesbitt
Photographer / Mixed Media Artist
“Mateo Pereda (they/them) is a Non-binary, Queer, Pacific Islander artist from Florence, Alabama. Mateo considers themself an autobiographical artist who uses photography and mixed media as an act of communal and self love. Their art explores their intersectional identities of a second generation Guam American who grew up deep in the heart of the American South and how that experience shapes their gender and sexuality. Mateo is also a dedicated community organizer and activist. Mateo sits on the Board for the Invisible Histories Project, a nonprofit based in Birmingham, AL whose mission is to research and preserve Queer and Trans history in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. Through this position, Mateo is working with elder LGBTQ People of Color in their area to help preserve and honor their memories through archival collections and oral histories. Mateo is also a leading organizer for Equality Shoals which is the local LGBTQ community center in Florence. Equality Shoals provides engagement and education events related to the LGBTQ community.”
— Maigen Sullivan
Ceramicist, Installation Artist, Illustrator, Mixed Media Artist, Muralist
“I am a young, emerging artist from Louisville, Ky. When I was first exploring art, I was interested in making work that focused on Memory, Sexuality, and Secular Ideology. However, in my more recent work I have been looking closely at my identity as a Black, Mexican, Queer Woman. It’s important to me that I speak from every side of myself.
In the last few months I’ve been doing murals and small gallery showings. I plan to continue on this path of self discovery and make myself known to my community. “
Producer / Brand visionary / Vocalist
“Sika Noxolo…is constantly making things happen and working hard to wear multiple hats! As Owner of Noxolo Ent, she develops artists, as Director for Black With No Chaser, she juggles production, hosting, and branding. She is also a great vocalist and successful in bringing many opportunities for LGBT and underground artists.”
— Constance Gordon
KB is from Stop Six, Fort Worth, Texas. They are a Black queer genderless poet, educator, organizer, and student affairs professional. KB has received fellowship invitations from Lambda Literary, Vermont Studio Center, The Watering Hole, In Surreal Life, The Hurston/Wright Foundation, Winter Tangerine, The Speakeasy Project, and UTSA’s African American Literatures and Cultures Institute. Their poetry appears in The Cincinnati Review, The Matador Review, Palette Poetry, and other pretty places.
When they’re not on stage or in the page, they serve as Program Coordinator for the Gender and Sexuality Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Founder/President of Interfaces, Co-Founder/President of Embrace Austin, and Teaching Artist for The Library Foundation ATX.
Photographer / Multimedia Artist
Kenyatta Bosman is a non-binary visual/multimedia artist who focuses on realism and being in the moment. Their inspiration comes from black and queer cinema and the Queer Black Experience. Kenyatta has recently exhibited at The Quappi Projects “We All Declare for Liberty” looking at KING LOUI, a photograph by Kenyatta Bosman taken during the Breonna Taylor protests. “I felt like we couldn’t have a show about the state of our politics — our future — without talking about what’s going on this year here.” They not only exhibit their art work in museums and galleries but is also a photojournalist for Queer Kentucky. They meet with local and non local queers here in Kentucky to capture their story for those to come and reflect on in hope to make their journey into their own queerness a bit easier. Not only is Kenyatta an art but they are a Reiki healer as well bring healing to those around them and in the BIPOC communities.
– Kenyatta Bosman
Photographer / Multimedia Artist / Creative Director / Painter
“They are a black queer multidimensional artist. They are constantly creating inclusive and relative work. Most of their art is an experience that you have to be a part of! They are a very raw and talented artist.”
– Arielle Biddix
New Orleans, LA
Sy’ria has been an entertainer in the LGBTQ community where she saw firsthand many of her friends lose their lives to the HIV epidemic. She used her platform as an entertainer in her community to also educate and bring awareness to the issues that affected the community the most. Her mentor showed her how she could make all the difference because the LGBTQ community would be getting the information from someone they could relate to. Ms. Jackson has been the C.L.E.A.R. / ARTAS Prevention Specialist and overseer of “The DollHouse,” which a Safe Have for transgender individuals of the Greater New Orleans Area under Brotherhood Inc. She has also worked with Tulane University as a Program Coordinator with a focus on implementing PrEP into the Metro Area of New Orleans. Sy’ria was the Education Coordinator with the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (part-time), The Empowerment Coordinator with New Orleans Regional Planning Council, and the current President of the LGBT Community Center of Greater New Orleans. Social media platforms have been a key tool for Sy’ria to engage with people in various communities to connect with them and mobilize more people to bring attention to the disparities in the New Orleans region. She encourages people who are facing alcohol or drug addiction to seek help and not be ashamed about it. Sy’ria very much wants everyone, no matter their backgrounds or circumstances, to have the same opportunities as anyone else: “Everyone deserves respect and a chance.”
Learn More About Southern Equality Studios
Southern Equality Studios is a project that explores how the arts can be a catalyst and force in achieving lived and legal LGBTQ equality across the South.
Since the launch of CSE in 2011, we’ve worked at the intersections of personal narrative and political organizing, working with LGBTQ people and families to share the stories of their lives, whether through the written word, film, or photography. We’ve seen the power that storytelling has had on changing hearts and minds here in the South and nationwide, and it’s a vital tool as we continue our work to build a South where all are free and affirmed to live as their authentic selves. Art and storytelling have long played a powerful and central role in movements for social justice, and we’re honored to be a part of that long legacy in our region.
Special Thanks to East Fork Pottery
This Southern Equality Fund grant round is supported by a generous donation from East Fork Pottery. In summer 2020 East Fork Pottery donated a portion of sales from their new Lapis glaze to CSE, and in June the company hosted an online auction featuring artists, chefs, and makers who donated their time, talents, and art. CSE will put East Fork’s entire donation to work to support BIPOC-led organizing and people across the LGBTQ South.
Connie Matisse, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder of East Fork Pottery, said of this grant round:
“As a founding team, Alex, John, and I see our business as the most readily available platform from which we can contribute to a liberated future. As our company’s reach has grown, so too has our ability to communicate emergent strategies for more equitable ways of doing business. So too has our ability to put money in the hands of educators, leaders, and organizers for justice.”
“It has been a true privilege to be in ever-deepening community with Campaign for Southern Equality. To join their leadership team on panels, to walk alongside them in protest, host parties together, share ideas, cry, laugh, scream—all of it. To be anchored by the belief in a shared vision for the future. We see with our own eyes the impact of CSE’s fight for legal and lived equality for LGBTQA+, BIPOC Southerners. We are so grateful to be able to support this work and we know that there’s so much more to be done. We trust that our friends at CSE are heels down, hearts open, and in it for the long haul.”