As I started thinking about how I wanted to wrap up this LGBTQ+ History Month installment of my Queer Creatives series, I circled back to my original intention in creating it to begin with: I wanted a series that highlights queer artists whose art inspired change both in my/our lives and the world as a whole as well.
But I also wanted to answer questions I had as an artist living and creating amid many intersections. How do the beginnings of change that ultimately make up our history happen? How does someone who wants to create something even start to bring that idea to life?
How do everyday people like us go from the place they are to making real, long-lasting and impactful change?
The exploration into these answers was/is the driving force behind this series.
The conversation is held in the spirit of hoping to understand one another better, to learn something that we may not know about a different subculture within our own community and to dispel some myths that we might carry about each other.
And there, while deciding to profile Humanity 101 and thinking about this series as a whole, was the answer to my first question: How do the beginnings of change that ultimately make up our history happen? History is created by those who not only wish to be a part of the change but take action towards that change.
The Humanity 101 series is an LGBTQ+-focused lecture and conversation series founded in February 2019 with its the main objective being to “facilitate dialogue among our community members.” That dialogue and the premise for the series was dreamed up by Gage Baird, lead strategic pricing analyst at McKesson Corporation and co-chair of their LGBTQ+ employee group, OPEN, and Thomas Massaquoi, a self-sustaining artist, writer, activist and community outreach cordinator. They came up with it over brunch.
“Thomas began talking about this idea he had been pondering on for quite some time. He mentioned that he had seen the idea done before in other large metropolitan areas [and] after some further discussion, we determined that Dallas didn’t have something like what we were proposing,” Gage explained.
So they set out to do it.
Which answers my second question: How does someone who wants to create something even start to bring that idea to life? You just start, despite perhaps not knowing where it’s going to go or where it’s going to end up. You take a leap of activist faith, and you just do it.
The part where most of us who have a great idea get lost or lose our steam is in the details and logistics. Gage mentioned that it took them “nearly 10 months to lay it all out,” choosing “what topics we wanted to discuss, how we would organize the flow of the segments, the timeline and the types of panelists we wanted for our series.”
But on Feb. 25 they hosted their first event, “Why Are You Still Single? A talk on relationships and online dating.”
In addition to understanding how they began, I was deeply curious about their name choice, Humanity 101, as opposed to LGBTQ 101 or anything else that was more queer-specific. “Humanity 101 just seemed fitting, since our sole purpose is to provide an educational platform where people can learn and discuss important topics, bettering humanity in its entirety,” Gage told me. And Thomas added, “Because we are all human at the core, and we’re bound to [have] similar feelings.”
And isn’t that — finding ways to connect (NOT assimilate) in the spirit of solidarity in a way that honors (NOT erases) the individual in their complex personhood and experiences — the roots of art, creativity, change? Of connection itself?
Which answers my final question: How do everyday people like us go from the place they are to making real, long-lasting, and impactful change? The answer: We start from where we are.
Change is made when the personal — what is happening in our daily lives, in the community around us — becomes political. But it only becomes political, social change if we make it so.
When I asked Gage & Thomas about their plans for the future of the series, they let me know they “have big ones” — like “grow our platform,” “a podcast,” “branch out to schools and universities,” “create a Humanity 101 Youth version.”
“Right now it’s grassroots style; we want this to build organically,” Thomas said.
And isn’t that how all great movements begin? How long-lasting, impactful change happens? With the people? From the people? From the self?
“I change myself, I change the world,” Gloria Anzaldúa, the first artist I profiled in this LGBTQ history month series, wrote in her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.
“Reading Isherwood, I am thinking about the difference — the possibility of the difference — of writing about yourself as ‘me’ as opposed to ‘a human being,’” Joe Brainard, the second profile in the series, wrote in his personal journal. “And I suspect that yes, there is a difference. And that, though I pretend to write about ‘me,’ I am secretly more aware of myself (writing-wise) as ‘a human being.’ And that this may well be my salvation!”
Last week’s profiled artist, Del LaGrace Volcano, wrote on their Facebook profile, “I believe in crossing the line. Not just once but as many times as it takes to build a bridge we can all cross together.”
On Monday I, along with Justin Rogers, Roxy Acuna, and Gabriel Matlia get to play a small role in being a part of the change and dialogue we wish to see.
You can too.
All you have to do is show up, stay open, listen deep and engage.
Because if change is a ripple, this is how we cast the first stone to get the ripple started.
The final Humanity 101 panel, Alphabet Education, will be hosted upstairs at Sue Ellen’s at 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 28. The event is free and seating space is limited. Find out more by visiting facebook.com/humanity101series/