12 ways to celebrate Black History Month

Queer-specific events

• Third Annual Marlon Riggs Film Festival: Friday, Feb. 17 marks the first day of Fahari Arts Institute’s Third Annual Marlon Riggs Film Festival, presented in cooperation with The South Dallas Cultural Center, Black Cinematheque Dallas, Q-Roc.TV and BlaqOut Dallas. The festival honors the legacy of the late gay, Fort Worth-based filmmaker Marlon Riggs. Screenings begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday night at the South Dallas Cultural Center, 3400 S. Fitzhugh Ave. The cost is $5 per night. There will be a talk back after each evening of films.

• Queerly Speaking: Queerly Speaking is a monthly spoken word open mic event for queer people of color hosted by the Fahari Arts Institute at the South Dallas Cultural Center. The fourth season begins this month with February’s theme of “Love on Top.” 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24. $5.

• Unity Black History Soul Food Potluck: United Black Ellument is an organization dedicated to building Dallas’ young black gay and bisexual men’s community. They will be celebrating Black History Month with delicious soul food on Sunday, Feb. 19. The food and fun starts at 6 p.m. and people are encouraged to come with or without a dish. The event is free. UBE is in Deep Ellum at 3116 Commerce St., Suite C. UBEDallas.org.

• ¡Baile! The Dance: Allgo is Texas’ statewide queer people of color and allies organization that focuses on improving the queer people of color community’s health and advancing LGBT black and Latino artists and community organizing.  Baile takes place from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center at 600 River St., Austin. Tickets are $25 online/$35 at the door. If you’d like to support but can’t travel to attend, consider an online donation, which can be made at Allgo.org/Allgo/Support.

Other events

• ‘Free Man of Color’: The African American Art Repertory Theater presents Free Man of Color, the true story of John Newton Templeton, a freed slave, who graduated from Ohio University 35 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. Desoto Corner Theater at 211 E. Pleasant Run Road, DeSoto. AarepTheater.com

• Mahalia Jackson ‘Queen of Gospel Music’ Exhibition: The African American Museum celebrates the life of Mahalia Jackson with 51 pieces of artwork and rare footage of her life and performances through June 30. The museum is at 3536 Grand Ave., Dallas, in Fair Park. Admission is free. AAMDallas.org.

• ‘My House Cultural Discovery — African American Folk Tales and Legends’: You and your children or favorite little ones can celebrate Black History Month at The Museum of Nature & Science with storyteller Toni Simmons at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 24, followed by craft time until 1 p.m. Free for members and included with the cost of general admission for non-members. 3535 Grand Ave., Dallas. NatureAndScience.org.

• 13th Annual Red, Hot & Snazzy Benefit: The United Negro College Fund, or UNCF, presents its 13th Annual Dallas/Fort Worth Black History Month signature event Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Dallas. Proceeds provide scholarships for low-income college students and operating resources for UNCF’s Texas-based historically black colleges. For more information on time and cost, visit: UNCF.org.

• Black History Month Celebration: South Side on Lamar celebrates Black History Month at 8 p.m. Feb. 26. The local Ebony Emeralds Classic Theater presents a special performance, Three Tales of Black History. It is directed by Akin Babatunde and will feature music by Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Thelonius Monk and Billy Strayhorn. The show takes place in South Side’s Blue Room, 1409 S. Lamar St.

• Cultural Awareness Series: The Dallas Black Dance Theater presents its annual Cultural Awareness Series Feb. 23–26.  Price levels vary from $10–$65. DDBDT.com.

• ‘Frederick Douglass Now’: The Black Academy of Arts and Letters (TBAAL) presents Frederick Douglass Now, a show by Dress Performance Theatre Series starring Roger Guenveur Smith at 8:15 p.m Feb. 24-25. The show takes place in the Clarence Muse Café Theater in the Dallas Convention Center, 650 S. Griffin St., Dallas. $15.

• Saturdays of Service: Black history month is moving from being more event-based to service-based. Groups such as Black Men Emerging at SMU are pushing for change and not just entertainment. They lead Saturdays of service throughout the Dallas area from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Remaining service dates are Feb. 18 and 25.

— Compiled by Toi Scott

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Fahari’s Queerly Speaking tonight at South Dallas Cultural Center

Celebrating the Harlem Renaissance

Fahari moves up its monthly Queerly Speaking a week to celebrate the 85th anniversary of Fire!!, the publication that featured several queer icons from the Harlem Renaissance. The literary publication was started by Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston, Aaron Douglas, John P. Davis, Richard Bruce Nugent, Gwendolyn Bennett, Lewis Grandison Alexander, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. And Fahari honors all of those tonight.

DEETS: South Dallas Cultural Center, 3400 S. Fitzhugh Ave. 8 p.m. $5. FahariArtsInstitute.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Fahari’s lecture series brings in Kenyon Farrow tonight

Ushering in a new queer agenda
Kenyon Farrow is a man the LGBT community needs to get to know and the Fahari Arts Institute is doing just that with its (Queer)note Lecture Series. Farrow comes to speak to Dallas in the presentation Moving Toward a True Black Queer Liberation

DEETS: South Dallas Cultural Center, 3400 S. Fitzhugh Ave. 7 p.m. FahariArtsInstitute.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Weekly Best Bets

Saturday 04.16

No, the jacket won’t make you look fat
DIFFA’s back in a big way this weekend. The event promises to be off-the-charts fabulous, but we can’t wait to see the designer jean jackets. Pretty much our eyes are set on this cotton candy fur-sleeved one. Almost makes us want winter to come back quick. Oh, and we feel sorry for the person who bids against us. You’ve been warned.

DEETS: Hilton Anatole, 2201 Stemmons Freeway. 6 p.m. $300. DIFFADallas.org.

 

Sunday 04.17

Dog days are just beginning
You think you know what your dog thinks and says? You will when you head to the 5th Annual Dog Bowl. Sipping pools, dog games and the Cotton Bowl as the largest dog park for them to run around in will make them happy as clams. And give you some good karma in the doggie-verse.

DEETS: Cotton Bowl Stadium at Fair Park. 1 p.m. Free. FairPark.org.

 

Thursday 04.21

Ushering in a new queer agenda
Kenyon Farrow is a man the LGBT community needs to get to know and the Fahari Arts Institute is doing just that with its (Queer)note Lecture Series. Farrow comes to speak to Dallas in the presentation Moving Toward a True Black Queer Liberation

DEETS: South Dallas Cultural Center, 3400 S. Fitzhugh Ave. 7 p.m. FahariArtsInstitute.org.

—  John Wright

2011 Readers Voice Awards: Entertainment

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ULTIMATE DRAG DIVA
Jenna Skyy

Hosts monthly GayBingo event at
the Rose Room inside Station 4,
3911 Cedar Springs Road
214-526-7171
Caven.com

Since this was the Ultimate Diva! edition of the Readers Voice, it behooves us to explore that aspect of gay culture for whom divadom seems inherent: The drag queen (of the 10 finalists, in fact, eight were drag characters). A diva certainly has attitude — and smarts, and talent, and personality — all of which describes Jenna Skyy, who in a few short years has becomes an essential part of the Dallas scene. But Skyy (aka Joe Hoselton) has something more still: A philosophy. Drag feels almost like a political statement the way Hoselton does it, an act of defiance. An act of Pride. She represents something great about being gay and out and open, whether she’s powering down the runway like Jan Strimple or revealing a costume of Gagaesque flamboyance — or, for that matter, calling numbers at GayBingo, the monthly AIDS fundraiser she co-hosts in the Rose Room — Jenna Skyy makes us happy to be … well, just to be.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

 

BEST LOCAL ARTS ORGANIZATION
Fahari Arts Institute

214-521-3362
FahariArtsInstitute.com

 

BEST LOCAL SINGER
Anton Shaw

AntonShawMusic.com

 

BEST LOCAL BAND
Anton Shaw and the Reason

AntonShawMusic.com


HORSING AROUND | Uptown Players had a banner season according to Voice readers, having the favorite play, ‘Equus,’ above, and tying itself for best musical.

BEST LOCAL PRODUCTION (PLAY)
Equus (Uptown Players)

Performed Feb. 26–March 21 at the
Kalita Humphreys Theater
214-219-2718
UptownPlayers.org

 

BEST LOCAL PRODUCTION
(MUSICAL) • TIE
Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits (Uptown Players)

Performed Aug. 5–29 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater

Closer to Heaven (Uptown Players)

Performed Oct. 1–24 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater
214-219-2718
UptownPlayers.org

 

BEST LOCAL THEATER DIRECTOR
Harold Steward


BEST MAINSTREAM VENUE PRESENTING MUSIC FOR THE GAY MASSES
Gilley’s Music Complex: The Palladium, The Loft, South Side Music Hall, Jack Daniel’s Saloon

GilleysMusic.com

Thanks to the trio of Kris Youmans, Brad Ehney and Nate Binford, the venues of the Gilley’s Music Complex on the Cedars have been very welcoming to the gays. Once Ehney, who is gay, got on board after his stint at the Granada Theater (another queer-friendly venue), he was intent on bringing a contingent of acts geared toward attracting an LGBT audience. Binford and Yeomans, the straight guys, just wanted a full house. It’s worked out beautifully. Lesbian duo Tegan & Sara filled the huge-ass space of the Palladium Ballroom while Lady Gaga openers Semi Precious Weapons rocked the shit out of the smaller Loft. The gays then came out en masse for Robyn, packing the mid-sized South Side Music Hall. Upcoming acts of queer interest include MEN, Of Montreal and Vivian Girls. (Upcoming non-gay acts aren’t bad, either: The Avett Brothers, George Clinton and Coheed and Cambria.) These guys prove that gays do like their live music and will step out of the gayborhood to get it.

— Rich Lopez

 

OPEN  AIR | Groups like Middle Ground rock the night air at Jack’s Backyard in Oak Cliff, a favorite venue for enjoying live music. (Gregory Hayes/Dallas Voice)

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE • TIE

Jack’s Backyard

2303 Pittman St.
Open daily until 2 a.m.
214-741-3131
JacksBackyardDallas.com

Sue Ellen’s

3014 Throckmorton St.
Open daily 4 p.m–2 a.m.
with after-hours dancing
214-559-0707
Caven.com

It’s notable that these two venues would tie for readers’ favorites, because they represent polarities of live music locales. In one corner is Sue’s, the urban Cedar Springs club where the upstairs Vixin Lounge boasts a quality sound system and decent space for an indoor concert. Jack’s, by contrast, takes the music to the outdoors of Oak Cliff, making a nice nighttime event even better, especially in the warms of Texas spring, summer and autumn. Both venues often book gigs for local regulars like Ciao Bella and Anton Shaw, but each has also featured smaller touring artists like Anne McCue and Hunter Valentine.  If the boys want to get it on the live music game, they have lots of catching up to do. The mostly lady-based venues have a lock on bringing the live sounds to the gayborhoods.

— Rich Lopez

 

BEST SMARTPHONE DATING APP
Grindr

Yes, we named this category a “dating app.” Yes, we know for a lot — most? all? — guys who download it, Grindr is more about hookups than long-term relationships. But consider: At one time, admitting you met on Match.com was considered as cringe-worthy as saying you met at a bar while one of you was dancing naked on the pool table. (Oh, right, that’s more a straight-couple thing.) Maybe one day, app-love may become so common it loses any stigma. Anyway, how were we supposed to guess Grindr would win? And truth be told, some of us have found, if not true romance, at least an on-going love connection. And we enjoy chatting with other guys even if we don’t end up as a couple. That’s what dating is, right? Seeing what’s out there and deciding what you want from a partner? Grindr does that. And we’d all be a little lonelier without it.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

 

AIN’T NO BULL | Ragsdale’s standout performance in a one-woman show was enough to win her a lot of fans — enough to name her Dallas’ favorite local actress.

BEST LOCAL DRAMATIC ACTOR (FEMALE)
Q-Roc Ragsdale

Perhaps only Q-Roc Ragsdale could have pulled off her performance in The Bull-Jean Stories last year. Best theater director Harold Steward of Fahari Arts helmed this one-woman show, written by dramatist Sharon Bridgforth. The Bull-Jean Stories takes a look at the struggles of a fictional woman-loving character in the rural South of the 1920s, and her endurance during tough times. Like her character, Ragsdale is a powerful woman using her work as a film director, photographer and actor to stretch the artistic visions of both the black and same-gender-loving communities of Dallas as well as harkening to the strong will and spirit of black LGBTs who have come before her.

— Rich Lopez

BEST LOCAL DRAMATIC ACTOR
(MALE)
Rick Espaillat


BEST LOCAL MUSICAL ACTOR
(FEMALE)
Liz Mikel


BEST LOCAL MUSICAL ACTOR
(MALE)
Cedric Neal


BEST DVD RENTAL

TapeLenders

3926 Cedar Springs Road
214-528-6344
TapeLenders.com

 

BEST ADULT DVD RENTAL

TapeLenders

3926 Cedar Springs Road
214-528-6344
TapeLenders.com

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Q-Roc TV announces a roll bounce kind of fundraiser for this March

Local filmmaker Q-Roc Ragsdale is a human dynamo and it seems like she has her hand on the pulse of everything. She works with the Fahari Arts Institute, The Butch Boi Project, the DFW Senators and those just barely scratch the surface. But perhaps her biggest venture is her online TV network Q-Roc TV.  Through her network she ” celebrates uniqueness and differences of the queer community through an eclectic mix of individual features, special events coverage, celebrity guests and man-on-the-street interviews.” And that is no lie. You can see her work either on the site or her YouTube channel.

So that she can get her new season underway, Ragsdale is hosting a fundraiser for the network. And this ain’t your stuffy, dressy kind. She’s scheduled the Q-Roc and Roll LGBT Skate Party for March 11. Yes, you can do your best Xanadu/Starlight Express moves while contributing to the network that aims “to provide quality programming that shows queer people in a positive light.” Did you ever think shooting the duck would have such an impact on the community?

I guess roller blades are OK, but I’m hoping to see some old school, four-wheel, lace-up skates on that rink. With sparkles!

To order tickets at the advanced price of $12, click here.

 

—  Rich Lopez

Marlon Riggs Film Festival continues this weekend

Back in black

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs changed the face of black gay America with his monumental film Tongues Untied. The 1989 documentary was controversial, but his legacy endured. Two decades later, the Fahari Arts Institute strives to keep Riggs relevant — especially to a younger audience.

“Youth is a big focus this year,” says arts director Harold Steward. “We are encouraging people to bring their families to the festival.”

The Marlon Riggs Film Festival returns for a second year on Feb. 18. The festival is presented in association with Black Cinematheque, Q-Roc TV and the  South Dallas Cultural Center as well as with the cooperation of the United Black Ellument and AIDS Arms.

Read the entire article here.

—  Rich Lopez

BACK IN BLACK: The 3-day Marlon Riggs Film Festival returns to mark the gay black pioneer

CUT AND PRINT | Cleo Manago’s ‘HIV Healing in Young, Black America’ screens as part of Fahari’s Arts and AIDS series.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs changed the face of black gay America with his monumental film Tongues Untied. The 1989 documentary was controversial, but his legacy endured.

Two decades later, the Fahari Arts Institute strives to keep Riggs relevant — especially to a younger audience.

“Youth is a big focus this year,” says arts director Harold Steward. “We are encouraging people to bring their families to the festival.”

The Marlon Riggs Film Festival returns for a second year on Feb. 18. The festival is presented in association with Black Cinematheque, Q-Roc TV and the  South Dallas Cultural Center as well as with the cooperation of the United Black Ellument and AIDS Arms.  In efforts to expand the quality, panel discussions with filmmakers have been added to supplement the screenings. The inaugural day is centered on Riggs and his work: I Will Not Be Removed: The Life of Marlon Riggs and the short Tongues Untied: Still in Vogue.  In a nod to those works and Riggs, this year’s festival is titled Untied, but not Removed.

“Each day has a theme which helps our film selection,” Steward says. “We always start with Riggs and Lamond Ayers who worked with him will come to speak about his relationship with him and working in media and film in the ’80s and ’90s.”

The Texas Health and Human Services Department stepped in to sponsor the second night that gives attention to health issues and the impact of HIV/AIDS on the black community. This serves as part of Fahari’s Arts and AIDS series. HIV Healing in Young, Black America: Getting the Language Right by Cleo Manago screens alongside Claudia Malis’s Why Us? Left Behind and Dying. Malis will be in attendance to discuss the issues of youth today becoming infected and her initiatives in which youth research the impact first hand. Free HIV testing will be offered through the evening.

“It is a gift to have her here to talk about that,” Steward says.

The three-day event wraps on Sunday with a series of short films thematically addressing the idea of black masculinity in a gay world. Julien Breece’s short The Young and Evil may raise the most eyebrows. The film takes on the controversial topic of bug chasing and looks at one man in his quest to contract the virus. Robert X. Goldpin’s Punch Me follows a man as he struggles to accept himself in the midst of his father dying and the loss of his boyfriend. Goldpin will Skype in to the festival for a virtual panel discussion about his film. Patrick Murphy’s Animal Drill rounds out the three films.

The goal of this festival is to use these films and media as a guide through black America,” Steward says. “Riggs addressed culture, sexuality and health in his work. We just want to continue that work.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

All THIS, THAT and the OTHER

SPOKEN WORD | As the artistic director of Fahari, Harold Steward helps celebrate the queer-identified black arts community of Dallas with monthly programming like the spoken word event Queerly Speaking. (Tammye Nash, Dallas Voice)

Dallas’ black gay arts scene gets a future as Harold Steward refers to the past

RICH LOPEZ  |  Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Sometimes with death comes a birth — or maybe an outing.

When acclaimed author E. Lynn Harris died in the summer of 2009, Harold Steward, along with the rest of the gay black community and Harris’ fans, felt shock and sadness.

But with Harris’ death came the inception of an idea that is changing the face of arts in the Dallas African-American LGBT community.

“There had been nothing planned to memorialize him, so I approached View of Dallas [book club] about this idea,” Steward said. “I brought in the dance and poetry people while they read excerpts. We had about 30 people come … and Fahari was kinda outed at that point.”

Only 28, Steward speaks with the eloquence of a mature soul. In conversation, he throws in quotes from his heroes, and he often ends a thought with his go-to mantra: “All this, that and the other.”

But it is a wealth of passion and history that marks Steward as a visionary.

As the cofounder of the Fahari Arts Institute and the performing arts administrator at the South Dallas Cultural Center, Steward is in prime position to shape Dallas’ appreciation of its queer-identified African-American community and the arts that come out of it.

The road to Fahari began via his work at the SDCC. Queer artists constantly approached Steward about using the center as an outlet for their talents. In turn, arts organizations asked for references of artists to include in their shows or exhibits.

As the accidental conduit, Steward began looking for a solution.

“There was this disconnect. I wondered if I could be satisfied as a consultant and place people where they needed to be,” he said.

“There had to be a better way for this, but that led to me asking myself ‘What does a black, queer, LGBT arts organization look like?’ There couldn’t be much out there since I hadn’t heard about it.”

As it turned out, he was wrong — and gladly so.

In Steward’s research, he uncovered an entire culture of art and artists that overwhelmed him. He found movements that equated to a new renaissance.

A domino effect of research happened as he learned about one dancer that led to a singer that then led to writers, and so forth.

This not only nurtured the seed of an arts organization, it spoke to Steward himself.

“Finding so much history was affirming for me as an artist, and if I’m having this kind of experience finding these works, other people would too,” he said. “At the same time, I’m very comfortable in my position at the SDCC, so making Fahari happen wasn’t at the forefront.”

Steward grew up in the Singing Hills neighborhood in Dallas’ southern as the seventh of eight children. Instead of spending all his time playing on Sega or Nintendo like other kids, he spent his time demonstrating his artistic talents by drawing on the bathroom wall with his mother’s lipstick. And his parents encouraged his art — or he recalls it that way.

“First of all, I am a product of public schools when they worked, and I had teachers who cared,” Steward said. “I used to cover the whole wall with my imaginary thoughts. I think they [his parents] believed in me, even if they didn’t vocalize it, because they saw their child’s imagination at work.”

Steward didn’t discover his sexuality until middle school athletics, and despite moving over to the embracing arms of  Booker T. Washington arts magnet high school — where Steward found a mentor in his teacher, Vicki Washington-Nance — he struggled with being gay until his early 20s.

He had always been fascinated by his black culture, but hadn’t resolved his place as a gay man.

“I had a certain level of understanding in reading black literature. It was always a conscious thought to immerse myself in that,” he said. “Gay culture is something relatively new to me, but I saw a lot of parallel in my experience with the community.”

LADIES IN HIS LIFE | Steward pals around with his South Dallas Cultural Center director and boss, Vicki Meek and mentors Marilyn Clark and Vicki Washington-Nance. (Photo courtesy of Harold Steward).

When Steward began his research, all of his personal influences and heroes, such as James Baldwin, Langson Hughes and Alice Walker, were gay. When he discovered Haitian gay poet Assotto Saint, Steward found what he needed to proceed with Fahari.

“Saint talked about the importance of building cultural institutions and publishing houses and making sure they are not self-serving and they should out live you as a person,” Steward said. “He said we had to do this.”

Enter J.W. Richard.

Steward and Richard were acquainted because Richard had interviewed Vicki Meek, the director of the SDCC, on his Mandrake Society Radio program. Richard was in tune with the arts scene, as was Steward, but in varying degrees.

While Steward participated in the arts more, Richard highlighted and reported on them via his podcast. But Richard was more involved in political activism.

“When he [Steward] talked to me about the idea, it was on a learning curve and it still is,” Richard said. “I had not directly worked with anything much on the arts level even though I am an artist myself. This was such a unique opportunity.”

One thing was hanging on Steward’s mind. After the Harris memorial, he was intent on naming the still-forming idea of this nebulous arts organization. Perhaps giving it a name would give it weight, but he knew it needed to express so much in minimal fashion.

“I had been thinking about the program and titles are so important. And it is so easy to get tripped up on the right name,” he said. “We had names like Rainbow Connection but stuff like that is so played out. Fahari means ‘pride’ in Swahili. I wanted it to have a connection to our African community and it was perfect for, you know, all this, that and the other.”

Two guys, one idea — now came the hard part.

While Richard and Steward figured out what Fahari should offer, the answer unfolded amid Steward’s love life. He was dating a poet ,which drew him back into that scene of spoken word and slam poets, but it wasn’t one he liked all that much.

“It had become so sexist and misogynistic and that environment isn’t right,” Steward said. “So I wondered what a same-gender-loving-affirming event would look like?”

Queerly Speaking, a monthly event held on the fourth Friday, grew into such a success that it moved from its original home at the Backbeat Café downtown into the more accommodating SDCC. The growth was symbolic of a hunger for something more, whether it was in the gay community at large or in just a slice of the whole.

Fahari was onto something when the crowds showed up that were also unfamiliar to Steward and Richard. The impact began immediately.

But Steward acknowledges one important thing: He wasn’t the first. In Dallas’ history, many black organizations were making strides for their LGBT communities, such as the Legacy of Success and the DFW Senators. Without them or his heroes, Fahari may never have come into existence.

Steward expounded at length as if he felt the need to put his gratitude and sense of indebtedness out into the universe.

“I stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said. “The work they did set a platform, and if I’m able to be here, being interviewed about this work, it is a direct relation to their efforts.

“One of my things is to get black people to arrive and be known for our value. What would America and the world look like with no Alvin Ailey, no Color Purple, no Harlem Renaissance? Take all that way and people will understand who we are and what we bring,” he added. “I am standing on their shoulders because it is my responsibility.”

Steward didn’t realize that Fahari would hit the ground running although there was some personal frustration behind it. He tried to reconcile why Fahari had to happen now.

“It should not have emerged in 2009 as an entity in Dallas when it’s had such a history,” he said. “It is troubling when we’re the ‘first black’ this or that. When are we not going to be the first? But the stuff others and we are doing now is easy compared to what those before us did. See? It always ties to the history.”

Fahari’s other monthly event is the Queer Film Series every third Sunday that works in association with Black Cinematheque.

Local filmmaker Q-Roc Ragsdale was trying to start a film series highlighting queer directors. When Steward mentioned Fahari to her, the wheels turned. She became a key member, joining Richard and Steward to finish out the troika that pushed Fahari forward.

“It really was a marriage made in heaven,” Ragsdale said. “When the film series came to the point where I turned it over to Fahari, I knew it would be great. I still act as the curator and now so many black queer filmmakers will get some needed exposure.”

Born from that, two film festivals were added to its special programming: “The Marlon Riggs Film Festival” and “Short and Sweet.”

The latter is intended to open this summer featuring short films. The Riggs festival is a three-day event that had a successful run its first time out in February 2010.

The Fort Worth-born Riggs had profound impact with his revolutionary films giving black queer culture an identity, and that made an impression on Steward’s mission.

“I have these moments where I’m watching his film Black Is Black Ain’t and Riggs is on his deathbed due to complications from AIDS,” Steward said. “He says, on his deathbed, ‘as long as I have work, I am not dead.’ I couldn’t crucify or kill him all over again by not bringing his work to the forefront. AIDS wasn’t the end of him because in the end, his work will live on. I have to take up that personal charge.”

For Ragsdale, Steward symbolized something beyond the work he’s doing at this moment. This is more than just about Dallas’ black gay culture, it’s about the bigger picture.

“I really value him as a leader because he has extraordinary vision and great purpose,” she said. “The thing I love is how he makes sure Fahari is inclusive and so he actively invites lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and allies to the events and to the table.

“I foresee him being a leader in the overall queer community.”

Just don’t tell Steward that. If it were up to him, he’d likely return to his research, spending his late nights soaking in the history he so loves.

“I struggle with stuff like that, but I think of George Washington Carver. He said to start with what you have, make something of it and never settle,” Steward said. “I don’t know why it’s me in this position. There are days when I wanna throw my hands up, but I have to remember somebody paid the price for me to be here and so with that reason I do ask, ‘Why not me?’”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright

Fahari Arts presents Queer Film Series today

The weather for shorts

Today, the Fahari Arts Institute screens two short LGBT films. First, If She Grows Up Gay, pictured, is a 1983 short about an African-American mother talking about life with children, her lesbian lover and blue collar job and directed by Karen Goodman. That is followed by Brooklyn’s Bridge to Jordan, directed by Tina Mabry. Brookyn’s tells the story of a woman who loses her partner in an auto accident only to fight to rebuild her relationship with an estranged son as well as her own life. Filmmaker Charles Bennett Brack will be in attendance.

DEETS: South Dallas Cultural Center, 3400 S. Fitzhugh Road. 6 p.m. $5.

—  Rich Lopez