The Pink Elephant in the room

Dallas-based queer musician Lady BSmoove heads to Austin for Pink Elephant, the inaugural festival of LGBTQ hip-hop artists


LOOMIN’ LARGE | Dallas’ Lady BSmoove and her fellow musicians at the Pink Elephant Festival in Austin hope to change the reputation of hip-hop as homophobic. The international gathering precedes SXSW. (Photo courtesy DJ Matic)

SCOTT HUFFMAN  | Contributing Writer

Hip-hop — the music and the resulting movement — was created to give a voice to the unheard. Minority groups in general and African-Americans in particular were the first to embrace the genre. Yet somewhere in its development, a culture born of revolution began shutting out its own — specifically, its LGBT members. Fortunately, out Dallas native Lady BSmoove (aka Brandy Simington), 38, like many other hip-hop artists, is undaunted by exclusionary maneuvers.

“I can’t say that I’ve allowed it to hold me back,” says Lady B, as she is affectionately known. “I am a woman first, I came out black, and I happen to be gay. I put all of those things in there. I think in a lot of aspects that has helped me. All those things have helped me. I’m able to bring crowds together.”

Lady B considers herself primarily a spoken word artist — as she explains, spoken word is the act of “bringing alive the words you wrote in your poetry” — and secondarily a singer-songwriter. She is excited to have been asked to perform at the inaugural Pink Elephant Festival in Austin. The conference, one which showcases LGBT hip-hop artists from across the country, runs March 9 and 10 and leads up to the annual South by Southwest Music Festival. Lady B considers the invitation to perform nothing short of an accolade.

“I’m excited to represent my city first, and then I’m representing the gay community within Dallas,” Lady B says, describing her reaction when fellow hip-hop artist Japan, one of the event’s coordinators, requested her appearance. “He was like, ‘Lady B, you have to be a part of this!’ He loves my music that much that I had to be a part of it. I even got happy because I know it is a hip-hop festival. Hip-hop is derived from spoken word. For them to ask me to make sure that I speak spoken work in my performance, I was honored.”

Lady B knew from an early age that she wanted a musical career. Both her father and her grandmother were singers. With roots in gospel music, Lady B credits both God and love as inspirations for her work. But for the title track of her second self-released album, Live, Love … Dream, she specifically credits wall art bearing three Chinese symbols.

“I was actually walking through Garden Ridge, and I saw a picture with Chinese letters [characters]. It said: live, love, dream. I left it in my soul for a while. Then I got it tattooed on my left arm. I started to live by it. I applied this to my life, and I said,
‘That’s what I’m going to name the album.’ I wrote the album to those words to try to give people that insight.”

Lady B’s interests, however, aren’t confined simply to music. She is also known as a community advocate for HIV awareness and black youth. In fact, the hip-hopper’s participation in several local events including AIDS Walk South Dallas has earned her an unexpected yet welcomed political title.

“I don’t consider myself an activist, but for some reason everyone else does,” she says. “I’m passionate about HIV prevention and knowledge, so I show up to those things. I am a black woman, so I am passionate about what’s happening to black youth. People see me going to different things. I go to where the kids are, and I will perform and reach them. Somehow everyone has equated that into activism. Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough.”

Her community involvement has not gone unnoticed. Dallas men’s group United Black Ellument has twice nominated Lady B for its Ally of the Year award. Moreover, she attributes much of her early success to the black gay men of Dallas.

“I give the black gay men a huge credit for Lady BSmoove being who she is,” she says. “Black gay men were the first people to say, ‘Come perform for me.’ I commend them for that. I cannot wait to get my Grammy so that I can thank the black gay community. I cannot say anything about the women. Any black gay woman who saw Lady B perform [saw it] because she was at a black gay men’s event. But I’m thankful for that. Those women who showed up became fans.”

With two albums behind her, Lady B now looks to the future. One goal is to produce a gospel album. Another, to which she earlier alluded, is to be the first spoken word artist nominated for a Grammy. She is also open to the idea of adapting her work for theater.

“Someone actually put the idea in my head,” Lady B says. “She is a director at the Irving Arts Center. She heard my album, and she came out to see me. She said, ‘When I listened to your album, the first thing I thought was that this could be a play.’ I was like, ‘Really? A play?’”

In the meantime, Lady B will keep her day job in computer support. “I’m a help desk service technician,” Lady B says. “I help people. I’m still a geek. I like breaking stuff in a computer to see if I can fix it. I love being able to teach people things. That’s what I do for a living until these royalty checks start coming in.”

Lady BSmoove performs at Austin’s Victory Grill March 10 at 9 p.m. For complete event information and scheduling, visit [Editor’s note: The dates of the festival have been corrected. They are March 9 and 10, not 10 and 11.]

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

—  admin

Mardi Gras Oak Cliff parade today

Bead dazzling

Don’t let yesterday’s rain get you down. The sun is out for today’s Mardi Gras Oak Cliff celebration with its fourth annual parade. But it starts off with a crawfish boil and street party in the Bishop Arts District. Live music, food and beer will get you revved up for the parade. From Davis and Montclair to the Bishop Arts District, the parade rolls on through featuring floats, live bands, bicycle rides and more. And kinda makes us jealous of Oak Cliff.

DEETS: N. Bishop Ave at Davis St., 2 p.m., parade at 4 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

REVIEW: “Albert Nobbs” and the mystery of identity

Unlike The Crying Game, where the sex of a character is a major twist about halfway through, the genders of the characters in Albert Nobbs is not much in doubt: Glenn Close is a big star with above-the-title billing — her butched-up face is the ad campaign. And yet there is just as much mystery here, albeit of a different kind. This is a story of identity that’s almost impenetrable.

Albert (Close) is a gentlemanly servant at a high-end boutique hotel in Ireland. Everyone admires Albert: The women appreciate his respectful demeanor, his male co-workers his work ethic, the boss, Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins), his reliability. But no one really knows Albert, who lives in a small room in the attic and squirrels away his money and dreams of something else.

But really, Albert doesn’t even know himself. He has been living as a man for decades — who knows how long? — and cannot even remember a time when he (or she) was not Albert. He has become so repressed, he almost doesn’t have a personality anymore.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Girls’ Night Out at Barbara’s Pavilion tonight

This one’s for the ladies

Ladies are invited to Barbara’s tonight for Girls Night Out. The bar goes live with Kathy Corbin on stage adding to the girl power of the evening. But Barb’s isn’t leaving out the men. Guys can also come to enjoy the night because as they say on their event postin,”We’re all girls at heart!!!”

DEETS: Barbara’s Pavilion, 325 Centre St. 8 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

Inaugural Open Mic Night at BJ’s

Trial by fire

Local musician Rusty Johnson has been handling the live entertainment offerings at BJ’s (and no, not the dancers), but tonight he does it a little bit different. He’s hosting the club’s inaugural Open Mic Night tonight and with a full on backup band. How’s that for a kicker? So bring your original music, spoken word or even your favorite cover song. Johnson is calling tonight the trial version, but by the enthusiasm of his Facebook invite, we think he wants it to be a lasting thing. Hey, we’re down.

DEETS: BJ’s NXS!, 3215 N. Fitzhugh Ave. 8 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

Houston ARCH seeks public submissions for new logo

Houston ARCH proposed logos

History relies on historians, whether the formal history of the academic or the informal history of grandpa’s stories, someone must tell the tale for the story to live on. The straight world has many formal institutions designed to maintain its story, from museums to archives to oral history projects the stories of straight people are well documented and preserved.

Queer history, on the other hand, is far more fragile. As a community we have a habit of separating ourselves by generations and the documents of our recent past, the fliers, t-shirts and pamphlets, are often seen as ephemeral trash, rather than important historical documents.

Several institutions have been created to try to preserve that history, including the Botts Archive, the Gulf Coast Archive, and archives at the University of Houston, Rice University and the Transgender Foundation of America. These desperate efforts have joined together to form the Houston Area Rainbow Collective History (Houston ARCH), a coordinated effort to preserve and document LGBT History in Houston.

Of course, any great organization needs a great logo, and that’s where Houston ARCH is reaching out to the public for help. Through January 5 you can submit your design via e-mail to Designs must contain the name “Houston ARCH,” and may spell out the acronym, also designs should be be scalable, work both in color and black and white, and be suitable for print and online reproduction. Designers should take care that their submissions are not confusable with logo’s of similarly named organizations.

So far only two proposals have been submitted and loaded to the Houston ARCH website for comment. Final voting for the design will take place January 25 at the regular Houston ARCH meeting.

—  admin

Halcyon live at Sue Ellen’s tonight

For the girls

Deb Hunseder and Steph Callahan are kind of a big deal. As acoustic rockers Halcyon, they’ve opened for big time names such as Joan Osborne, John Mayer and Wynonna Judd. But they headline this weekend. The Florida-based band comes to Dallas with their harmonies intact and a taste of their queer indie rock.

DEETS: With Bad Habits. Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St. 9 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

Early voting in runoff election off to slow start

For those who missed it, there is an election happening in Houston right now. Four City Council races wound up in run-offs after the November 8 municipal elections and Houstonians have until December 10 to decide the fate of these crucial races.  So far fewer than 2,000 people have voted. Without a “big ticket” item like the mayor’s race at the top of the ballot turnout in the runoff is expected to be very low. The upshot of which is that every ballot cast carries more weight than ever.

Two of the races are at-large seats, so every citizen of Houston gets to vote on this races:

  • In At-large position 2 former State Representative Kristi Thibaut faces Andrew C. Burks Jr. Pastor of Bailey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • In At-large position 5 incumbent council member Jolanda Jones faces Jack Christie, former State Board of Education member .

Two of the races are for district seats, so only people who live in those districts get to vote on these races:

  • In District A incumbent council member Brenda Stardig faces republican activist Helena Brown.
  • In District B local restauranteur and education advocate Jerry Davis faces Alvin Byrd, current staffer for council member Jarvis Johnson.

Early voting continues through December 6th, election day is November 8. Voters may cast their ballot at any early voting location. Visit to find your election day polling location (it may be different than your November polling place) and to view a sample ballot.

—  admin