Hi friends! Just last week, I was invited to speak at the White House as one of nine Champions of Change for LGBT advocacy through art. It was an incredible honor to be selected out of hundreds of applicants across the country, and to have the chance to speak about what I’m ultimately hoping to achieve with my poetry shows, which is to inspire people to view political beliefs and issues from the perspective of personal, lived experiences so that these beliefs are based on compassion and empathy instead of vague notions of right or wrong.
The press release is below, and you can learn more and watch the video at www.whitehouse.gov/champions.
White House to Recognize LGBT Artists as “Champions of Change”
WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, November 23, the White House will recognize nine individuals from across the country as “White HouseLGBT Artists Champions of Change.” These individuals were selected by the White House for their artistry in advocating for the LGBT community. The program will feature remarks by Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett and Secretary for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, and screenings of the show Transparent from Amazon Studios and the Focus Features film The Danish Girl. The event also marks an important day in the LGBT community, Transgender Day of Remembrance, observed on November 20.
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The event will be live streamed on the White House website. To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live/ on Monday, November 23, at 1:00 PM ET. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions. Follow the conversation at #LGBTChamps.
Marco Castro-Bojorquez—Los Angeles, California
Marco Castro-Bojorquez is the Community Educator in Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, California. Marco is responsible for the coordination and implementation of Lambda Legal’s various educational and advocacy efforts. He has produced and directed several short films and documentaries, including the award- winning documentary Tres Gotas de Agua (Three Drops of Water, 2013), a short film about Latina immigrant mothers and the impact of their children’s coming out process. In 2015, he premiered El Canto del Colibrí (The Hummingbird’s Song), a documentary about Latino immigrant fathers and their LGBT children as they come out of the closet.
Fiona Dawson—Silver Spring, Maryland
Fiona Dawson established TransMilitary to promote transgender equality through media that educates, entertains and inspires. The project intimately shares the lives of U.S. transgender military personnel who served under the threat of discharge. Having co-directed and produced the short opinion documentary Transgender, at War and in Love, commissioned by the New York Times, she is now working on the feature length version of the film. An American immigrant, Fiona lived in Houston, Texas, for more than ten years working in the nonprofit sector and was voted the city’s Female Grand Marshal for the 2010 LGBT Pride Parade. She is a proud member of the bisexual community and has served on the National Board of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Fiona is currently on the Board of Directors for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA).
Jess Dugan—St. Louis, Missouri
Jess Dugan is an artist whose work explores issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and community. She has been photographing within LGBT communities for the past decade and is deeply committed to the transformative power of photographic portraiture. Her work is regularly exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collections of several major museums. Her current project, To Survive on this Shore,combines photographs of transgender and gender-variant older adults with interviews about their life experiences in regards to gender, identity, age, and sexuality, and provides a nuanced view into the complexities of aging as a transgender person in the United States.
Joanna Hoffman —Brooklyn, New York
Joanna Hoffman is a 12-year veteran of slam poetry. Her full-length book of poetry Running for Trap Doors was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and featured in the American Library Association’s list of recommended LGBT reading for 2014. She has performed her one-woman poetry show, The Personal is Political: These Simple Truths, on topics of bullying, homophobia, racism and mental health, and conducted poetry workshops with youth at LGBTQ community centers, performance venues, high schools and colleges across the country. She works at the nonprofit organization Peace is Loud.
AJ King — Washington, District of Columbia
AJ King serves as the Founder of Breaking Ground. Formerly known as “Brother 2 Brother,” this program targets men and trans youth of color in Washington, D.C., to tell their life stories through musical theatre, and identify non-violent conflict resolution. The program began as a fellowship project and blossomed into a full program presented at the national HIV/AIDS conference, NAESM. This program incorporates social justice trainings, leadership development, and a safe space for the participants to disclose their life stories and then present those stories onstage. This program concluded its last cycle with two sold-out shows at the Anacostia Arts Center in October 2014.
Pidgeon Pagonis—Chicago, Illinois
Pidgeon Pagonis, M.A., is an intersex activist. They are the former Communications & Operations Manager and Youth Leadership Coordinator for Inter/Act, an intersex youth project, at Advocates for Informed Choice–an organization that fights for the legal rights of intersex children and their families. Since 2006, they have made an effort to expand the visibility of issues related to the intersex community by facilitating workshops and presentations around the world.
Lee Levingston Perine — Washington, District of Columbia
Lee Levingston Perine is the Founder of Makers Lab in Washington, D.C. Through Makers Lab, Lee has built and supported queer communities by creating spaces that celebrate life, art, and queer culture. Since launching in August 2015, the Lab has produced and been a collaborator in the production of 35 cultural events in the region. The Lab recently received a grant for the Last Night Project, a story-collecting project that explores Black queer space in Washington, D.C. Previously, Lee founded and ran Lovebus Events & Design, a boutique event planning company that specialized in wedding planning for LGBTQ couples.
LJ Roberts—Joshua Tree, New York
LJ Roberts is a visual artist who creates large-scale knitted installations, detailed embroideries, screen prints and collages. Their work investigates overlaps of queer and trans politics, activism, protest, craft and the ongoing AIDS epidemic through an intersectional feminist lens. Among their upcoming projects are a collaboration with Visual AIDS to create a sex-positive woman-centered safer sex kit as part of the forthcoming show Agitprop! at The Brooklyn Museum .
Steven Romeo—Birmingham, Alabama
Steven Romeo is the founder, executive director and primary artist for The Change Project based in Birmingham, AL. The Change Project is an arts and storytelling organization that seeks to transforming discrimination against all LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) people into acceptance through the art of photography, social media campaigns, educational resources and partnerships with social justice organizations. Steven’s first fine art installation is “Our Bodies. Our Lives,” which engages viewers to consider what LGBTQ people want to be called versus the labels that society places on them. Steven currently studies at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, working towards his master’s degree in Public Administration with a focus in non-profit management.