by Justin Fyala
1600 miles. 100 singers. 8 concerts. 6 states. 4 days. 2 buses. 1 voice.
I dropped off my dog Daphne. I picked up coffee. I made my way to our departure point. As I turned the corner, I saw a singer walking, no, sashaying toward the bus. I stopped in my tracks and my eyes welled with tears. To me, the vision represents how vital it is for The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. (GMCW) to head out on our Southern Equality Tour.
You see, “sashaying” is an action one only feels truly comfortable doing when freedom and equality are present. It is a symbol of comfort, of being in a place and time where one can be themselves. In the northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., it’s a regular occurrence. GMCW is bringing our voice of equality to the South to change hearts and minds, not only about sashaying, but about the larger issue of respecting people for who they are, as they come.
It’s a terrible thing to not be able to walk in the manner most comfortable to oneself. It’s worse to worry each day over losing one’s job because of your core identity. Worst of all is living in fear of one’s life. We head to the South to raise our voice and essential funds for local Queer centers, churches, and organizations. To ease some of the fear and anxiety many individuals feel about not only their rights, but about being their true and open selves. To offer support to those who feel lost.
We arrived at Binkley Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C. for our first performance, an institution with a longstanding guiding principle of inclusiveness. Without time for a warm-up, we entered the space singing “Seasons of Love” (you know, that song from Rent). The audience immediately showed their warmth and love, not even allowing us to get through the door before bursting into applause. It was a sweetly surreal moment – we’re really doing this; this is really happening. After the performance, as we quickly made our way back to the bus, words such as phenomenal, wonderful, beautiful, awesome, and thank you rang in our ears.
We continued to Columbia, S.C.’s Reformation Lutheran Church. The church’s tagline is “all are invited and welcomed.” The church, led by Pastor Tim Bupp, goes beyond welcoming those who come through its doors and actively invites those of any community to join. The performance was a benefit for the Harriet Hancock LGBT Center. Ms. Hancock, who many consider the mother of South Carolina Pride was present, beaming that our organizations would work together in such a way. But the collaborative nature of the evening didn’t end there – we were lucky enough to be joined by one of the newest GALA choruses, Midlands Men’s Chorus (MMC). In an email the following morning, MMC Artistic Director Gerald Gurss wrote, “MMC is on fire after last night. So thankful to share the evening with you!” The feeling was more than mutual and we went to bed that night with our own warm fire of justice in our hearts.
To read the rest of Justin’s blog, click HERE.