Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

Roberta Flack (American Masters)

February 13, 2023

A really wonderful biographical documentary on Roberta Flack currently runs on PBS’s American Masters. From the site,

New film tells Flack’s story in her own words and includes interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Yoko Ono, Angela Davis, Eugene McDaniels, Joel Dorn, Peabo Bryson and more.

From “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” to “Killing Me Softly” and beyond, Roberta Flack gave voice to a global soundtrack of beauty and pain, love and anguish, hope and struggle. American Masters: Roberta Flack illuminates where reality, memory and imagination mix to present music icon Roberta Flack, a brilliant artist who transformed popular culture, in her own words. With exclusive access to Flack’s archives of film, performances, interviews, home movies, photos, hit songs and unreleased music, the film documents how Flack’s musical virtuosity was inseparable from her lifelong commitment to civil rights.

Roberta Flack has long been a favorite of mine. Her albums run from 1969 – 2018, just shy of 50 years. I have loved Roberta since her beginnings including Killing Me Softly, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, The Closer I Get to You, Feel Like Makin’ Love, Where Is the Love, You Are My Heaevn, Set The Night To Music, Making Love, and the amazing freaking incredible remix of Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes) (House Of Trix Mix) I danced to very specifically in 1989 Philadelphia the year before I moved to NYC. Flack was diagnosed with ALS in 2022. She will no longer be performing. This film is a must-see. 5 out of 5.

Watch Roberta Flack on American Masters streaming online now.

Can We Talk About Drag?

February 5, 2023

Reel Charlie gets Op Ed on you for a post.

Miss Shirley speaks to a young listener at one of her ‘Drag Queen Story Time’ events. Photo by Christopher Cleary/Denver Gazette

Drag queens and drag shows have been under attack throughout the country (and the world). Ron DeSantis, the disgusting governor of Florida filed a second complaint against an establishment for allowing minors into drag shows. Let me say one thing first. This has nothing to do with keeping kids safe. Drag is like any other form of entertainment. There are g-rated drag queens and r-rated drag queens. And there are g-rated drag shows and r-rated drag shows. Think of your favorite comedians. Some are squeaky clean. Others are potty mouthed. When they do family events they clean up their act. When they perform an evening show in an auditorium, they are freer to speak on adult topics. Adult topics might include sex, but also include all sorts of topics either inappropriate or boring to kids (like politics, history, aging, etc.). That said, this witch hunt on drag and the broader “Don’t Say Gay” movement is part of a fascist attempt by the final gasp of some men to hold on to their antiquated patriarchal power. They don’t want to keep sex out of K-3 grades which it obviously should be. They want to keep all things love out. They want to keep anyone not like them out of the school system. They are afraid of same gender love. They are afraid of gender non-conformity. They are afraid they will lose their pathetic power in this culture if they allow others a seat at the table. We’ve been here before. We are not going away. And if they actually want no mention of anything to do with LGBTQ relationships or gender inclusion in schools, then here’s my list of things to get rid of to make this an even swap:

    1. Teachers and staff at all schools must hide wedding rings and pictures of their spouses and/or pictures of their children.
    2. Teachers and staff at all schools must never talk during school time of celebrations such as bridal showers, baby showers, engagement showers, weddings, anniversary celebrations. There must be no mention of anything to do with a person’s family or personal life. All teachers and staff must pretend they are single people with no romantic or family life. Because all of this is sexuality.

No one talks about sexuality more in our culture than heterosexuals. No one. Trust me. I’ve been an observer of this for over five decades.

LGBTQ folk are not “grooming” children. If “grooming” worked, I would be heterosexual. The broader and scarier truths are that these people are trying to destroy the public school system in this country. That’s their real goal. By doing that, they can better control us.

Drag is fun, drag is ridiculous. Drag is celebratory. Drag is love. Even the bitchy drag queens are full of fun and mischief = love. These people full of fear and hate need to take a chill pill and stop using LGBTQ people as scape goats. I am personally done with it.  I lived through this with Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Trump. I’m done.

Listen to drag queens talk about how they view their inventions and performances in reaction to the protests and legislation. GLAAD interviewed RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 queens to get their reaction. Out of the mouths of babes,

Follow GLAAD.
Read more about the fight for public school education from The NEA, and The New Republic.
Discover Reel Charlie reviews of drag.

No Straight Lines

February 1, 2023

Outstanding documentary No Straight Lines from PBS’s Independent Lens profiles the past 40 years of Queer Comics from underground to mainstream. Directed by out lesbian filmmaker Vivian Kleinman and based on the book by producer/writer/professor Justin Hall. From PBS,

When Alison Bechdel received a coveted MacArthur Award for her best-selling graphic memoir Fun Home, it heralded the acceptance of LGBTQ+ comics in American culture. From DIY underground comix scene to mainstream acceptance, meet five smart and funny queer comic book artists whose uncensored commentary left no topic untouched and explored art as a tool for social change. Featuring Alison Bechdel, Jennifer Camper, Howard Cruse, Rupert Kinnard, Mary Wings, and other queer comics artists.

The Filmmakers
Vivian Kleiman
Director/Producer Vivian Kleiman is a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and a Fleishhacker Eureka Fellowship artist. She was the story editor for Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, and her work with landmark filmmaker Marlon Riggs includes Tongues Untied, among others. She taught at Stanford University’s Graduate Program in Documentary Film.

Justin Hall
Producer Justin Hall edited the Lambda Award-winning, Eisner-nominated No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics and created the comics True Travel Tales, Hard to Swallow. Hall is chair of the MFA in Comics Program at California College of the Arts, the first Fulbright Scholar of comics, and has curated international exhibitions of comics art.

Really worth watching. When you worry that we haven’t made progress over the past 50 years, this puts it all into perspective. Yes, we’re facing book bans and all the horror of “Don’t Say Gay” in Florida and other ignorant states, but we will not be shoved back in the closet. These artists remind us all to use the tools at our disposal to fight back and demand a place at the table. Hey DeSantis – Joe McCarthy died over 60 years ago. Your hatred and bigotry are the last gasps of the patriarchy. Watch No Straight Lines and feel the power. 5 out of 5.

No Straight Lines currently streams on PBS.
Listen to Vivian Kleinman interview on Brad Shreve’s Queer We Are podcast.

1971: The Year That Music Changed The World: Ep 4 (Our Time is Now)

January 14, 2023

Apple TV+ series about the effect of music from the year 1971. Interesting premise for a docuseries. I decided to dive right into the women’s and LGBTQ episode. Seriously they could have and should have made an episode just for feminism. That said, they didn’t even talk about the Women’s Music Movement. Olivia Records was created in 1973. They only focused on uber-popular heterosexual artists like Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Linda Ronstadt. Don’t get me wrong, those three women are crazy talented and created some of the best pop music around. The second half of the hour focuses on “queer” artists Elton John and Lou Reed. Give me a break. Of course everyone knows Elton’s gay. But back in the 70’s, he was playing the game to sell records. Eccentric yes. Openly gay no. And Lou Reed? They focused on his song, Walk on the Wild Side. That wasn’t about him being gay or bi or pan or fluid. It was about other people being queer or trans. There’s no evidence Reed was ever with men or trans people. Attention, Bowie, party of two. Meanwhile Sylvester released an album in 1978 that included his two massive hits, You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), and Dance (Disco Heat). Not one mention in the episode of the emerging voices of the Women’s Music scene and out artists like Sylvester. I didn’t bother watching any more episodes. This is just a hatchet job of obvious Top 40 hits. Next time do your homework which is as easy as searching Wikipedia, and focus on the hitmakers and the lesser known performers who actually changed the world. 2 out of 5. Next.

1971: The Year That Music Changed The World currently streams on Apple TV+.

We’re Here: Season 3, Episodes 5 & 6

January 1, 2023

I watched the final two episodes of We’re Here: Season 3, Florida: Episodes 5 & 6. I was blown away. This show has really found its lane. This season they are clearly using drag as a transformational tool, as a political tool, and as a celebratory tool. This two-part episode is not to be missed. I sobbed through the final 20 minutes of the season finale like nobody’s business. Remarkable use of drag to combat homophobia and transphobia in one of the most fucked up states in our country – Florida. The queens travel to Orlando and help a cis gender straight female high school teacher with a trans daughter, a cis gender women and trans woman who are celebrating 50 years of marriage, a 58 year-old closeted gay man living in The Villages (shudder) near his mother, and a young queer man who is a Pulse Nightclub shooting survivor struggling with PTSD. Each one of these stories is a powerhouse call to arms for all of us to rise up, stand up, shout, vote, educate, and support our LGBTQ family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. This show really gives me joy. 5 out of 5 for this Season 3 double-dose ender. I will go back and watch the rest, I promise.

We’re Here currently streams on HBO Max..

Interviews: Zelenskyy, Brunson, and Springsteen

December 19, 2022



Three big interviews aired recently on streaming services. All are worthwhile in their own right.

  1. David Letterman flew to Kiev and interviewed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a subway platform far below the ground where the war with Russia rages on.
  2. Oprah Winfrey interviewed Quinta Brunson the creator of Abbott Elementary.
  3. Howard Stern interviewed Bruce Springsteen.

For various reasons, all three of these are excellent choices. President Zelenskyy’s interview speaks intimately and urgently. Quinta Brunson’s interview showcases a new generation’s voice. And Bruce Springsteen’s interview covers an entire career.

Zelenskyy’s interview currently streams on Netflix.
Brunson’s interview aired on OWN, and currently streams on HBO Max and Discovery+.
Springsteen’s interview currently streams on HBO Max.

The Big Gay Donation: Convincing The World Cup Decision Makers to Hold the Event in an LGBTQ+ Friendly Nation From Now On

December 17, 2022

Love, love, love this. From the U.K., and YouTube,

Let’s convince the definitely not corrupt people who run football to host an LGBTQ+ friendly 2030 World Cup – or raise money for a big gay charity instead 🌈 ⬇️ DONATE HERE ⬇️ ⚽   #TheBigGayDonation

LGBTQ Rights in Quatar. From Wikipedia,

Lesbiangaybisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Qatar face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Sexual acts of male homosexuality are illegal in Qatar, with a punishment for all convicts of up to three years in prison and a fine, and for Muslims duly convicted in a court under sharia law the possibility of a judicially sanctioned capital punishment for homosexuality; however, there are no known cases where the death penalty was judicially enforced for homosexuality, though extra-judicial murders of LGBT people are unverified.

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE: Lesbian Bars in NYC, and Across the Country (NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project)

December 3, 2022

From NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project,

In the 1980s, there were roughly 200 lesbian bars in the United States. In 2022, there are fewer than 25. In New York City, only 3 bars catering to a lesbian and queer women clientele are in operation (a fourth, Bum Bum Bar, in Queens, closed as recently as 2018). Lesbian bars are much more than spaces for drinking and socializing – their very existence has been and continues to be a political act.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is pleased to partner with The Lesbian Bar Project to host a virtual talk-back for the Roku-produced series of the same name. Directed by Erica Rose and Elina Street, “The Lesbian Bar Project,” is a three-episode docuseries telling the lively and powerful stories of different lesbian bar owners and patrons in Houston, Phoenix, and New York City. Stream episode 3, “New York,” and then join us for a talk-back with the directors and special guests Cassandra Grant, activist and original board member of The Salsa Soul Sisters; and author Jack Jen Giesling.

Register to attend this virtual event. It’s free!

A Librarian Spoke Against Censorship. Dark Money Came For Her (New York Times First Person Podcast)

November 17, 2022

An important podcast about what’s been going on around the country. School and Public Libraries and Librarians are being targeted with book challenges. The majority of these challenges are about and by books from people of color and the LGBTQ community. We recently faced a book challenge in my workplace library. It is everywhere.

From NYTimes,

Amanda Jones is a librarian. This summer, worried that her town might try to ban books, she spoke up at a public library board meeting about the importance of a diverse collection and preserving young people’s access to books with sexual health content and L.G.B.T.Q. themes.

A few days later, she found herself accused online of advocating for pornography in the children’s section. That was not unusual — fights about book banning have gotten ugly all over the country. But in response, Amanda did something that few others have done.

[You can listen to this episode of “First Person” on AppleSpotify Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

First Person is hosted by journalist Lulu Garcia-Navarro. From New York Times Opinion.
The American Library Association’s frequently challenged book lists by year.
Join The Freedom to Read Foundations Unite Against BookBans.

We’re Here: Season 1

November 11, 2022

The third season of the docuseries, We’re Here premieres this month on HBO Max. The title refers to a chant my generation created in the 1990’s – “We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It.” You can catch the first two seasons now. The premise is familiar. Three drags queens enter a small town and transform lives with their wisdom and performance. From HBO,

Follow renowned drag queens Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara, and Shangela as they continue their journey across small-town America, spreading love and connection through the art of drag.

I enjoyed the two episodes I watched of the first season. It’s fun, breezy, peppered with conflict from the town, and all gets wrapped up by the end of the episode. It’s the way the entire world should be. And why not dream it. If we can imagine it, then it is possible. Yes, there are more than comparisons to Priscilla and To Wong Fo. Let’s face it, this is a result of RuPaul’s success and the granddaughter of both movies combined. But that’s not a bad thing. Every generation needs a bit of glitter and transformation to thrust them forward. Bravo to the girls of We’re Here. I only stopped watching because the young man in episode 3 broke my heart. I am sure his story ended well, but I just couldn’t sit through another gay man expressing internalized homophobia by following the teachings of a church that hates gays. If anyone’s seen the episode and knows it ends well, let me know. 3.5 out of 5.

We’re Here currently streams on HBO Max.

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