Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Introduction of Sharon Bridgforth for the Queer Cultural Event

I had the good fortune of introducing Sharon Bridgforth for the Queer Cultural Event at the Queer Studies Symposium on the University of Maryland’s campus in April 2010. Below is my introduction. Do check out Bridgforth’s work published by Lisa Moore of Redbone Press.
Good Afternoon and welcome to the second Queer Cultural Event as a part of the DC Queer Studies Symposium. I’d like to thank all of the sponsors of this event and especially Professor Marilee Lindemann and Damion Clark for their vision and hard work in making this event a success.

As we embark on the second Queer Cultural Event, you may notice that these events are, in part, reflections of my own obsessions. Last year, three gay male poets entertained and enlightened us from a variety of aesthetic positions, reflecting my desire for greater aesthetic dialogues within poetry and for more poetry in queer studies. This year, Sharon Bridgforth, an extraordinary writer, performer, historian of the imagination, and theorist, will enliven our afternoon with her work. She embodies my admiration of and appreciation for African-American Butch Lesbians. Although I don’t want to fix Bridgforth in a particular identity location because she is in fact a multi-faceted performer and artist, consider her renderings of one woman-loving-woman named bull-dog-jean from her book the bull-jean stories,

bull-jean say
i been giving away tastes
piece by piece/samples
of my Heart/I
been giving for free                 all my Life

bull-jean continues

and that wo’mn is kind
and she Lovves me         and
it don’t matter if it’s thirty minutes a day
or ONCE in the next Life
I’ll go git her/smile
whenever she’ll let me
have it!

Part of Bridgforth’s project is, in her words, considering “a range of possibilities of gender expression and sexuality within a rural/Black working class context.” She “articulates African-American sensibilities/history and oral traditions for the purpose of exploring the ways that” African-American communities have survived.

And did I mention her work is hot? Here again from the bull-jean stories

let me

be the coffee in yo cup

hold me close/smell

your memories



a little sugar

made to fit your taste

stir and sip me slow

don’t let none go to waste

Sharon Bridgforth is a two time Alpert Award Nominee in the Arts in Theatre and a recipient of the 2008 Alpert/Hedgebrook Residency Prize. She has been the Artist-In-Residence in Performance Studies at Northwestern University and her work has received support from the National Endowment For The Arts Commissioning Program; The National Endowment For The Arts/Theatre Communications Group Playwright in Residence Program; National Performance Network Commissioning Fund; the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media; and the Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Production Fund Award.

She is the author of two books, the bull-jean stories, which won the 1999 Lambda Literary Award in Poetry, and love conjure/blues, which Tara Lake described as a “historically imagined juke joint community—populated by “the mens the womens the both and the neither”—[that] restores queer agency to black history in the tradition of Audre Lorde, Bruce Nugent, and James Baldwin.” Lake continues, “This poetry is not just a blues, but a sort of divine witchcraft, a stomp circle, a shout! Not jubilee, but hallelujah.”

Both of these books are published by RedBone Press and are available for sale and signing after today’s performance.

Sharon Bridgforth is an affiliate of The Austin Project, sponsored by The John L. Warfield Center For African and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and has just been appointed to the position of Multicultural Faculty Member in DePaul University’s Theatre School for the next academic year. This afternoon, Sharon Bridgforth will perform Like Jazz, selections from her current work. After her performance, we will have time for questions, queries, and other queer forms of audience engagement. Please join me in welcoming Sharon Bridgforth.

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