Last weekend’s HOMECOMING Performing Arts Festival from Intiman Theatre was a true celebration of joy. Walking into the festival, the love and effort could be immediately recognized: the patterns on the wristbands were beautifully drawn and the staff had towels on hand, constantly wiping seats off to make the event more accessible for their disabled or older guests. The pride was clear and well deserved.
The media constantly bombards us with news and images of trauma, loss, and marginalization—with the immense suffering of marginalized people becoming a staple in news today. Desensitization to such topics is becoming increasingly, and worryingly, normal. While it's essential to recognize systemic challenges to be able to invoke change, it’s just as important to showcase the togetherness and joy of POC and LGBTQIA+ communities.
The festival showcased an impressive lineup of artists, from grassroots organizations to queer and trans comedians. Red Eagle Soaring, a Native youth theater and arts program, was represented by Nicole Suyama, descended from the Inupiaq tribe in Inupiaq territory (Northwest Alaska). Suyama and fellow Red Eagle Soaring alumni performed songs in their Indigenous language, as well as a classic Yakama parable that was both unique and familiar in its message to judge people on character, not looks. Having alumni was especially moving as it highlighted the kinships and bonds formed within their program and the Indigenous community.
As to be expected in Seattle, it started pouring around noon. Luckily, this only added to the vibrant energy of Bijoux’s live disco, with singer Ade Connere performing a variety of popular ‘70s and ‘80s songs. The falling water combined with intermittent electric piano solos by Bijoux’s Jayson Kochan, created a dynamic and thrilling space to enjoy. Rain ponchos make great dance costumes.
Around the venue, there were several pop-up tents from local small businesses: from eye-catching pins and stickers at StarBB Toys to the homemade body butter from Badder Body (the “Sweet Dream” body butter was my favorite). The vendors provided a fun way to get out of the rain and still enjoy the festival.
A particularly moving tent was Forever Safe Spaces, which provided different baskets, each one relating to a different issue/movement. Ranging from local youth art programs to rent and bill relief for “formerly houseless artists and their families”. In each basket, one could donate or find a Venmo username for someone who needed mutual aid relating to that issue. Providing such a direct link to members in our community is so meaningful. Mutual aid gives a more accessible route to uplift and mobilize those who are struggling. Global non-profits, while still good, have a mission and execution that must cater to the interests of their wealthy donors, limiting their reach. The festival’s mindful and consistent choices of community over capitalism were much appreciated.
All of the performances were filled with both joy and, paradoxically, anger. In Howie Echohawk’s comedy performance, they joked about how white people often criticize Native practices, but early colonists used corn cobs as toilet “paper”.
HOMECOMING was a celebration of joy and culture, stemming from, yet contrasting, the pain of discrimination. Diversity creates such beautiful things, and this festival recognized that, bringing the same beauty to Harvard Avenue and my Saturday.
HOMECOMING Performing Arts Festival ran September 18-19, 2021. For more information see here.
Lead photo credit: Moonyeka performing with Velocity Dance Center. Photo courtesy of Joe Moore.
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