by Kenny Ramos
Photos courtesy of HUES Eventbrite and HUES Facebook
Diversity and representation are unfortunately lacking in many musical spaces, including right here in Boston. Thankfully, the first ever HUES Fest tackles the issue head on by headlining the talents of LGBTQIAP women of color (IAP refers to Intersex, Asexual and Pansexual). HUES Fest was created to guarantee a safe space for both performers and attendees culminating into an inclusive, welcoming and nuanced event.
After taking the Blue Line to Maverick, I entered ZUMiX, a non-profit community center dedicated to building up the community through musical and artistic expression, where HUES took place. The event had a sliding scale for donations at the door, but after realizing that I had no cash on me, I was reassured that no one would be turned down for a lack of funds. Initially I was embarrassed, but quickly I felt welcomed here because this event wasn’t about profit, but rather it was about passing the mic to those who are typically silenced in creative spaces.
The event ran from 2 p.m. until 12 a.m., but I arrived early to scope it out. I arrived at the end of sound check, and noticed that the far side of the room had several organizations tabling the event. Some of the tablers I was able to speak to were the Boston Dyke March Committee, Basement Babes and Girls Rock Campaign Boston. Each group I spoke with was lovely, informative and committed to their projects and causes.
“Boston Dyke March was formed in 1995 in response to the heavily centered white male Pride events,” said CJ Johnson, a committee member. “We’re self-funded, accept no corporate sponsors and are much more radical.”
Many LGBTQIAP people of color and women feel shunned at Pride events, and the Dyke March is a way of giving a “voice to the voiceless,” as CJ continued to inform me. In addition to this, the organizations upcoming calendar is full of events they will be at or host.
On April 16, they will be at the Queer Prom at Make Shift Boston. Not long after that, on April 28 there is a Queeraoke event at Midway Café, and on June 10 the Boston Dyke March will take place at 6 p.m. at the Parkman Bandstand in the Common.
After that conversation, I turned over to the Basement Babes, a kickass feminist music zine made in Boston. I spoke to Jess Leach, a co-founder alongside Yasmina Tawil, about their work.
“We’re a submission based feminist zine that’s open to art, writing and thoughts related to or inspired by Boston’s underground music,” Leach said. What started as the brainchild of two friends in Sept. 2014 has bloomed into a forward-thinking publication that is willing to feature your work. After copping their latest issue, I went over to the Girls Rock table.
I spoke with Michelle Porche, a professor at the School of Education, and Andrea DiFebbo, a volunteer spending her spring break working for Girls Rock.
Founded in 2010, the non-profit’s mission is to encourage self-expression by offering creative outlets to girls in a supportive environment. Too often there is emphasis on a girl’s appearance or body image, which can limit a female’s potential to discover who she really is.
“Girls Rock is essential women empowerment,” Porche said. “It fills a void, and teaches girls to be loud, proud and stand out in society.”
The organization is about so much more than music. They remain active throughout the year with a two week long summer program for girls eight to 17, which will show them how to learn to play, form bands, make t-shirts and perform live. In addition to this, they have after school programs.
After watching a few performances, I was able to track down Yamamba, who was the second act of the day, and who preferred to keep her identity secret for the interview.
The Boston-based artist describes her music as experimental art-pop, and she bellows her powerful lyrics vacillating between English and Japanese.
“The inspiration to my music is based on history along with my own personal trauma,” Yamamba said.
Not all music spaces are safe to perform at in Boston. Yamamba described to me the alienation, and violence perpetrated by white skinheads at some of her shows. Events like HUES Fest are important because performers can do their jobs without having to fear for their safety.
As I wrapped up with Yamamba, Mala, who performed under the moniker la llorana, came over to me so I could ask her a few questions. She kicked off HUES Fest with her gentle ukulele set playing highly personal songs of heartache.
She started playing this past July after a painful breakup, and her music is inspired by that very same experience.
Mala played a central role in organizing the event, and she is committed to keep up the momentum.
She described HUES Fest perfectly as a “Women of Color central space focused on the forgotten, neglected and silenced.”