CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Since long before the civil rights era, black churches and universities have been the cornerstones in building resistance to injustice. In Charlotte, these critical institutions are coming together once more. This time, the cause is LGBTQ rights, and the leader is the group Many Voices, hosting an arts-for-activism concert to promote social justice on March 10 at the Historic Biddle Hall of Johnson C. Smith University, a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).
Many Voices’ focus is LGBTQ justice and the organization uses the unique channel of black churches to fight for its cause. The group formed during the fight for marriage equality and engages black religious communities’ tradition of seeking social justice.
The purpose of the event is to celebrate unity for social justice within black churches. The theme is “One Charlotte for Justice: a concert celebrating the soul of justice through the arts.” Many Voices Executive Director Rev. Cedric Harmon says that unity is key if progress is to be made.
“At a time when marginalized communities are facing tremendous challenges to the advancement of basic rights in states across the country, it is critical for us to gather in collective public consciousness-raising that embraces the God-given dignity we all deserve as human beings,” said Harmon. “One of our core goals at Many Voices is to provide occasions for LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ allies in the black church community to affirm, empower and uplift each other.”
The group chose Charlotte because of its centrality in the fight for LGBTQ rights since the inception of House Bill 2 (HB2), the “bathroom bill” that also nullified local non-discrimination protections. In addition to its symbolic significance, Charlotte offered another advantage to the group’s aim; the city houses a variety of artists willing to join the cause.
All concert performers and participants are Charlotte-based, including Master of Ceremonies Jermaine Nakia Lee. Lee’s accolades include receiving the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Medallion Award, and he was the first openly gay person to receive the award. Lee is an activist for the LGBTQ and African-American communities, as well as a playwright, producer and singer/songwriter.
One Voice Chorus will perform at the event, as will 7th Son, an ensemble of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte. Spoken word artist L’Monique will also perform, and De’Angelo Dia, a photographer and performance artist whose work is meant to inspire dialogue about theology, politics and culture. Other musical performers are from Sanctuary Outreach Ministries, Rebirth Cathedral of Praise and Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte.