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Q&A with Haitian-born lesbian poet Lenelle Moïse, who'll hold workshops with Miami LGBTQ youth

"Pray" © 2010 by Lenelle Moïse

Haitian-born lesbian poet Lenelle Moïse will be in Miami next week for a series of youth workshops sponsored by Tigertail Productions, part of its continuing SpeakOut project for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning) youth.

Here's a Q&A I did this week with Moïse:

1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

2. Have you always identified as a lesbian?
I’ve always identified as a poet―as someone who engages words to communicate impulses, ideas and affinities. “Lesbian” communicates my impulse to love women, the idea that my love is legitimate, and my affinity with Adrienne Rich, Pat Parker, Audre Lorde and the many lesbian poets who came before and breathe beside me. I’ve reclaimed and prefer the Haitian-Kreyol word “madivinez” because it comes from where I come from and because the word “divine” sits, undeniably, at its core.

3. Did this create personal conflict or conflict with your family and friends? If so, how did you and they deal with it?
The last time I visited my grandparents, they had my junior prom picture on prominent display in their bedroom! In it, I’m wearing a white dress and my date is a nice, upper middle-class boy. That image was the highest aspiration someone else had for my life. During my twenties, I often felt that I was being prayed against and ignored. But, recently, after years of performing my autobiographical solo show "Womb-Words, Thirsting," my parents and siblings finally came to see it. They laughed, cried and applauded. My father told me he was proud of me. My mother lead a standing ovation. We struggle but there’s hope. In the meantime, I surround myself with supportive friends and allies.

4. What advice do you give to young people – particularly young Haitian Americans – who are coming out?
We have to love ourselves enough to get free. As far as I’m concerned, stubborn self-love is a cultural legacy. Back in 1804, our Haitian ancestors defeated their French slave captors. It was the only successful slave revolt ever recorded in history. I owe it to my ancestors to break free from oppression or bigotry in any form. I wrote an essay with more advice called “Letter to a Haitian Daughter.”

5. When did you first become interested in poetry?
I was five years old. My uncle was a poet―clever, rhyming and riveting. He performed during church services. He was the first person to ask me to write and recite a poem. I haven’t stopped since.

6. At what point did you realize that you could become a professional performer? Did your family encourage or discourage you?
I’m so grateful for my arts education! I went through wonderful theatre departments in high school, Ithaca College and Smith College. My instructors have always been active theatre professionals. They never spared me a challenge. Their example encouraged me to spread my wings, full time.

7. What advice do you have for young people who want to become professional performers?
Study. See as many live performances as you possibly can. Read and reread performance texts. Risk open mic nights. Find mentors and colleagues. Take workshops. Rehearse independently and often. Invest your years and your tears.

8. What are the professional highs and lows you’ve experienced?
I’ve performed Off-Broadway, at the United Nations and at theatres and colleges across the USA. But what I chase is the elated exhale I experience after I solve the puzzle of a new song or play or poem. That “eureka” moment is what keeps me writing in the face of racism, sexism and heteronormativity. That eureka moment rocks.

Here's a news release with all details about Moise's visit:

Featuring Tigertail SpeakOut Workshops & Slam for Gay Youth

(MIAMI, FL – December 8, 2010) Tigertail Productions continues its SpeakOut project for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning) teens with a weeklong residency with nationally recognized, Northampton, MA Poet Laureate, writer and spoken word artist Lenelle Moïse. School and community workshops, a panel discussion, a poetry slam for LGBTQ youth, and a reading for a general audience, take place. All events are free. For more information and a full schedule visit www.tigertail.org or call Tigertail at 305 324 4337.

Haitian-American powerhouse Lenelle Moïse is an award-winning poet, playwright, essayist, composer and nationally touring performance artist. She creates intimate, fiery, politicized, texts about the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality, spirituality, culture and resistance. Her hip-hop bred, jazz-infused delivery is at once conversational and polished. Fueled by the motto “Words rouse worlds,” she regularly presents interactive performances and workshops that empower diverse groups of people to creatively speak up and act for social change. Equipped with an MFA from Smith College, Moïse has been a guest artist at the United Nations, the Culture Project, the Louisiana Superdome, the Omega Institute and dozens of theatres, colleges and conferences across the United States and Canada. Her critically acclaimed Off-Broadway play Expatriate inspired her upcoming second CD The Expatriate Amplification Project.

During her residency, Lenelle Moïse will lead workshops for students at Miami-Dade public high schools, hosted by individual Gay Straight Alliances/ Safe Schools South Florida and other groups. The public high schools involved include North Miami Senior, Dr. Michael M. Krop and North Miami Beach Senior. Other workshops will take place at the Miami Arts Charter school and Pridelines. SpeakOut workshops train LGBTQ youth in writing and speaking skills within a medium that blends poetry, theater and hip hop culture and also provides opportunities for LGBTQ teens to perform their work.

The youth component of the residency culminates in a SpeakOut Open Mic and Slam for GLBT teens, hosted by Lenelle Moïse at the Miami Beach Regional Library, 227 22nd Street, Miami Beach, on Thursday, January 13. This is an opportunity for teens to read and perform their poetry. There is no charge to attend but each participant must be under 21-years old and material must be gay friendly. No reservations are needed. Those interested in the Open Mic and Slam register at the event between 5:00 and 5:30pm at the Miami Beach Regional Library. For more information on all youth events visit Tigertail on the web at www.tigertail.org or call 305 324 4337.

Finally, Lenelle will read and perform her writings and poetry on Friday, January 14 at 8:00 pm, at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables. This event is free and open to the general public.

“Lenelle Moïse is an informed, versatile, and articulate voice that needs to be heard by South Florida audiences, both in the schools and in the community,” said Mary Luft, Tigertail Executive Director.  “Our Tigertail SpeakOut project, which has presented such artists as Emanuel Xavier, Scott Turner Schofield, Regie Cabico and Staceyann Chin, continues this season to bring quality LGBTQ programming to Miami.”

SpeakOut grows out of Tigertail Productions’ existing and highly successful Tigertail WordSpeak teen spoken word project, which brings poets and performers to Miami each year to lead workshops for teens. Tigertail also sponsors and coaches a WordSpeak team of Miami teens who attend the national Brave New Voices spoken word youth slam and festival in the summer. Tigertail produces a book and a CD of the teen poems. Gay teens from the SpeakOut project have the opportunity to participate in the main WordSpeak program adding their unique voices to Miami’s youth culture.

Tigertail Productions, founded in Miami in 1979, is Florida's pioneer of innovative cultural work, and produces a full season of contemporary performance, along with projects in the literary and visual arts. Tigertail’s 2010-2011 events began October 14 with a book launch of Tigertail, A South Florida Poetry Annual: Selected Collective, then continued November 13, 2010, 8:30pm with a concert by the Benjamin Herman Quartet at the Byron Carlyle on Miami Beach. December 28 is a book launch of the teen spoken word book WordSpeak, January 28 & 29, 2011, Jess Curtis/Gravity Dance, a mixed-ability group from Berlin and San Francisco performs at Inkub8, as part of danceAble and FDA WinterFest, February 11 & 12 at the Colony Theatre the illustrious Japanese dance duo, Eiko & Koma perform, March 11, again at the Colony Theatre, the legendary blues artist Henry Gray & The Cats, April 16 the virtuoso guitarist Bill Frisell performs music from his latest CD at the Colony; and spoken word and literary arts events take place throughout the year, including, Sunni Patterson with WordSpeak the end of March/April and the Tigertail fundraiser, May 14. For more information about Tigertail and full season details visit them on the web at www.tigertail.org or call 305 324 4337.

The SpeakOut program and Lenelle Moïse residency is made possible in part by a grant from the GLBT Community Projects Fund at Dade Community Foundation, Greater Miami’s permanent endowment made possible by generous donors since 1967, ES Moore Family Foundation, Miami Dade Public Library, Miami Dade Public Schools, Miami River Inn, Books & Books, Safe Schools of South Florida. Tigertail is a NPN Partner of the National Performance Network (NPNN). This project is made possible in part by support form the NPN Performance Residency Program. Major contributors to the National Performance Network include the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), the MetLife Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. For more information visit www.npnweb.org.

Tigertail's 2010/2011 Season is made possible by community partners and supporters including the Albion Hotel; Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation; Barefoot Wine & Bubbly; Albion Hotel; Biscayne Times; Books & Books; Bresaro Suites at the Mantell Plaza; Cafeina; The Children's Trust; City of Coral Gables Cultural Arts Program; City of Miami Beach Cultural Affairs Program, Cultural Arts Council; Consulate General of the Netherlands; Dade Community Foundation; E.S. Moore Family Foundation; Florida Dance Association; Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Arts Council; Florida Literary Center; Galeria del Sol; The Galler Group; Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau; MiamiArtzine.com; Miami Salon Group; Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; Miami-Dade County Public Library; Miami-Dade County Public Schools; Miami River Inn; National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, additional funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Ford Foundation and MetLife Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; National Performance Network with major funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), Altria, MetLife Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation; The New Hotel; Pridelines; Publix Super Markets Charities; Rain Organics; Safe Schools South Florida; Rain Vodka Organics; The Law Office of Linda M. Smith; South Arts; Vortex Communications; WDNA & WLRN FM and many individual supporters.

Lenelle Moïse SpeakOut Schedule in Miami

Monday, January 10
Performance and Workshop with GLBT support groups at North Miami Beach Senior High School

Tuesday, January 11
Workshop with GLBT support groups at North Miami Senior
7:00-8:30pm,Panel Discussion, Little Haiti Cultural Center,212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami, Gender, Race, and Class: Art and Social Activism, with Rosie Gordon-Wallace, Octavio Campos, Edouard Duval Carrié and Lenelle Moïse.

Wednesday, January 12
Performance and Workshop with GLBT support groups at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School
6:00-8:00pm Workshop for LGBTQ teens from Pridelines Youth Services.

Thursday, January 13
5:30 pm,
SpeakOut Open Mic and Slam for GLBT youth hosted by Regie Cabico at the Miami Beach Regional Library, 227 22nd Street, Miami Beach. Each participant (21 and under please) gets a chance to arouse, provoke and inspire with spoken word poetry! Material needs to be gay friendly. Free and open to all teens with no reservations needed. Sign up at the event.

Friday, January 14
8:00 pm, Reading and performance at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables. Free and open to all.

For more information contact Tigertail at 305 324 4337 or visit their website at www.tigertail.org. There is no charge for SpeakOut programs.

Tigertail Productions   842 NW Ninth Court   Miami, Florida 33136   305 324 4337   www.tigertail.org


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