MondoHomo gains support and traction

Queer event becomes part of the establishment on its own terms

Kiki Carr, MondoHomo's founder and organizer, was skeptical. "This is trying to be in-your-face, radical, queer politics. Atlanta does not, in general, have a lot of support for that," she said in the weeks leading up to this year's festival. But Carr said she was encouraged to apply for a grant from the Fulton County Arts Council to help with a difficult year for fundraising. Recounting her own skepticism, Carr spoke with a mouth full of sarcasm, "I was like, 'They're not going to want to support a bunch of crazy queer folks doing this thing.'"

Carr is happy to admit she was wrong. Fulton County awarded the group a modest grant earlier this year, an event she recounts with incredulity. "I was shocked," she says. "Really? We're, like, official? We count? You want to put us on your website?"

As it enters its fourth year, Atlanta's underground queer festival is becoming part of the establishment. In January, the Advocate, a mainstream magazine that bills itself as "The World's Leading Gay News Source," cited MondoHomo as one of the main reasons for awarding Atlanta with the title "Gayest City in America."

"It's in some ways totally validating, and in other ways this feeling that we've been co-opted," Carr said. "But that's just something you have to be aware of."

This year's festival certainly doesn't show any signs of being co-opted. Beginning Thurs., May 27, the festival will showcase five days of artists, cabaret performers, musicians, spoken word poets, and films that never waver from that "in-your-face, radical, queer" vision.

The most notable change is simply in the scheduling of the performers. "In the past, when we did two separate music nights, we tended to have a hip-hop night and a more rock 'n' roll one. I felt like that was segregating the crowd. I wanted people to interact and hear things they normally wouldn't hear, so we decided to put all of the music in one night."

Carr collaborates with a large group of volunteers to book the festival. "There's a main crew of about 15 and then there's an occasional base of about 30 people," she says. That cross-pollination of taste helps creates the sort of unexpected combinations that Carr wants to emphasize.

The kick-off event on Thursday will combine spoken word performers with an official opening for the visual arts show. Among the visual artists, Aubrey Longley-Cook will show his meticulous and carefully considered cross-stitch patterns, while the erotic lit guru Ifa Bumi performs a combination of dance and poetry.

Friday night will be a night of cabaret performances, putting burlesque dancers such as Vagina Jenkins alongside a troupe of drag kings from Chattanooga, Tenn., the Mockingcocks.

Andy Ditzler will return as a curator for the film night Sunday to draw films from his vast knowledge of avant-garde classics, but he'll be joined by Andre Keichian, a younger curator that's selecting transgender-focused films by new and emerging filmmakers.

For Carr, though, the highlight of this year's festival is the night of music that will pair punk-ish bands such as Philadelphia's Dangerous Ponies with solo hip-hop acts like headliner Sissy Nobby, who is known for being one of the founders of sissy bounce, a New Orleans-based scene of queer hip-hop dance music that is known for raucous, all-night parties. Carr is hoping that atmosphere will translate to Atlanta. "I feel like I go to so many shows that are awesome shows and don't dance," she says. "That's why I'm excited about Sissy Nobby. But if you don't fucking dance to that, then you have had a spinal cord injury. That shit will get you on your feet. That's my fantasy this year – that there's a huge crowd of people dancing their butts off."

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[Admin link: MondoHomo gains support and traction]