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Emerge Festival 2019 Gives Everyone a Platform

March 4, 2019

Last year’s inaugural Emerge Impact + Music festival set out to create a space where diverse thoughts and voices are celebrated. The ambitious event, which bills itself as being at “the intersection of social justice, art and music,” saw everything from performances by sex positive rapper Cupcakke and internet sensation Poppy to speakers such as Conversations with People Who Hate Me podcast creator Dylan Marron and a Fairytale Ball—a celebration of the underground house/ballroom scene that served as a freedom movement for the LGBT community.

In a time of divisive politics, this year’s lineup only amplifies Emerge’s inclusivity. Among the artists and activists featured at the festival are those representing LGBTQ communities and causes.

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One of the most notable voices is Laura Jane Grace, founder and frontwoman of veteran punk outfit Against Me! Grace has been among the most visible transgender musicians, releasing the album Transgender Dysphoria Blues in 2014 and a memoir, Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, in 2016.

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Also on the lineup are The Ladies of LCD Soundsystem, the duo of Gavin Rayna Russom and Nancy Whang from the Grammy-winning dance-punk group. Russom, a veteran electronic musician, came out as transgender in 2017. “I was working so hard just to present this image of myself that ran very deeply counter to who I really am. There's nothing theoretical or intellectual about that. It's the physical thing in my body,” she told Pitchfork.

Paula Williams knows that fight well. She was a pastor and conservative leader for more than 20 years when she came out as transgender in 2012. As a result, she lost her job and TV show, along with some friends and members of her family including, initially, her minister son Jonathan. Now the two are closer than ever and work together to make faith communities more LGBT-inclusive.

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Chicago singer-songwriter, poet, and queer organizer Tasha brings joy at a time we need it most. While it would be easy to face America’s troubles with angst and aggression, Tasha takes a delicate approach. Her seven track EP, Alone at Last, is full of beautiful bedroom songs that remind us that there’s still beauty in this world.

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NYC rap disruptor Le1f has helped redefine his hyper-masculine genre since his breakout 2012 club jam “Wut.” At the time, he told The Daily Beast, “I used to imagine that I would be shot on stage or something just for being a gay rapper … Now I feel it’s more and more probable that there are going to be several cool, mainstream gay rappers in the next few years.” In 2019, his prophecy is inching closer to becoming a reality.

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Last but certainly not least is New Orleans’ queen diva of bounce, Big Freedia. Freedia, a gender fluid musician who  uses she/her pronouns, makes music that liberates. She’s the ambassador of bounce, a regional energetic, call-and-response heavy subsect of hip-hop. She even got the attention of Beyonce, contributing the oft-quoted line “I came to slay, bitch” on “Formation,” and Drake; Freedia’s voice opens Drake’s 2018 hit “Nice for What.” Hopefully one day soon, Freedia and other LGBT artists will see the mainstream success of the artists who reach out to them for features.