D.C.’s highly-acclaimed storytelling ensemble, Story District, stands poised to showcase LGBTQ spokespersons sharing poignant reflections about their lives, guaranteed to invoke laughter, tears or inspiration, when the organization presents their annual event highlighting those who both embrace and live their lives with “pride.”
“Out/Spoken,” now marking in its eighth, consecutive year, kicks off on Thursday, June 21 at the 9:30 Club (815 V Street NW) with a power-packed lineup of District residents whose names, accomplishments and contributions have secured them places of honor within the greater Washington area.
One of the featured speakers, Rayceen Pendarvis, a Mayor’s Arts Award finalist, a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, as well as an entertainer, columnist and activist, has become a fixture in the LGBTQ community over the past several decades receiving a host of awards including Go Gay DC’s “Person of the Year.”
But for the self-described “father of five and mother of many,” sharing our stories remains critical because they “provide strength and encouragement to the leaders of tomorrow.”
“I grew up in a very religious home with two strong parents and after my dad’s untimely death, my mother, left to raise five sons on her own, never strayed from teaching us the importance of living in our truth while always allowing us to be free,” said Pendarvis, 68, a native Washingtonian who hosts a popular monthly community forum, “Ask Rayceen,” at the HRC Equality Center in Northwest.
“I’m not sure my story is unique but it’s mine. I remember calling a family meeting during my sophomore year in high school after one of my brothers heard me having a phone conversation. I came out then and there. And it wasn’t a big deal because I had an affirming mother who has always been my greatest ally and my hero,” Pendarvis said.
“Nothing that I’ve experienced up to this very moment has been a surprise. There’s been pain and triumph and I wouldn’t change one thing. I tell others that their story is important because it’s part of the fabric of life. Their story and my story — our stories — are American stories. I’ve never wanted to be different. I am proud and happy to be LGBTQ. I’ve been able to live my dreams, to be accepted, valued, honored and loved.”
“Most of all, I’ve learned that happiness comes from within and it allows me to be free. I believe that being ‘Rayceen’ gives hope to the next generation. Storytelling had recently become a lost art, so I’m pleased to see that its importance has increased and become more relevant today. We must tell our stories especially our LGBTQ stories. We have that right as Americans. Despite our differences, we are America.”
Additional storytellers will include: Phill Branch, Phil Reeves, Molly Graham, Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, Jean Montooth, Saida Agostini and Michael Sainte-Andress.