Friday, June 8, 2012

40 Days/40 Rights: Flint Pride

By Nada Teezovich AKA Jessica Back
*NOTE: Most of the images included in the body of this blog are from a campaign entitled "I Love My Boo" from Gay Men's Health Crisis, a New York-based nonprofit AIDS service organization. "The 'I Love My Boo' campaign features real young men of color loving each other passionately. Rather than sexualizing gay relationships, this campaign models caring, and highlights the importance of us taking care of each other." ( For more information on this campaign and ways to get involved in the fight against homophobia and the AIDS virus, visit that site or the other mentioned in this article.

Flint Pride came out of Wellness AIDS Services’ desire to target a marginalized section of the gay population- black men.  What sprung out of a desire to lessen the disparity in the African American culture has broadened this year to include people from many walks of life.  It started as a small event spread by word-of-mouth last year with surprising results, and this year it promises to be an epic experience for all involved.  I sat down with Stevi Atkins, who is the Chief Executive Officer at Flint’s own Wellness AIDS Services, and discussed the initial impetus of the event, what it’s shaping up to be this year, and goals for the future.
In recent history, the incidence of HIV and AIDS in the gay community has been huge.  That is widely known and it has been addressed by many nonprofit and government groups.  What is lesser known is the overwhelming majority of that statistic being comprised of black men.  In fact, states “In 2009, African Americans comprised 14% of the US population but accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections.”  Out of the knowledge of these statistics, there has been a shift in the way national campaigns have targeted the gay community.  The commitment to focus on reducing the disparities in the African American community has increased, and Wellness AIDS Services has added to that commitment.  Flint Pride is a response to the challenge of getting involved in the black MSM community at large.

 Something needs to be cleared up before we go any further. MSM is a term I had never heard before Stevi used it in the interview to describe a part of the community that Wellness AIDS Services works with, which means men who have sex with men.  Since I had never heard it used before, and I consider myself to be on the inside of many conversations surrounding that concept, I thought I would pause to describe it to the readers who may not have heard it used either. states that the term MSM “indicates the behaviors that transmit HIV infection, rather than how individuals self-identify in terms of their sexuality”.   Basically this is a term that is used to encompass both gay men and men who have sex with men but do not necessarily consider themselves to be gay or bisexual.  It is an instrumental way to serve the community more effectively, by classifying based on behavior rather than title, allowing the focus to be on safety rather than how someone may see themselves. states that although white MSM comprised 39% of infections in 2009, “Among all MSM, black/African American MSM accounted for 10,800 (37%) new HIV infections in 2009. Whereas new HIV infections were relatively stable among MSM overall from 2006–2009, they increased 34% among young MSM—an increase largely due to a 48% increase among young black/African American MSM aged 13–29.”

Clearly the time has come in recent years to focus a lot of effort on getting the African American MSM community involved in the discussion of safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention.  But how to start?  Home parties are a good place to start.  “Home parties are informational sessions that happen at house parties that are already happening.”  Says Atkins.  “We bring food and information as well as a $50 stipend to the host at the house.  After the presentation, one-on-one HIV testing is offered.  The whole thing lasts about 2 hours, and normally out of 25 people, about 10-15 will test.”  This has been a really great way to meet face-to-face with communities of black MSM in particular, who often stay within their own communities and safe places and rarely feel safe going out in public to celebrate and be represented.
From Home parties, the people at Wellness became familiar with concepts of the underground LGBTQ culture such as House Communities and Ball Culture.  These are a side note in this post but are more than worth mentioning.  "Houses," also called "drag houses" or "drag families," are banded together under a respected "house mother" (sometimes a drag queen or a transgender person, but not always) and/or a "house father” which serve to show the younger LGBTQ members the ropes of the lifestyle they choose to enter.  The reason, other than important lessons on how to be fabulous and own your identity, that these house communities are imperative especially to the MTF or FTM transgendered youth is that otherwise this group of individuals would be disowned by their blood families and cast out on the streets, to starve and engage in activities that would most certainly infect them with the HIV virus.  House Communities employ many effective techniques on how to avoid infection, many of which can be used by organizations when working closely with said communities.  House Communities are closely linked to Ball Culture, wherein participants “walk”, or compete by strutting down a runway in various categories in order to win prizes and prove how much pride they take in their identity.  Categories are many and include “Realness”, “Bizarre”, and “Best Dressed”.  Also included in these competitions are many forms of vogueing and dance-based displays.  Are you excited?  Because I am!

After a period of time working the Home party circuit, Atkins reflects “We thought, ‘There has to be another outlet and way to engage.’”  Thus, Flint Pride was born.  The aim is to educate and engage in the community in order to help in preventative measures against HIV infection.  However, after years of trial and error, it was discovered that passing out fliers and condoms at clubs will result in a floor littered with long-planned out and well-edited pamphlets and a parking lot full of condom balloons.  There is a more effective way to get the MSM community in particular to come, get comfortable, and become educated enough to test and take preventative measures.  And that is a huge, fabulous, glitter-filled Gay Pride Event. 
The first pride event, spread by word-of-mouth, saw 150 attendees; far more than anticipated.  There were 3 vendors including a DJ who volunteered their time.  People came out to dance and have fun at the Kearsley Park Pavilion and to eat, all day.  One thing that happened at the first pride event was a gay history workshop, but that had low attendance and so it will not be repeated this year.   Following last year’s pride event, there were some comments from the gay community that the targeted demographic was the only one represented.  That means the goal focus was successful, but broadening that horizon was a necessary and joyous task for this year’s pride event.

This year there will be far more venders, performers, and events- including a small presentation before the mini-ball (yes there will be a mini-ball!!!!!) about what House culture is.  DJ Envi will be spinning, there will be a photo booth with Sarah Reed, and the Fischer Bodies will even perform in the afternoon of the 23rd.  There is a suggested donation of $5 for this event, which helps pay the entertainment and cover other expenses.
This year’s Pride event is a point of much excitement for me, and if you are like me and want to know how to get involved with this event or other events planned by Wellness AIDS Services, you’ll want to contact Stevi Atkins at  Make sure you “like” Flint Gay Pride Society on facebook to keep updated as well.  And of course, come on out for a weekend of fun, fierce, sexy realness served up to you as only Wellness AIDS Services can.
I would like to close by sharing this video entitled “Coming Out Stories”, sponsored by Wellness AIDS Services.  You can view it by going to this link:
For more information about House Culture and Ball Culture, a good place to start is “Paris is Burning”, a movie about these cultures in the ‘90’s.
Get educated.  Get involved.  We are a community.  Together we can make a difference.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

40 Days/ 40 Rights: Urban Gardening

Greetings all! 

This week is about supporting sustainable food resources through urban gardening.  If you're anything like us, you are curious about what's going on in your community and how to support your local urban gardening projects, but aren't quite sure where to start.  We decided to take a little of the grunt work out of it for you!  Below are two links to our favorite places to get our green thumb fix on with a few little blurbs about each one.  Check them out, get involved, support your local community and meet some really great people!

There are more than these organizations in Flint, but these are great places to start.
"We focus on community enrichment and education as our main standpoint and pride ourselves in pioneering new ideas and concepts that better our position in the fight against poverty, miseducation, malnutrition, and lack of motivation in our community. Through positive social interaction and persistence in doing what needs to be done we will overcome the hardships that arise and prevail with great success over our difficulties."

On this site, you can easily find ways to get involved, find out more about the projects going on around Flint with PeaceMob, and read about past events and projects.  These are a group of truly grassroots community activists with a sincere dedication to revitalizing what once was a suffering neighborhood into a unique, diverse and inclusive place to gain new friends and make a difference in your community.
"Edible flint supports Flint residents in growing  and accessing healthy food in order to reconnect with the land and each other.  With this mission in mind, edible flint has divided its work among six different work
groups, each of them self-organized to address specific issues and opportunities in our
local food system."

This is a great place to find out about the co-op, get yourself a starter kit for your own urban garden (when they're available), and even join the mailing list to get up-to-date information via email.  Edible Flint is a collaborative of people who want to help each individual in the Flint community start their own  urban garden and then help to sustain that movement.  What a great idea!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

40 Days/40 Rights: BEST Project

To round out week 2 of our 40 Days/40 Rights campaign, we would love to share some cool things about our favorite place to connect for community engagement, nonprofits, and specifically info about serving on a nonprofit board in Genesee County: The BEST Project.   
The BEST Project is a capacity building program in Genesee County, Michigan,  supported by the Flint Funders Collaborative (FFC).  For those of us who are not familiar with what capacity building exactly is, basically it involves helping individuals, institutions and society as a whole to connect to each other and interact in order to provide effective public services. 
Check out this video which gives you a bit of a crash course in what BEST does.  It’s a lot of information to get through, so if you want the basic questions answered we recommend checking out the first 2 minutes and then skipping to the last 2 minutes.

“But guys” you might say, “this looks really exciting but it’s kind of over our heads.  We’re just people- how can we be involved in this?”
There is a whole lot that BEST does which has to do with strengthening the structure and involvement of nonprofits in the community, but one very cool thing that BEST does on an individual level  is connect people to nonprofits for the purposes of serving on a board.  It’s really cool because it gives you a way to network with your neighbors, get active in an effective way, and feel empowered by collaborating with some really dynamic individuals who are also working to make changes.  We wanted to give you a Cliff’s notes version of what it is to serve on a board, why it is important and how you can find out more by reaching out to BEST.
So let’s say I am a person living in Genesee County, right?  I have lived here for a while, long enough to see the economic hardship and depression in my city and also long enough to notice the bright spot that has become downtown Flint.  I may drive through on my way to school or work and I might hang out downtown or around the other neat places in Flint.  I may see the development of houses being renovated, I might notice that there are more people walking around outside during the day, and I may have attended some festivals (Back to the Bricks, Buckham Alley Music Fest) and been impressed by the great energy happening in the city.  I am so excited about it that I would love to get involved, but I am unsure of how to start.
If this sounds like you, this is where BEST comes in.  The first thing you want to do is check out the class entitled “Serving on a NonProfit Board”.  It’s a one-stop shop for what it means to serve on a board, how to start, and what resources you’ll need to sustain your involvement. The next Serving on a Nonprofit Board workshop is being held on Saturday June 9th from 9-12:30. People can register here on the website:
Usually this workshop costs $35.  However there are scholarships, and BEST is actually offering a special rate of $10.00 to anyone who registers because of reading this article.  You will need to register online with an account- it’s pretty self-explanatory if you read through everything carefully.
If you have any questions about anything, BEST is very individual-oriented.  Call 810.232.8000 and ask for Diane Woodruff.  She will help you sign up for the workshop and get you started with a one-on-one conversation about how to start, follow through, and sustain your community involvement.
It’s also good for us to mention that if you’re curious about how to get involved at all, you can attend any of the beginner workshops offered regularly through BEST.  The next big speed networking event, Fall Into Service, will be held at U of M Flint in the Michigan rooms on October 23rd from 5-7:30pm.  The Inspire conference at U of M –Flint is on October 12th and is FREE! 
Check out this video about 2011's  Fall Into Service.

Once you attend the board workshop, you will have all of the materials you will need to go forward.  BEST will go so far as to fine-tailor the nonprofit you could serve on.  There are so many you may not even be aware of, like African Drum and Dance- a nonprofit that could use a few more board members, and Motherly Intercession (which works with the families of mothers who are incarcerated) which is doing great things and may need the help as well.  There is a whole world of people out there who are working every day to make our community better.  As an individual, you can help make a greater and more effective impact while reaping the benefit of networking with people of like minds and hearts. 
If you’re interested in finding out more about BEST, check out their website.  It is incredibly thorough and user-friendly and has regular updates about what classes and events are being offered.

 ---Jessica Back AKA Nada Teezovich
Support local everything.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

40 Days/ 40 Rights: Drastic Theater Company- a new company committed to creating, re-imagining, and devising work through ensemble collaboration.

By Jessica Back, AKA Nada Teezovich

 “Anything for anyone who wants to do it, that’s our motto- but you have to audition,” says Danielle Cochrane, Associate Artistic Director of Drastic Theatre Company.  I sat down with she, Matios Simionian, and Veronica Zahn for a chat about what drives the newest theatre team in Detroit-  It aims to engage the community in theater that will; entertain, educate, and inspire- and a bit about what makes it different. 

Danielle Cochrane (left), Matios Simionian (center) and Veronica Zahn (right) are members on the production team for Drastic Theatre Company. 

The Drastic Theatre Company is comprised of 9 core members and growing all the time.  Auditions were just held for this season and the idea is to hold auditions annually to add to the production team.  This is Drastic’s maiden voyage, and members are excited about what the future holds as well as how the first season will pan out.  “This theatre is about being an outlet for artists in the community, reaching new audiences that may have never seen a play before, and being affordable theatre,” explains Cochrane, “going to see a very established company do even a one-act can be upwards of $30 a ticket, and is often out of town.  This way the mentality can be ‘you have nothing to do on a Friday (or Sunday) night?  Got $5?  I’ll spot you- let’s go see a show and have a drink.’”
The theatre company has found a home for its first season in The Elizabeth Theatre- an intimate facility located above the Park Bar in downtown Detroit.  It is a collaboration that both sides are excited about.  “The Park Bar has been interested in catering to the theatre crowd in particular, and what better way than to offer theatrical events in the upstairs of the bar?”

A shot of the exterior of the Park Bar.  The bar is connected to Bucharest Grill and has a staircase leading to the Elizabeth Theater upstairs.

I attended the opening of the space as a mixer on Saturday the 20th. Having just closed a production I was stage managing for, it gave me a feeling of support and confidence to go to an event dedicated to the opening of a new venue that included the gathering of some of Detroit’s most dynamic theatre folk.  I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the crowd- not only the people who were at the event, but those simply hanging out.  I stumbled up and down the street for a moment trying to figure out where the bar was at- the Park Bar doesn’t have a sign on the front of the building and nothing to indicate to first-timers where it is located by sight- when finally I asked a couple of people standing on the sidewalk for directions.  “You’re standing across the street from it” they laughingly said, and chided me a bit about not knowing about the space.  We then had a 15 minute chat about why I was there, and committed to hanging out inside.  This was before I knew that the party itself was upstairs.  Ah, life- new friends passing so quickly out of view.  If the space is as inclusive and interesting as my first impression gave, I’m sure I will see Julius and Kimberly again.
It’s clear from that and other encounters I had with both regulars and employees of the Park Bar that the partnership here is built on solid ground.

The Park Bar: good times, great people, and a theater upstairs.  What more could you possibly want?

As for the maiden voyage of Drastic Theatre Company, it’s also clear that members are jazzed about the docket of plays in the season.  Veronica Zahn, director of Hurts So Good, is excited about the prospect of directing.  “I was originally approached to be production manager, but I had a conversation with [Joshua Blake Rippy, Producing Artistic Director and head of Drastic] about directing and here I am.”  That’s how it works at Drastic.  Many members of the company specialize in different areas of production as graduate students at Wayne State- Veronica focuses on stage management.  But at Drastic, it’s possible to develop as an artist in many fields of interest- like a stage manager who also likes to direct.   Veronica is also enthralled by the concept of working with the playwright to produce this show.  “This is the first time I have ever worked with the playwright of the production I’m directing, and the first time I haven’t chosen the script personally. I’m really interested in [Resident Playwright Edmund Alyn Jones’s] piece and am looking forward to collaborating with him.” 
As for Matios Simionian, performer in Hurts So Good and Managing Director of Drastic, his thoughts on the play are succinct. “This is exactly what I was looking for- a small cast with no frills and just acting, two people on stage telling a story.”  Mat is also excited to have the luxury of the playwright on the team to work closely with and fine-tune the show through rehearsals and collaboration.
There’s one more thing that Drastic has which sets it apart from any new theatre company I’ve seen in this area- the Resident Dramaturg and Dialect Coach, Andrew Papa.  In Speech and Debate, for instance, members of the ensemble must have knowledge of a type of birth control used.  Cochrane explains, “Topher sent an email to Andrew and asked ‘What is the rhythm method?  There’s a reference here and I have never really had it explained to me.’ Andrew, excited to start right away, answered the question, and also sent Topher information on all the political figures mentioned in speech and debate,” Cochrane adds that Papa went on to send information on French lingerie and the prevalence of AIDS in the Mid 2000's for Red Light Winter, all in the same email.  As for dialect coaching, Cochrane needs to use a French droll in Winter and states, “We’re transcribing everything into IPA and really getting into how the dialect works.”  All of this is impressive for a new company- or for any company really- and having a resident dramaturg and dialect coach onboard to assist is sure to produce equally impressive results.
Drastic Theatre Company is looking forward to presenting its first year, which includes Hurts So Good/Red Light Winter in conjunction and Speech and Debate later in the season.  Tickets for Speech are $5 and tickets for Hurts/Red are $10.  Affordable theatre, in a renovated space, connected to a bar, surrounded by really cool people- I predict that this will be a success.
A final thought from Cochrane on the theatre:
 “We are professionals with degrees, yes, and we happen to enjoy what we do.  If a mail carrier enjoys what he/she does it’s looked at differently- my point is that even though I love my job, it’s still a job and we deserve to be given the same appreciation as any other vocation.  We started this company as a pool of professionals who have to have an outlet, and we welcome anyone who feels the same to audition for us and join the crew.”

For more information on Drastic’s season or to find out a little more about it, go to

Monday, May 21, 2012

40 Days/40 Rights - Flint City Theatre

Community Art

We’re here to share and talk about some of the art initiatives in the grassroots community in and around Flint.  Art is the easiest way to find out what matters in a community.  It is the most immediate way to get involved and feel included in a city you’re new to, and it is the first thing to have a pulse after a place is hit with hard times.  We know this very well in Flint, where the economy and government are and have been in difficult weather for quite some time yet the arts scene has remained forward-thinking, cutting-edge and inclusive.  The Fischer Bodies are proud of the community we represent and it is for our fellow artists that we create many of our pieces.  It is a kind of conversation we are having with each other that goes something like this: “Hey! Wanna see something cool? Ok here it is. Can I see what you got? Wow that’s cool too!  Kay later!”  Even more deeply than seeing something cool, community art is a voice.  It is a way to articulate in a meaningful and powerful way that we are a population of thinking, feeling and creative individuals who will continue to articulate our opinions, desires and dreams for the future.  No matter what.
What better place to start or initiative than with something that is close to our hearts and minds?  So it is with much pride and (of course) glitter we present our spotlighted initiatives,  with one that is the closest to us: Flint City Theatre.  We have quite the collaboration with Flint City Theatre- if the Fischer Bodies had one theatrical crush, FCT would be it.  Not only do we sometimes share a venue (The Good Beans CafĂ©), but members of FCT lend a hand with the Bodies and vice versa regularly.
FCT  produces mostly Shakespeare and independently-written projects with a smattering of small productions here and there.  Recently it has converted from a seasonal theatre to a project-based theatre.  This means that FCT used to release a season every year complete with a few productions to take up the months of the season.  Now it is based on what each member wants to do.
We love FCT for a few reasons.  First, it develops independent works on a regular basis.  Secondly, it makes art accessible to members of the community through affordable ticket prices (tickets never exceed $10).  Also the integrity of the ensemble, understanding and respect inherent in the productions, and the collaborative atmosphere is always obvious in productions created.  These are a team of wickedly smart and cooperative individuals.  Thanks for adding to the arts culture of Flint, FCT!
Flint City Theatre's Mission Statement
To create productions of classical and modern theatre that are accessible to diverse Flint area audiences and to  offer such productions at reasonable admission prices.
To provide opportunities for local area actors, directors, designers, and technicians to explore serious theatre and enhance their skills with the freedom to choose material based on artistic perspectives.
To provide educational opportunities to area schools through run-out programs and workshops in various aspects of theatre.
To provide educational opportunities to local theatre artists through workshops and practical training.
For more information on Flint City Theatre, visit their website:

Please enjoy some photos of past FCT productions!

Marwan Prince and Kristina Lakey in" LaRonde"

Working rehearsal for "Titrus Andronicus"
Dan Gerics in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"
Nick Hale, Patrick Munley and Dan Gerics in 'Waiting for Godot"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

40 Days/40 Rights - Deaf Awareness Week

Hello you gorgeous things!

The Fischer Bodies are kicking off a campaign we call "40 Days/40 Rights" wherein we showcase different organizations or causes that we believe are paramount  Making art.  Being awesome.

The first week is dedicated to Deaf Awareness.  So now you're aware.  There are deaf people in Flint!  And they use another language and it's beautiful.  Director and resident mystery woman, Victoria NightShade, knows ASL although she refuses to say why.  Check out her video here.  Don't worry!  It's transcribed into English.  :)

In an effort to alert our fans and friends to many of the wonderful opportunities to get connected with the deaf community, we are posting THIS!!!!  Just click on the link and you can see all of the deaf/interpreted events happening in the area.

And if you're one of many who say you want to learn sign language, we urge you to consider Mott Community College located in Flint.

The Fischer Bodies say, "I love You" with their Sign Language Interpreter, Carie Sarver!

Keep checking back for more information on our campaign.  Get involved!  Be fierce advocates!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mad Monster Party - A Love Story

Victoria here!  Bringing you the latest and greatest about my trip to Charlotte, NC with Miss Dish Delish.
In my previous blog you may have read about my gig at Mad Monster Party (MMP).  Now that Dish and I are back from our journey we want to..well..DISH!

Our plane departed from Detroit mid afternoon on Friday.  

The flight was so fast!  In no time we arrived in Charlotte and made our way to the Blake hotel.  Our room was super fancy!  And we had a great view of a pool we couldn't use because it wouldn't stop raining.

We were so excited to be there!  We had to hop down to get our passes at once so we could go into the convention.  Because, after all, I had no idea where I was performing or an exact time.  Answers, people!  Well answers and this............
Ya know.  Just hanging with celebrities.  Livin' the dream.  Chris Sarandon, for example.  He's part of Victoria's inappropriate dreams. *nomnomnomnom*  But that's not all!  Dish got to meet the man who is her boyfriend but doesn't know it yet.  His name is Bill Mosely.  Look him up.
After we met with our boyfriends to let them know that we existed, we headed to the Carolina room to get a good look at the dance space.  We didn't take pictures of that because..well..umm..we didn't think that part through.  With no time to spare we headed up to our ultra cool room to get ready.  Remember my boyfriend Chris Sarandon?  Well he's in this little movie (okay, really popular horror movie) called Fright Night and my dance was a tribute to that film.  I was playing the role of Amy who is the love interest of Jerry Dandridge.  But I had to be burlesque Amy - the result was this.

And then, while Dish and I were doing this photo shoot in the hall, a random drunk man came to sit in on the session.

Time to perform!  I had the honor of performing within Dr. Scream's Spook Show Revival!  It was such a treat.  What a talented group of people!  If you like, you can see my actual performance here.

I was overwhelmed by the amount of people there, how many people liked what I did and wanted photos and an autograph.  I'm always in awe of how wonderful fans can be.

The rest of the weekend Dish and I partied pretty hard.  Let the photos speak for themselves!

A god damned $13 biscuit and does nobody in this town drink unsweeetned tea?!?

OMG Panera!  We have to get back to our boyfriends.  Bring me my SOUPPPPP!

Once the rage settles down we can enjoy these gorgeous flowers.

...and Dish can be serving up Kermit realness on this rock.

Like I said: Cutest. Dancer. Ever.

In fact, the only thing cuter than Dish Delish is Dish Delish with a tiny mouse.

Presenting an actual screen used car from the 1983 hit "Christine"

Scooby was in the Mysery Machine.  Givin' Dish the eye.

We went to Pinky's for dinner along with the Save The Chapel crew.  This dinosaur wanted some hush puppies.  

Dish hides from Angus Scrimm who is the scariest man alive.

God, zombies are lazy these days.  They just pose for pictures.

A knock on the door at 1am and someone whispering softly?  At a horror convention?  OMGDONTANSWERIT

Had all of Michael Myers victim's just been fierce he would have stopped in his tracks.  Maybe all he wanted was a manicure?

This guy.

Here we are with the fine folks from Fix the Evans City Cemetery Chapel!

Thank you all for supporting us in our journey.  Cheers!


Victoria NightShade