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Gaining ‘Momentum’

DJ Alyson Calagna kicks off Cherry with Apex party

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DJ Alyson Calagna says she likes to start her sets slow and work to a boil. (Photo courtesy of the Cherry Fund)

Cherry Fund’s annual charity circuit party may have officially kicked off Thursday, but the party has barely started with more events all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The big party tonight is Momentum hosted by Miss Foozie at Apex (1415 22nd St., N.W.) with lesbian DJ Alyson Calagna and DJ Steve Henderson.

With a line-up of mostly male DJs, Calagna, who has been spinning for 19 years, kind of sticks out of the crowd, and she likes it that way.

“It feels pretty good … now things have changed and it’s a lot easier to be a girl DJ,” Calagna says. “I have a much more masculine essence so its good to be among the boys.”

She doesn’t stay at one club and spin, but tours and goes somewhere new every weekend, with fans sometimes traveling to hear her at the bigger parties.

Circuit parties don’t seem to be as big as they once were, and Calagna thinks it’s just the way the club culture goes every five or six years with peaks and drops.

“Right now, I think we’re in a bit of a reorganizing phase, weeding out what’s not working, changing things,” she says. “There are some circuit parties that do really, really well.”

Music has always been a part of Calagna’s life.

When she was young, she wanted to be a radio DJ, until she started clubbing.

She became a resident dancer at a teen club, getting close to the different DJs there. One night, she went up to the DJ and just asked if he’d teach her.

“The first time I went to his studio where he practiced, that was it … I knew the moment I touched a turntable, that was what I wanted to do,” Calagna says, adding she almost gave up dancing right there.

This isn’t Calagna’s first turn at Cherry.

“I play a lot of circuit parties … Cherry is one of the ones that really still stands for something,” Calagna says. “I really like what they’re doing.”

Her style is house-based, but Calagna doesn’t stay in a single genre or follow a set list when she spins, rather going with the vibe of the crowd, comparing what she does to a chef visiting another country and changing regional recipes to fit his style of cooking.

Don’t expect the music to be fast and rocking right away tonight. That’s one of her biggest DJ pet peeves, time-appropriate music.

“I start deeper and more soulful and melodic in the beginning because I don’t like to bang out clubs until there’s a lot of people in there,” Calagna says. “I like the music to start slow and kind of build.”

Calagna does get paid for her appearance at Cherry, but she gives the organizers a big break and she donates a large portion of the money she receives to the Cherry Fund, which benefits AIDS charities.

Calagna is probably looking forward to seeing the other DJs on Saturday night at the main event the most.

“I’ve always really enjoyed playing in D.C.” she says. “I love the city … I’m looking forward to having the next night off.”

DJs Oscar G, BennyK and Town’s own Wess will be spinning at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. with performances by Macaviti and the Ladies of Town.

Friday also has two other events, a fashion show at Caramel Boutique (1603 U St., N.W.) with local designer Andrew Nowell from 2 to 8 p.m. and a bachelor auction at Town with DJ Bandit and D.C. Bear Crue from 7 to 9 p.m.

After the main event on Saturday is an after-hours party at Fur (33 Patterson St., N.E.) with DJ Peter Rauhofer from 4 to 9:30 a.m.

Sunday continues with a Tea Dance at Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) from noon to 4 p.m. with DJ Mike Reimer and Ovation with DJs Stephan Grondin and Sin Morera from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Ultrabar (911 F St., N.W.).

For more information and to purchase tickets to events, visit cherryfund.org.

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Out & About

LGBTQ+ Theater Festival returns for Black Pride

African American Collective Theater hosts ‘What That Mouth Do . . .’

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Washington’s African American Collective Theater (ACT) will host “What That Mouth Do…,” the latest installment of a program that has become an annual spring tradition in Washington, D.C., starting on Sunday, May 26 at 4:30 p.m. at Undercroft Theater. 

Guests will get to witness more than 25 talented, local “ACT’ers” – some familiar faces, some new – present Readers Theater-type performances of short LGBTQ+ themed plays. Audiences can choose either show or attend one, break for dinner, then rejoin for the other.

Additional information and tickets are available at a-act.org.

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Calendar

Calendar: May 24-30

LGBTQ events in the days to come

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Friday, May 24

Center Aging Monthly Luncheon with Yoga will be at 12:00p.m. at the Reeves Center at the D.C. LGBTQ Community Center. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults! Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of choice. For more information, email [email protected]

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Happy Hour” at 7:00p.m. at DIK Bar. This fun weekly event brings the DMV area LGBTQ+ community, including Allies, together for delicious food and conversation. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Trans Support Group will be at 7:00p.m. on Zoom. This group is intended to provide emotionally and physically safe space for trans* people and those who may be questioning their gender identity/expression to join together in community and learn from one another. For more details, email [email protected]

Women in their Twenties and Thirties will be at 8:00p.m. on Zoom. This is a social discussion group for queer women in the Washington, D.C. area. For more details, join WiTT’s closed Facebook group.

Saturday, May 25

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Brunch” at 11:00.am. at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. This fun weekly event brings the DMV area LGBTQ+ community, including Allies, together for delicious food and conversation. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Black Trans Pride Forever will be at 2:00p.m. at the Westin Washington. This will be  an afternoon filled with celebration, empowerment, and community. This event is a safe space for all Black Trans individuals to unite, share their stories, and support one another. From workshops to performances, there will be something for everyone to enjoy. For more details, visit Eventbrite

Sunday, May 26

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Dinner” at 6:00p.m. at Federico Ristorante Italino. This fun weekly event brings the DMV area LGBTQ+ community, including Allies, together for delicious food and conversation. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

AfroCode DC will be at 4:00p.m. at Decades DC. This event will be an experience of non-stop music, dancing, and good vibes and a crossover of genres and a fusion of cultures. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased on Eventbrite

Monday, May 27

Center Aging: Monday Coffee & Conversation will be at 10:00a.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults. Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of their choice. For more details, email [email protected]

“TRANSEND: Transgender & Nonbinary Support Group” will be at 4:00p.m. at the Pride Center of Maryland. This event will be a safe space to discuss hot topics, education and incentives while enjoying food. This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite

Tuesday, May 28

Pride on the Patio Events will host “LGBTQ Social Mixer” at 5:30p.m. at Showroom. Dress is casual, fancy, or comfortable. Guests are encouraged to bring their most authentic self to chat, laugh, and get a little crazy. Admission is free and more details are on Eventbrite.

Queer Book Club will be at 6:30p.m. on Zoom. This month’s read is “Immaculate Misconception: A Story of Biology and Belonging” by Gwen Bas. For more details, email [email protected]

Wednesday, May 29

Job Club will be at 6:00p.m. on Zoom. This is a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking — allowing participants to move away from being merely “applicants” toward being “candidates.” For more information, email [email protected] or visit www.thedccenter.org/careers.

Genderqueer DC will be at 7:00p.m. on Zoom. This support group is for people who identify outside of the gender binary, whether you’re bigender, agender, genderfluid, or just know that you’re not 100% cis. For more details, www.genderqueerdc.org or Facebook!

Thursday, May 30

The DC Center’s Fresh Produce Program will be held all day at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. To be more fair with who is receiving boxes, the program is moving to a lottery system. People will be informed on Wednesday at 5:00 pm if they are picked to receive a produce box. No proof of residency or income is required. For more information, email [email protected] or call 202-682-2245. 

Virtual Yoga with Charles M. will be at 7:00p.m. on Zoom. This is a free weekly class focusing on yoga, breathwork, and meditation. For more details, visit the DC Center for the LGBT Community’s website.

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Television

‘The Voice’ crowns first LGBTQ winner

Asher HaVon is from Selma, Ala.

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Asher HaVon (‘The Voice’ screenshot)

So, the LGBTQ pundits and culture watchers were … wrong. Or at the very least, anticipating “history” way before its time. After frustration over “American Idol”’s inability to crown an LGBTQ winner, they held high hopes for a new competing star-making vehicle, “The Voice.”

In 2011, the Advocate burst with excitement saying “There’s no need to wait on NBC’s new vocal competition, The Voice. The show boasts four gay contestants — two men and two women — heading into the battle round, where they will be coached by the likes of Blake Shelton, Cee Lo, Christina Aguilera, and Adam Levine. And while a couple of them might be eliminated in the next few weeks (in the battle round, teams of eight are whittled down to four when teammates face each other in a sing-off), chances that there will be a lesbian or gay singer competing to become the first ‘Voice’ are strong.”

Well. Not so strong. All of the LGBTQ contenders were eliminated. As were others over the years that even included a young trans man singing with his father as one of the show’s few duet contestants. “American Idol” did end up crowning an LGBTQ winner in its 18th season.

That was then … and this is now. After 25 seasons, “The Voice” has crowned Asher HaVon its winner. It is no wonder, as Asher’s vocal tone is hypnotic, rich, and blows through your auditory senses. Listening to him hit certain notes in his vocal runs can bring you to a flood of emotional tears. At least, it did for me.

It did for coach Reba McIntire as well. 

The significance of Asher HaVon’s win goes beyond just a queer identity. It is adorned with a depth of representation and visibility. When Asher stepped on stage, he brought culture, diversity, history, and identity. 

Like many incredible vocalists, he comes from a church foundation. Reba McEntire was a wise coach choice, relating to a broad reach of American sensibilities. She is one of the rare entertainers who is beloved by fans across the broad political spectrum. She is traditional, but an ally. 

In a bit of irony, there is a segment of his hometown that still are keeping his LGBTQ status in the closet. The Selma Times-Journal brags about his “historic win,” but when they write about it, they are referring to the fact that he is the first winner from Alabama. They do not mention his LGBTQ identity at all.

Not sure how they could miss it. Asher presents in full-beat makeup with gorgeous nails to diva quality eye makeup and lashes. His costuming was never anything less than fabulous. His song choices placed him in a pantheon of LGBTQ-worshipped goddesses that included Adele, Beyonce, Whiney Houston, Patti LaBelle, Toni Braxton, Tina Turner, and Donna Summer. He was not only courageous to take on their groundbreaking hits, but did so with the talent to impress with his own versions of them.

As Asher stands on stage, he also represents a proud black man living in the spirit of America’s civil rights movement. He truly does represent Selma, Ala., and its fight for equality significance is part of his DNA and his history. In 2015, when President Barack Obama visited the city, Asher sang for him in front of a crowd of 200,000 at the famed Selma Bridge crossing.

While the significance of that event is not lost on him, Asher calls it one that he “will never forget”, he tells the Montgomery Advertiser that “The Voice” “is different because it is the Asher HaVon that most people never got a chance to see. I am free. I am walking in the authenticity of who I am, while sharing my gift. That means so much more to me than any other experience than I’ve ever had in life.”

While Asher carried his legacy, the history he represented, and his authenticity into every performance he gave over the show’s run, it was his pure talent that put him on top.  It was so impressive that it even broke through the show’s premise of four celebrity coaches battling it out for a win. Under that guise, each of the coaches pleads with America to vote for their protégés.

Asher had most of them pleading for him instead. He initially received three “chair turns” at the outset where Chance the Rapper, Dan and Shay, and Reba were the celebrities campaigning for him to pick them. John Legend was the hold-out. Asher, ever the diva connoisseur, had already picked Reba in his mind and would have picked her no matter what anyone else had said.

Legend, later in the season, shared that he received a phone call from his dad who declared not only that he was rooting for Asher, but that Asher was “THE” voice of the season. Both Legend and Chance declared Asher to be “the best vocalist on the show” several times in their feedback statements.

While Asher’s win and authenticity should bring a source of joy to LGBTQ fans, it also is a big boost for his coach and main champion, Reba McEntire. While the show has put a full-throttle on Reba as the “queen of country” and showered her with adoration, she has had some difficulty in wowing many of the auditioning singers onto her team. Asher represents a significant win for her, as well as her being also the coach for first runner-up Josh Sanders, when she starts the next season against Gwen Stefani, Michael Bubble, and Snoop Dogg. The latter two are newcomers and Stefani boasts only one previous win years ago, but a loss in her one previous match-up against McEntire.

For the future Voice contestants, Reba has some serious creds to play. 

For the rest of us, in the LGBTQ community, in the dance clubs, and in the hearts of ones needing a new diva to love, Asher has arrived.

Asher HaVon and Coach Reba perform Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald’s ‘On My Own’ during ‘The Voice’ finale.

******************************************************************************************

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

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