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Queercore panel held at Loop library
by Vern Hester

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As part of the ongoing One Book Chicago Program and Music: The Beat of Our City, the Chicago Public Library hosted a panel discussion and concert April 17 at The Harold Washington Library's Cindy Pritzker Theater titled "Perspectives on Queercore: Fed Up Punks." The event brought together long-standing members of Chicago's queer-punk scene for a discussion on the past, present and future of LGBTQ punk rock and the evolving need for growth, musically and socially.

The discussion was moderated by Fed Up Fest member Ephran Ramirez Jr., and included Mark Leverette ( a core member of Black Lives Matter and a member of The Black, Brown, and Indigenous Crew, as well as the band Melanin ), Joanna Brown and Mark Freitas ( both of Homocore Chicago ), Jill Flanagan ( as part of The Fed Up Fest Collective and the band Forced Into Femininity ), Isabella Mancini ( co-founder of Fed Up Fest, and a member of the bands Porno Glows and Cyber Pink ), and Olgie Freyre ( a non-binary educator and organizer for DIY events ). Melanin and Blacker Face provided live music.

Ramirez started the discussion by asking "What impact has punk had on your life?" Freitas said, "It was an open door for me and was the first step in my political awareness." Leverette said, "Growing up in South Carolina and not seeing anyone like me it let me express my rage. Being Black and queer in the South, I didn't see many options around me for uplift and the [punk] scene helped me enormously." Later in the discussion discussion Leverette said, "Being queer and a person of color is a political statement in itself, and the music made me understand the connection between punk and radical politics."

Amidst other questions, while discussing the importance of building a safe community and spaces, Brown and Freitas made the point that they are largely retired from organizing punk events ( the homocore era was from 1992 until roughly 2001 ) while the reasoning behind the past and current movements is still largely the same. Brown said, "We wanted to create a community during the AIDS crises. What we wanted to do was create a place where you could be punk and gay. Though the punk scene claimed to be inclusive to all, there was still a nastiness toward gays and lesbians. On top of that gender parity was an extremely important thing." Freyre added, "Even though it's the 21st century there still aren't enough safe spaces and room to talk about these topics."

Freitas joked, "In the era of homocore, we had to promote shows long before the luxury of the internet. We spent a lot of our time plastering flyers up at all hours of the night, which was extremely exhausting."

When the topic came up about the future of queercore and whether the panelists have seen a change with the times because of it, Mancini said, "Queercore is about growth. Between The Black and Brown Festival, Fed Up Fest, and Clit Fest [a festival that ran in Chicago in 2013], there has been a lot of change—but there's still more work to do." Laverette said that he did not see any change but added, "My focus is on being the change in the scene. ... My whole point is to build up Black youth."

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