Billy Porter joins in Soulforce 1000 WATT MARCH, VIGIL & CONCERT to bring about awareness and peacefully confront Focus on the Family’s blatant anti-gay bigotry and discrimination.
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 30, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Richard Lindsay, Interim Media Director
"Homosexual behavior is always prompted by an inner state of emptiness." — Joseph Nicolosi at Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out Conference
The New York Times calls his singing "roof-raising." Rosie O’Donnell says when he sings, "My hair stands on end." President Bill Clinton says, "If I could sing like him, I’d be in another line of work." They’re all talking about actor, dancer and singer Billy Porter, one of the nation’s top musical theater performers.
First coming to America’s attention as the 1992 male vocalist Grand Champion on Star Search, Porter soon hit the boards of Broadway, where he appeared in Smoky Joe’s Caf愰 and in the original casts of Miss Saigon and Five Guys Named Moe, and the revival of Grease starring Rosie O’Donnell. In 2005, Porter premiered his "roof-raising musical autobiography" (as the New York Times described it) Ghetto Superstar: The Man That I Am, a one-person show which brings together Porter’s musical influences in Broadway, jazz, gospel and soul. Porter recently released his second album: At The Corner Of Broadway + Soul: Live At Joe’s Pub. He starred in the Sundance Film Festival indie hit The Broken Hearts Club, and played Little Richard in the CBS mini-series, Shake Rattle & Roll. He has performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and made 7 different appearances on The Rosie O’Donnell Show becoming the Bette Midler to her Johnny Carson. He has opened for Aretha Franklin and performed in a special White House concert for President Bill Clinton.
On July 22, Porter will bring his incomparable talents to Colorado Springs in a "protest concert" of the anti-gay rhetoric of Focus on the Family. Faith has been of central importance in Porter’s life: his voice was first nurtured at age 4 at the Friendship Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Speaking about the homophobic rhetoric of James Dobson and other religious leaders who use faith to disguise their prejudice, Porter says, "It is my duty as an African-American gay Christian to stand up and be counted."
Porter sees a parallel between forms of religion-based discrimination, whether racial or homophobic, saying, "I am the most disappointed with my African-American ‘Christian’ brothers and sisters who stand proudly on their pulpits and use the bible to regurgitate the very same hate rhetoric that was inflicted on the black community not so long ago."
Porter is concerned that the rise in homophobic rhetoric, particularly around the Federal Marriage Amendment, and laws attempting to ban adoption by same-sex parents is leading to hate crimes across the country. This fear has been frighteningly confirmed as a wave of anti-gay attacks recently swept across Porter’s home city of New York, including an attack on Porter’s friend, club performer Kevin Aviance. "With the recent increase in hate bias attacks directed toward our community, I am filled with a renewed since of activism…It is time to let the world know that we will not be ignored, we will not be denied, we will not stand for it anymore."
This summer, dozens of families from across the country will come together with Soulforce to confront the homophobic rhetoric of James Dobson and Focus on the Family in an event we’re calling: The 1000 Watt March, Vigil, and Concert: Shedding the Powerful Light of Truth on the Anti-Gay Dishonesty of Focus on the Family.
On July 22, actor Chad Allen and Judy Shepard, executive director of The Matthew Shepard Foundation, will lead the crowd in a 2-mile march from Rampart Park in Colorado Springs to the headquarters of Focus on the Family. The crowd will encircle James Dobson’s headquarters, joining hearts and hands in vigil as they peacefully call on him to cease his defamation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Afterwards, Broadway star Billy Porter will protest in song outside Focus on the Family, with an electrifying jazz concert that celebrates the lives of all people and loving relationships that seek the American dream.
The concert will be the culmination of a week-long justice action as gay and lesbian families with children, heterosexual allies, and LGBT people from across America will participate in the 65-mile "relay" style march from the state capitol building in Denver to the headquarters of Focus on the Family.
The purpose of the march is to help America connect the dots between the defamatory rhetoric that flows from Focus on the Family and the legislative assault on the civil liberties of LGBT people and their families.
To find out more about the Soulforce 1000 Watt March, Vigil and Concert, please see: www.soulforce.org/1000wattmarch.
Consistent with the first step in the principles of nonviolence taught by Gandhi and King, Soulforce researched and documented false claims by Focus on the Family about LGBT people, couples and families. That research is compiled in a booklet, entitled "A False Focus on My Family" and a DVD, entitled, "Dear Dr. Dobson." This powerful and eye-opening booklet is available free online at www.soulforce.org/article/false-focus-family and the DVD is available free to press upon request.
Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.