by Wit López

Guest Editor and Philly based Performance Artist Wit López interviewed four amazing Black, trans artists who are reshaping the way we think of the arts in Philadelphia. Learn more about how they’re impacting the community with their talents.


[Photo Credit: David M. Ford]


Q: Tell us about yourself and your work.

A: I DJ, rap, dance in the middle of DJn, even sometimes “preach” over my sets. I’ve always loved artists and shows that have 10 different things happening on stage; you go to their show and leave having seen all sides and angles of the performer.

Ballroom has played a big part in my inspiration. I’m empathetic as hell, seeing people getting up and having a good time only makes me want to make something that gets them moving even more. I’m also eclectic, a lot of different people inspire my work from Missy Elliott to VJTheDJ to Reverend Clay Evans. The influence comes out in the moments I lose myself live and how honest I want to be in the music that I make and perform.

I just want to heal as many people as I can in this life of mine. I just want to make people dance, feel good about themselves, their lives, even when they’re in the most desponding situation, I want to give them hope for the future. We are all living in this terrible world right now, not liking one second of it, if I could be so honest, but I want my music to be a sweet mother after a hard day of school; she understands, lets you cry it out, picks your head up by the chin, gives you a kiss on the forehead and lets you know how much stronger than the problem you are.

Q: Any upcoming projects?

A: The next thing I’ll be doing is performing at the Rotunda in West Philadelphia for Phreaks & Queers festival and then Woody’s is hosting the return of Philly Vogue Nights (PVN) on the 14th of November. As far as projects, I’m coming out with another mixtape before the year is out, I’m also trying to put together a vogue/ballroom class for black queer femmes in the city soon. I want to secure the location of this class before I fully announce what will happen but I’m super excited to see more black-queer femmes expressing themselves in this ultra-fabulous way, celebrating their queendom the way they should. 

Essa Terick/Tahnee

[Photo Credit: Ryan Suits/Atomic Cheesecake Productions]

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I’m a sometimes poet and prose writer, and mainly a spiritual artist -- I craft altar spaces as an aesthetic, spiritual, and artistic practice. As Essa Terick, I’m a neo-burlesque performer with a background in bellydance. I view dance as an extension of my spirituality; becoming Divinity through movement.

My intersecting identities inform my spiritual and artistic practice quite a bit -- I’m fat, chronically ill, mentally ill, polyamorous, queer as a $3 bill, Jamaican-American, just name a few. I don’t think i could make any art without involving as many of my identities as i can...can anyone?

I’m mainly inspired by the histories and myth surrounding witchcraft, spirit workers, spiritual doulas, Jezebels, dakinis, seidr, volvas; the beings both feminine and decidedly not, beings who fall inside of the patriarchal fear and mistrust of those who are not men; the Knowing Ones who have stood between the worlds, regardless of culture and geography -- there have always been trans and other gendered people, considered sacred beings because they held mystery in their very flesh.

Q: Any upcoming projects?

A: I’ll be performing at Bi+ Visibility Burlesque* on Oct 30, Agitated!** on Oct 31, speaking, performing, and vending at Lifting the Veil Dark Arts Festival, Sinnamon’s Spice Rack* on Nov 10, Launchpad Burlesque** on Nov 11, and Cake and Sodomy: A Burlesque Tribute to Marilyn Manson** on Nov 14!

[Photo Credit: Photographer - Kenzi Crash, Director – Eva Wǒ]

Icon Ebony Fierce

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I’d like to consider myself a performance artist, mostly because I usually explore genres such as drag, burlesque, dance, spoken word, comedy and a little improv. With those genres, I always love to enter the worlds of socio-political topics, sexuality, body positivity, or just “turning the party”. I emcee events as well and speak on things people are afraid to say without being problematic or offensive… unless raunchy commentary offends you. I love for my performances to have a message or just leave people happier/uplifted than what they were before. It’s never going to be a one note thing for me. 

I’m inspired by (of course, lol) Michael, Janet, Prince, Grace Jones, George Michael, David Bowie, Marsha P Johnson, Sylvester, Kevin Aviance, Whitney Houston and all of the “divas” we loved in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I am also inspired by things I experienced everyday good and bad. There is always an opportunity to be inspired. Even when people talk about me. Even mistakes I make. Even when people are shady towards me. It’s all inspiring me to do more than I did before.

I am also a part of a QTPOC drag and burlesque troupe called Raspberry Royale and a Trans and Non binary troupe called Retrograde Productions. Follow both pages on Facebook for upcoming events happening.

Q: Any upcoming projects?

A: I am also a part of a QTPOC drag and burlesque troupe called Raspberry Royale and a Trans and Non binary troupe called Retrograde Productions. Follow both pages on Facebook for upcoming events happening.

Noor Ibn Najam

[Photo Credit: Noor Ibn Najam]

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I write poems! I love that poetry lets me explore the edges of language. A foundational pillar of my writing practice is the idea that “breaking” language (rules, conventions, expectations, etc.) opens up a more honest/instinctive expression. This is especially true for me because I, like many, write in English because of colonialism. Why should I obey a language that was, in a way forced on me? I think poems are a great way to probe the margins of the written word.

M. NourbeSe Philip’s poetry and prose were my entry into the idea of “breaking” language. She’s such a huge inspiration for me. Also, desiigner (yes, the rapper!) will forever have my heart for responding to criticism that he, essentially, didn’t speak English right by naming his debut album “New English”. Petty and anti-colonial! Love it. My peers are also a huge influence on my work and work ethic/relation to craft. Read work by Julian Randall, I.S. Jones, Nicholas Nichols, Nicole Homer, Kassidi Jones, George Abraham, jayy dodd, Cat Velez, Kristin Chang (and anyone else I follow on Twitter, really.) They’re next. Also my mentors! L. Lamar Wilson, Airea D. Matthews, Vievee Francis, Gregory Pardlo, Dilruba Ahmed, J.C. Todd.

Q: Any upcoming projects?

A: My chapbook, Praise to Lesser Gods of Love, is available for presale now on Glass Poetry Press’s website! I’m planning to have a release when it’s published in January, which I’ll be sure to post about @sonofstars_ as well as various readings, etc.

Zoe Rayn Evans