Detroit Performs caught up with Kristi Faulkner to further discuss the Not In My House project. Here’s what she has to say:
Detroit Performs: How did Not In My House get started?
Kristi Faulkner: This project began out of a conversation with a dear friend about my desire to become more connected to the local LGBTQ community and utilize my skills and talents to provide opportunities and resources for LGBTQ youth. My creative work has always been rooted in queer performance and the mission of my organization is to create work that generates meaningful conversation and social exchange. This friend suggested I reach out to the Ruth Ellis Center because dance is such an essential part of what they do. For many of the youth at the Ruth Ellis Center, dance is an essential part of life. Through this project, I wanted to create opportunities to engage these youths in developing their talent and artistry while providing resources to LGBTQ youth and their families to have open, honest, and loving communication so that identity and difference can be celebrated and used to unite, rather than to divide.
DP: What else is involved with the Not In My House project?
KF: This ongoing collaboration involves free movement workshops for Ruth Ellis Center youth, the creation of an original live performance with Ruth Ellis Center youth and local LGBTQ professional dancers that blends the aesthetics of vogue and contemporary dance premiering Oct 11-13, 2018, and the creation of a feature length documentary film that documents the process and explores how dance has been integral in shaping and defining the identities of many LGBTQ youth in Detroit.
DP: What is the Ruth Ellis Center and what is their role in Not In My House?
KF: The Ruth Ellis Center is a youth social services agency with a mission to provide short-term and long-term residential safe space and support services for runaway, homeless, and at-risk LGBTQ youth. Among their many programs, their drop in center provides a safe space for LGBTQ youth to gather and receive services. This drop in center also serves as a main practice space for these youth who are deeply embedded in vogue culture. As collaborators with Kristi Faulkner Dance, the Ruth Ellis Center is providing the opportunity and space for local professional dancers to connect with and engage LGBTQ youth in all aspects of this project.
DP: When did the Knight Foundation get involved with Not In My House and why?
KF: Kristi Faulkner Dance was awarded a grant for this project from the Knight Foundation as part of their Knight Arts Challenge in 2016. The Knight Arts Challenge funds the best ideas for engaging and enriching Detroit through the arts. This project would not have been possible without the support of the Knight Foundation. The matching grant awarded by the Knight Foundation provided the impetus for other granting organizations, local businesses, and individuals to jump on board with supporting this project, knowing that their dollars would be matched through the Knight Foundation.
DP: Why is this project so important for the LGBTQ community?
KF: Despite the gains made by LGBTQ activists in the past few years, homophobia and transphobia are still a huge problem, particularly in metro-Detroit where discrimination and crimes against the LGBTQ community are on the rise. In many states – Michigan included – legislation still exists that allows for discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Further legislation is being pushed across the US to threaten the rights of LGBTQ people. This is not ok. This is not the message to send to our youth, especially to LGBTQ youth who are vulnerable and disproportionately affected by homelessness. There are between 800 and 1,000 runaway, homeless, and at-risk LGBTQ youth in Detroit on any given day. Of the 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States, 40% identify as LGBTQ. Research from San Francisco State University suggests these young people are 8.5 times more likely to attempt suicide and 3.5 times more likely to use illegal substances and engage in high-risk sexual behaviors than their peers who grow up in more accepting families. Opportunities to engage in arts programming and creative expression is essential to the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the youth. Numerous studies have shown art to be an empowering and engaging medium for communication of risk reduction messages with numerous benefits to vulnerable populations, including the homeless and adolescents, resulting in positive individual lifestyle changes as well as social, educational and economic benefits. Moreover, engagement with the arts has been shown to be an effective means of helping young people deal with challenges such as poverty, substance abuse and discrimination. Our hope is that through this project, we can not only provide representation for queer voices – specifically queer voices of color – in a society that often silences and marginalizes these voices, but that we can also facilitate dialogue about issues of identity, acceptance/belonging, security, and inequality and be a catalyst for change.
DP: Is there a way for people to get involved in helping Not In My House? If so, how do they get involved?
KF: To support this project with a tax-deductible donation, or to learn more about how you can become involved, visit KristiFaulknerDance.com/NotInMyHouse.
DP: What do you hope people take away from the project?
KF: I hope that this project motivates people to do better. A good friend of mine has a motto “When you know better, you do better”. When you know the harm that prejudice, discrimination, ignorance, and hate causes the LGBTQ community, you have a responsibility to do better. Advocate for equality. Support LGBTQ youth in your words and actions. Spread love instead of hate.
DP: When are auditions for Not In My House project?
KF: We will be auditioning local professional dancers for this project May 2nd from 1pm-3pm at the Ruth Ellis Center. Performers must identify as LGBTQ. For more information about the audition, visit KristiFaulknerDance.com or email Kristi@KristiFaulknerDance.com.
You can watch the trailer for Not In My House here: https://youtu.be/J0ASAZq1Jtw