D.J. Hudson wants her people free
When Don Cornelius created the cult phenomenon Soul Train in 1975 he did so out of necessity. Prior to Cornelius’ revolutionary vision, and might we add, very boss move, there were little to no television outlets granting space or acceptance to black musicians. But all that changed thanks to his audacity to do something. Today, there’s another brand of soul striking a chord among the mainstream populace. However, this time, instead of black musicians the beneficiaries are queer and trans people of faith.
Soulforce, an advocacy group focused on LGBTQ activism in the realm of religious oppression, is blazing paths to disrupt harmful narratives perpetuated by the church. Their recent work has included direct actions such as protests, equality rides reminiscent of the Freedom Rides during the Civil Rights era, and a national campaign urging the NCAA to deny religious-affiliated schools who have made Title IX requests to discriminate against LGBTQ students.
“We recognize that many of our people suffer spiritual violence as a result of Christian supremacy and the fundamentalist right wing,” says D.J. Hudson, Soulforce’s nonviolence and direct action consultant. “There’s this idea that some people get to define Christianity for everyone and as something where queer and trans people are wrong or bad. Our work is all about resisting that and doing spiritual care and healing for our people, recognizing that some of us are people of faith and others are not.”
Hudson, who graduated from Nashville’s Vanderbilt Divinity School, says Soulforce’s efforts are steeped in nonviolence.
“Nonviolence has always coexisted in the diversity of strategies and tactics,” she explains. “I don’t think it cancels out any other methodologies of resistance, but a lot of people believe nonviolence is not fighting back or that it means being passive. However, nonviolence is about relentless resistance to oppression both in the outside world and in our own lives. It’s extremely active and a lot of work.”
1.) The original, black-owned hot chicken restaurants in Nashville, TN
“There are many, but these are some of my favorites… Nashville is being heavily gentrified so there’s lots of rich, white, friendly iterations of hot chicken. But hot chicken is a very black, Nashville-specific thing, so I’m all about supporting my people. And also that shit is so good.”
2.) Steven Universe, Cartoon Network
“I absolutely love this show. It’s super sweet and it makes my heart glad. It’s about a little boy who essentially has three moms. It has very explicit representations of queer and trans relationships… the main characters are all voiced by women of color… the singer Estelle voices one of the main characters.”
3.) What Happened, Ms. Simone?, Netflix
“It’s a gorgeous look into Nina Simone’s life. It does a great job at portraying who she is and all of her complexities. It also talks about the role and trauma mental illness had on her and on her life, and how that pressure manifested alongside the work she was doing to support the Civil Rights Movement.”
4.) The Internet
“I just got put on to them randomly through Spotify. I really appreciate hearing female pronouns sung with a female voice, and hearing about sexy, sultry, complicated, messy, not-always-great love for other women from a black female voice. And the music sounds really good.”
5.) Thrift Stores
“As a queer, lesbian, masculine-of-center woman, finding clothes that fit my body is a tough one. I find thrift stores to be really fun and I really enjoy going and roaming around the men’s section and finding vintage jackets, blazers and sweaters to try on. It makes me feel good and sexy.”
“My girlfriend is a super badass high fem. For her birthday last year I got her a subscription. It’s super affordable and they send amazing things. It’s also black woman-owned.”
7.) Essential Oils
“My girlfriend and I just got a puppy… a hound dog. Hound dogs have a distinct musty smell to them, so we mix essential oils and water and spray him down. He comes out smelling so fresh and clean.”
“I have to give love to my Soulforce family, specifically the Beyond Equality Riders. They’re all black LGBTQ people who are either from or living in the Southeast right now. I’m sending so much love to them.”
9.) LGBT in the South Conference, Campaign for Southern Equality
“It meant a lot to be there. I’ve been organizing for the last eight years or so and one of the things I get so entirely sick of is going to national conferences and people just shitting on the South… talking about the South as if there’s nothing happening, or that it’s just full of white bigots, racists and homophobes, and that the rest of us are just passively languishing under the lash of oppression… like we haven’t been here fighting back. So it means a lot to be around other queer and trans people, especially the queer and trans spaces that were created at the conference in specific context of our Southern identity and culture.”
“I grew up loving all kinds of animals and mythology. People told me not only were unicorns stupid, imaginary and not real, but they were something that black people didn’t even care about. It was not until I was much older that I came across Audre Lorde’s poem, ‘Black Unicorn,’ which gave me so much life and affirmed me so much… In addition to being really pretty and really cool, I think the idea of unicorns, and particularly black unicorns, symbolizes for me a really important ability to dream and imagine that which does not exist.”