I’m going to try something. I’m going to talk about something that I really do and really don’t want to talk about. I do want to talk about it because I think it’s important and I believe it could help people. I don’t want to talk about it because there’s nothing more tiresome and misunderstanding-laden than text-based debating with people who don’t know you and don’t care about you as a friend, and this topic is sure to incite that kind of interaction, which I hate and which doesn’t fix anything. So maybe I’ll stay vague about it and maybe I won’t.

The core of what I want to say is that being the underdog or the oppressed party doesn’t make it admirable or right to command all other people to unquestioningly respect and accept everything you’re saying as inarguable fact, and give no consideration to opposing views. When anyone presents their views that way, all it does is make those views very hard and annoying to swallow for anyone who disagrees with them. This, in turn, makes it harder for the oppressed party to reach their objective of making the world a more fair and understanding place. Like it or not, the world needs some coaxing and enticement to change. A change of attitude in the oppressor is not going to come from the oppressor being vilified, dismissed outright or yelled at. You gotta put out some honey to attract flies, and that’s ok, because at the end of the day, you’re attracting the flies, and that’s the most important thing.

If you have a view to share that you feel passionate about, start it with phrases like “I believe that…” or “Based on my personal experiences, I feel strongly that…” etc. These phrases don’t weaken what you’re saying. In fact, they make it more relatable and more believable. Saying “XYZ is the absolute truth,” makes it easy for others to simply say “No, it’s not,” and give you no credence, no matter how noble your intentions are. Saying “I experienced XYZ and therefore I believe XYZ, but I understand how other people might not,” is pretty hard to argue with. 

I feel the need to say this because of multiple facebook interactions and blog posts in which friends viewed things as black and white, that actually had shades of grey. We need to face the fact that EVERYTHING has shades of grey, and nothing is black and white, and that’s ok. It keeps things interesting. We also need to face the fact that we all have different life experiences and perspectives, and all of them have some validity or at least some understandability to them. No one’s a saint and no one’s the devil. And many people who are part of one oppressed group are also part of another dominant group, or benefit from being perceived as such. Everyone makes mistakes and no one has behaved perfectly toward everyone in their life all the time. What is the difference between insulting someone directly and saying something ignorant? It all contributes to making people feel negative. If you’ve ever hurt someone’s feelings, who are you to not understand when someone else hurts yours, no matter how it’s done?

What I’m getting at is that if you want a more just and kind world, you need to exhibit those qualities in the way you speak and the way you live. No “my way or the highway” talk, no withholding forgiveness from people who try to make amends, no lack of effort to understand others, even when their views bother you.

When someone hurts you, talk to them about it, and give them a safe space to explain their actions and apologize. Request an apology. Accept an apology. Offer an apology if you acted in a not-great way toward them. If they’re lacking in some knowledge you think they ought to gain, teach it to them through compassionately and kindly discussing your personal experiences and feelings with that issue. You’d be surprised what a powerful, moving, unforgettable tactic that is. Of course it’s not your “job” to constantly explain your point of view to everyone, but if you want everyone to understand you, that’s what you’re going to have to do. Stop shouting at people and then refusing to listen to them if their opinions differ from yours. That’s exactly what you wish everyone else would stop doing to you.

Oy.

Brace yourself for the fierceness in these photos. I warned you.

JC Cassis with bacKspace at the 2010 Dance Parade. Photo credit: Cyz Chen
JC Cassis with Charmin Ulltra of bacKspace at the 2010 Dance Parade. Photo credit: Cyz Chen
JC Cassis with bacKspace at the 2010 Dance Parade. Photo credit: Cyz Chen
JC Cassis with bacKspace at the 2010 Dance Parade. Photo credit: Cyz Chen
JC Cassis with bacKspace at the 2010 Dance Parade. Photo credit: Cyz Chen
Krystal Something-Something at the 2010 Dance Parade. Photo credit: Cyz Chen

So every once in a while I have a moment in my life that is just too good to believe. That moment was performing with bacKspace at the Dance Parade this past Saturday. Allow me to explain:

I love bacKspace. Love who they are, love what they do, love how they do it. If you don’t know about them, read about them now. I needed backup dancers for the Dance Parade show, and I needed them fast. I emailed Krystal Something-Something (one of my fave stage names ever) to ask if they’d dance with me for this show and she said yes. We scheduled four rehearsals over two weeks which were super fun and full o’ laughs and fierceness. Now, Krystal Something-Something, Charmin Ulltra and I all look VERY different out of costume than we do in costume, so even though we were doing the dance for real in rehearsal, it was a whole different animal when we did it on stage. One of my proudest moments thus far was when, at the dress rehearsal, I changed into most of my stage outfit from my rehearsal clothes, and Krystal smiled and said quietly but approvingly, “You look like a superhero.” Now in case you don’t know, both Krystal and Charmin are total geniuses when it comes to looking amazing, so that meant quite a lot to me.

Anyway, the experience of doing the show was awesome from start to finish. First, I came a runnin’ down East 10th street to find my two beautiful drag queens stretching and looking amazing, then we walked across the street to Tompkins Square Park, where the stage was, to see that there was an ENORMOUS crowd watching the stage. As soon as we got into the park, everyone was asking to take our picture. We felt like rock stars. So we took a bunch of pictures, then we warmed up in the backstage area, then before we knew it, it was time to go on. We took the stage and gave it all we had and it went amazingly well. People were freaking out over it. The host was like “Oh my god, that was so amazing, I think I just had some anal leakage,” after which I promptly pretended to faint at the outrageousness of that. What was funny about that besides the obvious was that I had mentioned to bacKspace that we shouldn’t be foul or vulgar on stage in any way because it’s a family event and I wanted to be invited back, but we ended up doing such a fierce job that the host had to talk about “anal leakage” anyway. HA HA HA. Anyway then as soon as we came off stage, there were like 4 pro photographers taking our picture at once who were all like “Over here, please! Over here!” like paparazzi! Then a lot of the people who saw the show ran over to the table to sign my mailing list and they all wanted autographed CD’s. I felt like a total rock star. So awesome! Can’t wait to do more shows with bacKspace cuz that’s how my shows are all meant to be! I’ll post video of it soon!

To see LOTS more incredible photographs of this performance, friend me on facebook!

JC Cassis getting painted at the Black n Light Ball. Photo credit: Arnaldo Ugarte
JC Cassis getting painted at the Black n Light Ball. Photo credit: Arnaldo Ugarte
JC Cassis getting painted at the Black n Light Ball. Photo credit: Arnaldo Ugarte
JC Cassis getting painted at the Black n Light Ball. Photo credit: Arnaldo Ugarte

Wow. So I thought that the only crowd I really wanted to play for was a gay or gay-friendly crowd, and then I discovered the raver/Burning Man/insane-people-devoted-to-everyday-creativity-and-spectacle community. I now officially have two favorite crowds to play for. I learned this by playing the Black n’ Light Ball, a crazy black light rave put on by Kostume Kult and Disorient.

It was day 2 of the Busiest Weekend Ever, and I was exhausted from all the insanity the night before and having to get up early and work all day. But, a few weeks earlier, a friend I met through working on Figment, which is basically an outgrowth of Burning Man, told me about the Black n Light ball and said I should come. I said I should perform, and he told me who to get in touch with. I reached out, and within a few days I heard back that they wanted me to do a half hour set at 11pm at the party. Awesome! Fast forward to the party. I get there and it’s quite the hotbed of insanity. Everything was glowing in the black light, including some people’s dayglow contacts. It was wall-to-wall crazy costumes, and no one came unprepared. I watched the other acts do their sound checks, and it was so nice to (for once!) be playing among a group of artists who all actually fit each others’ vibes. I gotta get those people’s contact info and do shows with them!

As I waited, someone approached me and ask if he could put dayglow paint on my face and arms, since the white paint I had used somehow wasn’t glowing. I’m glad he did because his paint was the only paint that really showed up under the lights!

Finally, at around midnight, it was time for me to go on. Since I had a black light-appropriate outfit, I asked them to turn off the stage lights so I could glow with everyone else, and it looked fantastic. I loved this crowd so much because they had come to dance, not stand and stare, and they danced with me throughout the whole set. I even heard them singing along on songs that I don’t think they could have known in advance, so they were really into the performance and it was incredible to have an audience like that. It was just the kind of show I always want to play: it looked great, it felt great, and the audience was dancing right up by the stage and singing along the whole time! Check out the video below for a sample of the madness!

Black Light Ball – JC Cassis – Crazy In New York from Uuri Koh on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, I was so exhausted after my show that I had to go straight home. As I walked on 8th Avenue in my crazy costume, headdress and face paint, a lot of heads turned. I was totally spent, so I wasn’t smiling, and some guy said to me, “You need a friend.” In an awesome moment of mental clarity, I turned around and sassily said, “I have 1,900 friends on facebook!” Love it.

Really hope to perform at Burning Man itself this year and to do more KK and Disorient parties!

JC Cassis, AFP Clash of the Artists, Drom, NYC, 3.27.10. Photo credit: DJ Ahomii

I’m not even sure how this happened, but apparently everyone and their mother wants me to perform at their May event. SEVEN shows this month so far! Check out the schedule and come see me do my thing! You can always find my full show schedule on myspace.com/jccassis or facebook.com/jccassis (scroll down on the left) as well.

Wednesday May 5, 8pm (I’ll go on about 10pm): half hour set at Gaby Gala, an upscale party at the fabulous Hudson Terrace, 621 West 46th Street. Tickets: http://gabriellefink.com/gaby-gala/

Saturday May 8, 6pm: one hour set at Sugarland during their Shopaholic event, featuring indie clothing and accessories vendors from Brooklyn. 221 North 9th Street, FREE.

Friday May 14, 7:30pm: half hour set opening for Comandante Zero (my favorite band and great friends of mine) and the amazing Soulfege at Santos Party House, 96 Lafayette Street, $10 at the door.

Saturday May 15, 11pm: half hour set at Kostume Kult’s Black and Light ball, an insane party fundraiser for Burning Man. Tickets and info: http://www.kostumekult.com/events/blb2010/

Sunday May 16: short set, details tbd

Saturday May 22, time tba: 2-song set at the Dance Parade after party in Tompkins Square Park. Backup dancing involved! FREE.

Thursday May 27, 9pm (I’ll go on at 10pm): half hour set at the Women Who Rock show at the historic Stonewall Inn, 59 Christopher Street, NYC. Details tba.

I’m sure I’ll have lots of ridiculous stories to tell after each show! 🙂