Underlying the promised “live Grindr app,” the artist lineup, and sheer “queertastic”-ness of MondoHomo, the four-day queer arts festival approaching its sixth year, is the strong sense of community amongst the organizers, or “posse,” as they refer to one other. While generally found in the Atlanta queer scene as a whole, this sense of “community,” to which the MondoHomo organizers repeatedly refer, is a tangible one, specifically cultivated by the grassroots history of the festival. The posse have continue their dedicated grind with MondoHomo 2012, garnering support of local businesses to create a non-corporate, all-inclusive space for exhibits, shows, and dance parties. May their forever be room for dance parties.
This week David discusses with MondoHomos Jesse Morgan, Edric Figueroa, Lauren MacDonald, and Brit Dunn, memories of go-go dancing afterparties, what a Traindroid is, and ultimately how the hassles of organizing are worth it for the opportunity of putting on what is essentially gay Christmas, or a family reunion, or whichever least problematic metaphor evokes feelings of celebration and home.
It’s been five years since Jesse Morgan was dancing in his skivvies for fellow organizers and other dedicated barflies at Mary’s, the last people remaining at the bar as MondoHomo’s second year came to a close.
“At the Mondo finale I danced on the go-go box and just made tips, but the posse was just taking money and putting it in my underwear and taking it out and putting it back,” Morgan laughs.
That was 2008, when Morgan, this year one of the festival’s lead organizers, was a first-time volunteer- working the door, being part of a cleanup committee, and selling merch. But his experience went beyond menial duties; the many roundtables at Manual’s Tavern, where MondoHomo meetings were traditionally held until this year, created a formative experience for Morgan.
In 2009 Morgan was living in Savannah, one of five politically active alterna-queers who put up flyers for MondoHomo in the city. From the land of live oaks and Spanish moss, he was still peachy keen on what was going on with his Atlanta counterparts.
Duplicating what he calls “the MondoHomo model” in Savannah, Morgan headed up a successful Queer Power March in 2010 and an afterparty wherein Tampa’s Jeremy Gloff and ATL’s Athens Boys Choir performed. MondoHomo organizers Nikki Chotas and Vagina Jenkins traveled to Savannah in support of the event. Having Ms. Jenkins in the audience was symbolic for Morgan. Atlanta’s most notable burlesque performer, Ms. Jenkins also ushered Morgan into his first MondoHomo meeting in 2008, having opened the door for him. He recalls seeing her and knowing he was in the right place.
Morgan moved back to Atlanta in late 2010 to attend Georgia State University and by January 2011 organized Queerlicious Mouths Unite, what would have been a presence of same-sex couples kissing in the crowd to witness Governor Nathan Deal’s inauguration. Unfortunately inclement weather conditions now known as Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse prevented the inauguration from being held in a public space, and the protest was cancelled.
However, the event had drawn support from Kiki Carr, one of MondoHomo’s founders and organizers, and soon Morgan was asked to be one of MondoHomo’s lead organizers. While he “wasn’t prepared for what that meant” at the time, Morgan said yes anyway. The next six months Morgan spent working his nine to five, taking night classes, and planning the festival with Carr.
Morgan says of he and Carr’s time-consuming preparation, “We would literally be on G-chat for the entire day. I would have my browser open and then my supervisor would come around and we would use code words to stop.”
Having taken on even more responsibility for MondoHomo 2012, Morgan seems a natural leader. With his mentor, Carr, out of town for the festival, he is not feeling nervous, but rather very focused.
“I’m always told not to do this but it’s just a part of my personality that whenever I put my blood, sweat, tears into something it’s very personal to me. The success of the event, how the event happens, all of those things are very connected to my emotions, so I’m looking forward to seeing how I do during Memorial Day weekend.”