Black Trans Stories Matter is a Black trans-led space, for Black trans and gender expansive people to gather, write, share stories, and receive support without justifying, explaining, or defending their truth. TMI Project Workshop Leaders Kiebpoli Calnek (they/them) and Erik Harris (he/him) help guide participants through the TMI Project true storytelling process, to help them choose a story they most want to tell; provide exercises to inspire new perspectives; and edit their piece into a well-crafted TMI Project-style monologue for the stage. The workshop series culminates in live performance for an all-inclusive audience. The program was inspired by actress, ballroom icon, and TMI Project storyteller, Ms. Cece Suazo (she/her) and aligns with the mission of Black Lives Matter.
“Working with TMI Project feels like divine guidance. It is humbling to have the opportunity to engage with brave participants, helping them express their true stories, which capture the Black Trans narrative in all its raw authenticity and wisdom. This crucial work enriches the spirit of the performer with a platform for their truth and provides a unique window of reflection for the viewer.”
Kiebpoli Calnek, a non-binary queer Black creative from NYC/Lenapehoking, has generated nuanced performances and creative direction seeped in poetic somatic elements for over two decades. Their social enterprise, Black*Acrobat, produces interdisciplinary programming sharing stories of, for, and with fringe communities, celebrating authentic visions and viewpoints through research, access, and collaboration. They were covered in Essence and contributed, “How It Feels… To Be An Aerial Acrobat” to Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine. While living out West, Kiebpoli nurtured film, stage, and literary relationships and in 2018, the concept of Queer & Trans Love Stories (“cuties”) was born at a writing residency in New Mexico’s Peñasco mountains. Kiebpoli’s works received generous funding and support from Elizabeth Streb, Astraea Foundation, Asian Arts Initiative, and The New York Foundation for the Arts. They are a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, SAG-AFTRA, and Actors’ Equity Association. kiebpoli.com
“As a Black trans man, I know I have been lucky to come of age in environments that valued my input and allowed me to thrive, but that is not the reality for so many other people like me. When I heard about Black Trans Stories Matter, I knew I had to get involved because my community has so many powerful folks and stories that have yet to be heard.”
Erik Harris is a proud Black, queer, trans man from North Carolina currently located in Richmond, Virginia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Race & Ethnicity Studies from Salem College as well as a Master of Arts degree in History from UNC-Greensboro. Erik is professionally trained as a secondary English teacher. As a high school teacher in Nashville, he was one of the founding advisors of the SafeZone, a club for LGBTQ teens and allies to explore their identities and advocate for their needs in the school. This work, in addition to his own lived experience, has shaped his long-standing passion for social justice and equity work. Erik is currently dedicating his time to building community, developing his writing, and reconnecting to the Earth. When he isn’t working, Erik enjoys hiking, cooking, and playing guitar for his cat, Tux.
Black Trans Stories Matter Creator and Community Outreach Coordinator
“Before I was introduced to TMI Project I was torn, broken, and felt like damaged goods. To be completely honest, I just wanted to end it all. Today, I live with a greater sense of freedom because I learned how to tell my narrative and live in my truth. I was accepted and gained a new family through TMI Project. I feel whole again, stronger, and more confident in my ability to continue life’s journey. I also felt inspired to reach out to others in the TGNC (transgender non-conforming) community to let them know there’s so much out there for us.”
Cece is a life-long trans activist and artist. She was honored with the 2018 Advocate Magazine Award for her contributions to the ballroom community and performing arts. She has appeared in numerous off-Broadway productions at Rattlestick, Signature, LaMama, Arcon, and appearing in the New York Times Critics’ Pick production of Street Children and Incongruence at NYTW. Cece also starred in the Bay/San Francisco area premiere of Chisa Hutchinson’s Dead & Breathing at Theater Rhinoceros, as well as in TMI Project’s off-Broadway production Lifelines: Queer Stories of Survival for the Trevor Project. In 2019 she had the honor to play trans pioneer Lucy Hicks Anderson in High Herstory. As the 1st trans woman of color at WOW Cafe Theater, she’s produced many works in her 12 years as a collective member. Cece is also one of the founders of TRANSLAB where she recently did a residency in partnership with The Public Theater & WP Theater. Her first play, Shattered Reflections (The Deep Play), had its premiere in December 2018 at the WP Theater. She recently presented her latest play, You Will Neva Enter Our High Holy Land Of Blackness-HIYA, at Long Wharf Theater. Ms. Suazo’s ballroom career began in 1988 as the youngest member in the Iconic House Of LaBeija. She earned Legendary status in 2010, and in 2013, she departed the house after 27 years.