Houston Pride Band. Casaundra Black and Voices in the Woodwork: Honoring Six Women Who Survived to Tell.
THIRTY AND FABULOUS
No need for the Houston Pride Band to be coy about turning 30. Our town’s premier GLBT instrumental musical group enters its third decade with more performing members and this month once again presents its annual holiday concert, Celebrate the Season. The free performance is December 9, 7:30 p.m., at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, with the church chorus providing vocals. • The program is mostly traditional and familiar in nature — “something that people look forward to,” says Cary Byrd, a French horn player who joined HPB two years ago. “It really kind of fills in the season, and makes it complete.”
Selections, conducted by music director Jason Stephens, include “Christmas Festival” as well as arrangements of “Come O Come, Emanuel” and “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” • Though the band currently boasts more members than ever before, including clarinetist Rudy Martinez (pictured here), Byrd says the group is always looking for new talent. No formal audition is required to join the band — just desire and enthusiasm. The band rehearses each Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. at Resurrection. Details: www.houstonprideband.org. • “We accept people at all levels, and provide people with the assistance they need to catch up to where we are,” Byrd says. “And you get to do something that you really care about doing with a bunch of like-minded people.”
Photographed by Gary Laird
At 46, Casaundra Black says she now has so many professional options before her that deciding which one to take poses a challenge. She has her professional barber’s license as well as her commercial driver’s license, required to achieve her dream of becoming an over-the-road, 18-wheeler driver. Both, she believes, are honorable ways to support her two children, ages 6 and 16. • “I want to become the professional black woman who can give back to society and be my own boss,” she says. • Mother, barber, trucker, lesbian — Black is all of these things. She is also a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, and the survivor of a brutal rape, 15 years ago, by four men.
Her history of violence and abuse is one of the subjects of Voices in the Woodwork: Honoring Six Women Who Survived to Tell. Inspired by the true stories of battered women, the performance piece is a collaborative project of co-producers Jordyn Lorenz and Cheryl Tanner and their Yellow Wood Productions and In Alignment Productions, respectively. • After her addiction led to two arrests in one year, Black had a revelation. “I just really got tired of living the way I was living,” she says. “I know I’m a better person than what I was living. It was time.” • Participating in Voices gives her a way to help other women who may feel trapped by their own addiction, Black believes.
“It’s made me a stronger woman, most definitely. I don’t mind telling the world who I am: a lesbian and a recovering alcoholic,” she says. “There’s a way out, and the only thing that I have to do is continue doing what I’ve been doing.” • Onstage, Lauren Lanier plays the role of Black. “Representing Casaundra in Voices in the Woodwork is a very powerful and emotional experience,” says Lanier, also an out lesbian. “This show is ground-breaking for women, giving voice to those that would have otherwise been silenced. It’s a brutal story, a true story, and it is our story.” • Voices in the Woodwork runs through December 8 at M2 Gallery in the Heights. Future performances are planned, according to co-producer Lorenz. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Houston Area Women’s Center. Details: 281/330-4499, www.voicesinthewood.com.
Photographed by John Conroy