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By Josh Inocéncio
“Baby, have you planted your seed lately?” Kevin Anderson’s grandmother would ask him when he was younger.
While Anderson, a local performer and curator, may not have known what she meant back then, he certainly took her advice to heart by founding The T.R.U.T.H. Project, a Houston nonprofit organization that produces performance “installments” centered on issues that LGBT communities of color face. Continuing their annual World AIDS Day tradition, The T.R.U.T.H. Project will premiere The Boy that Dreams in Yellow on December 2 at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH).
“We create spaces of healing for individuals,” says Anderson. “Our whole goal is to mobilize and educate the community through utilizing social arts for social health, mental health, and sexual health.”
The underlying idea for The T.R.U.T.H. Project—an acronym that stands for “Telling Real and Unapologetic Truth through Healing”—is rooted in Anderson’s college days at Prairie View A&M, where he sought out and eventually created a safe, nondiscriminatory space to express himself through art. After returning to Houston, he developed a similar space at Taft Street Coffee in Montrose where people could discuss stigmatized issues facing queer communities of color.
“People were disclosing HIV status, and same-gender-loving women were telling us about former husbands taking away their children,” remembers Anderson. Realizing the community’s needs, he got a board together, reached out for funding, and eventually founded what is now The T.R.U.T.H. Project, which received its nonprofit status last year.
As a spoken-word artist, Anderson curates performance installments for The T.R.U.T.H. Project that feature local poets, dancers, and other artists in order to devise pieces relevant to communities of color and their allies. Typically, the performances are topical and politically charged, drawing from themes that communities of color throughout the country are experiencing. For example, over the last year, he has recruited Houston artists to address the issue of self-esteem in the face of police brutality.
To begin, Anderson sketches central ideas he wants the performance to focus on, and then brings local artists together to discuss these crucial points. He guides the storytelling and overall concept while the artists create the pieces in the production.
“We’ve gone from open-mic [sessions to] full-run shows,” says Anderson.
After the one-hour performances conclude, he hosts community discussions, or talk-backs, to engage audience members and expand his own awareness of how the community is receiving the pieces. Because of that positive feedback over the years, Anderson has a growing subscriber base of both LGBT individuals and allies, allowing the discussions to continue.
“The community began to shape [the installments] with their feedback, thoughts, inbox messages, text messages. What I see is a heightened sense of awareness. People say, ‘I now know that other people have dealt with HIV. I now know that I’m not alone.’”
For The Boy that Dreams in Yellow, Anderson is using a similar artistic process. “I work with the artists very intensely because of the subject matter,” says Anderson. “I do not create any of the art—it’s all created by the artists. I curate and bring it together to tell the story. I’m the link, and I counsel them through this whole process to make sure that their mental health is in check, that they’re not having an emotional overload. They’re going through their own healing experience. They’re exposing the depths of their story for many.”
The upcoming December performance of The Boy that Dreams in Yellow, featuring dance pieces from Nick Muckleroy’s Statements Dance Company, will seek “to break down some of the stigmas around HIV [and enable] a transition from stigma to living your life—going from red to yellow.”
“I have a mental-health counselor at every installment, because if anyone has an emotional breakthrough, they know who’s in the room,” says Anderson. “At our World AIDS Day installments for the last four years, I’ve had an HIV counselor there, and we provide testing.”
By producing pieces like The Boy that Dreams in Yellow, Anderson is reaching a diverse community with stories that have the power to change his audiences, especially by creating environments that go beyond discussion to engender action.
“Awareness is really important to me, and having new audience members that are able to experience and become involved and tell the story is really important [to us] as an organization,” Anderson emphasizes. “I just want people to walk away [looking] at their own biases and stigmas in their personal lives.”
For more information on The Boy that Dreams in Yellow, follow The T.R.U.T.H. Project on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or check out their website at truthprojecthtx.org.
Josh Inocéncio is a playwright and freelance writer. A Houston-area native, he earned a master’s degree in theater studies at Florida State University and produced his first play, Purple Eyes, before returning to Texas last year.