Emmy winner, LGBT advocate and notoriously funny lady Wanda Sykes will headline a benefit show for LIKEME Lighthouse on Nov. 13 at the Folly Theater.
Charlene Daniels, director of operations at LIKEME Lighthouse, said that for her, Sykes’ visit and her unique place in the gay community and the greater culture signal a seismic shift in inclusiveness that she compares to the civil rights era.
“I remember being 21, and the civil rights fighters were having movements, and Missouri called in the National Guard,” she said. “It was a major shift in the U.S.’s thinking.
“I’m feeling it again.”
Daniels explained that one can see a bit of that shift in Sykes’ critical reception and her image. Although the comedian is an African American and a lesbian, Daniels said, she has been accepted first as a performer.
“She’s a comedian for all the people,” Daniels said.
Still, Chely Wright, LIKEME’s founder and a renowned performer herself, said that the road to accepting gay and lesbian performers is still a freshly carved path. Finding entertainers who are living authentically is still rare, she said.
“As successful as Wanda is in comedy, you can probably count them on two hands and still have fingers left over,” Wright said. “For whatever reason, [gay and lesbian performers> get pigeonholed. But [Sykes”> is really known as America’s funny lady — she just happens to be African American and happens to be gay.”
By the same token, Wright said, the benefit will not be only an event for the African American community or only an event for the gay community. It will be a Kansas City affair, uniting all these social elements that tend to self-sort and bringing into focus a greater picture of a unified city with a richly diverse community.
Wright said that although legal victories have been arriving regularly lately for the LGBT community, the bigger fight for hearts and minds still remains.
“A lot has changed as far as DOMA [the federal Defense of Marriage Act”> being struck down, and marriage equality is now in more states than not,” Wright said. “We’re seeing all this progress in ink, but long after the ink hits the page, we still have hearts to win and minds to change.”
She mentioned the Supreme Court’s 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia, which voided state laws against interracial marriage.
“And you can’t tell me that hearts and minds still don’t need to be changed in America today over race,” Wright said.
Those are among the reasons that Wright sought out Sykes, a performer who doesn’t just navigate the intersections of race and sexuality that she occupies, but handily cartwheels over them.
Wright confessed that she’d been hoping to get Sykes to Kansas City for almost three years, after they were both honored at a New York City event.
The LIKEME Lighthouse event will also honor Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, a specialty furniture manufacturer and retailer that supports the Human Rights Campaign and advocacy for those living with HIV/AIDS through its philanthropic work. Founder Mitchell Gold, who also formed Faith in America, a nonprofit group that combats religious condemnation of homosexuality, will accept an award from LIKEME with his husband, Tim Gold.
The event will also honor John Long, publisher and editorial director of Camp.
“We’re very excited to recognize John’s work not only for the LGBT community, but for great journalism, too,” Wright said.
Tickets for the event, which will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 13, are available at Folly Theatre tickets.”