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‘Isang Bagsak’ – Barrett promotes idea of unity

By Aslin Gonzalez

“I like to start every show with an altar,” said spoken word artist Kay Ulanday Barrett as he laid out a purple cloth. He then asked the audience to hold someone in their thoughts who is struggling while he explained the isang bagsak. “When I say ‘isang bagsak,’ we all clap once,” he said.

Isang bagsak, the Filipino idea of unity, is one of the many ways in which Barrett tries to bring people together. Barrett performed his poetry on Tuesday, Oct. 21, in the Library Auditorium as part of PRISM’s Queer Awareness Week.

Barrett began his set by talking about how he wants to unite people and pay homage to those who have come before him.

“There was always somebody before me,” Barrett said.

Barrett spoke casually throughout his set, explaining each poem and the inspiration behind it. In “You Are So Brave,” a cento poem compiled of lines from his friends and favorite poets, Barrett spoke about his life as a transgender, gender-queer, disabled person of color. He spoke of the looks of pity and the unwelcome questions he has had to deal with throughout his life.

When asked about his favorite environment in which to write, Barrett said that if he “can write in a collective, that is (his) favorite.” He loves to work in writing circles and in collaborative environments.

When asked about being misgendered, Barrett talked about taking each incident case by case. He said that he is always concerned about the situation he is in and his safety therein each situation. As a transgender person of color, Barrett is twice as likely to experience violence or discrimination as a cisgendered white person.

Barrett has visited the College before, as well. When asked if anything has changed within the LGBTQ community, Barrett noted that “transgender people of color have changed in the media,” mentioning Laverne Cox as a transgender woman of color changing the face of the transgender community.

“People are pulling apart their genders in ways that are glorious,” he said.

Barrett, moreover, wants to be a voice for any and all struggling youth.

“Everybody in the margins (is my audience),” Barrett said. “The kids who do not get to sit at the cafeteria table, you are all my friends.”

Sophomore fine arts major Amanda Pulacios said that she, too, attended in “support of queers.” She enjoyed how “(Barrett) wasn’t talking at people” and found the performance to be relatable.

As a performer, Barrett tried to unify his audience and break down barriers. As a person who falls into multiple minority groups, Barrett has an often underrepresented perspective, yet he presents it in a way to which many both in and out of the LGBTQ community can relate. Combing his stage presence, vision and poetry, then, Barrett is a force for comfort and change, and his positive outlook on the LGBTQ movement is reflected in his own powerful identity.


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