The Daily Gamecock

LGBT peer advocates facilitate discussion on pop culture

LGBT peer advocates Brandon Byrd, third-year media arts and African American studies student, and Joseph Sewell, a fourth-year psychology student, focused on recent music videos from pop artists Beyonce and Coldplay in their biweekly discussion group "Being an LGBTQ Person of Color" Tuesday evening.

The discussion group, whose name is abbreviated to QPOC, meets every Tuesday to address a different aspect of what life can be like as an LGBTQ person of color. This week, they looked at music videos for Beyonce's "Formation" and Coldplay's "Hymn for the Weekend," in which Beyonce makes an appearance.

Byrd that the discussion groups often focus on current events and pop culture because of their relevance to the LGBTQ community.

"I was hoping to kind of promote a more nuanced and complete understanding of Beyonce and some of the work that she's put out most recently," he said.

One student said that "Formation" made him think of revolution, because although it clearly takes place in a Southern setting, the Southern belles are black women. One of the more powerful images that they recognized was a quick shot of a young black boy dancing in front of a line of police officers.

There were mixed thoughts on whether the video was subversive of police and some discussion of the choice to put the video against a backdrop of New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina. Overall, the attendees seemed to think that the video was neither in support of or in opposition to police, because in the final shot, a police car sinks into water, but takes Beyonce with it as well.

Coldplay's "Hymn for the Weekend" video, which depicts lead singer Chris Martin attending the Holi festival of colors in India, was more controversial. Discussion participants expressed their concern that it conveys an imperialistic tone rather than a celebratory one. Neither Coldplay nor Beyonce has an Indian background, so some students believed that neither of the artists had the authority to appropriate images from traditional Indian culture.

On the other hand, there were several comments that recognized the subjective boundaries of artistic license. One participant noted that intention of an artistic statement is very important, and Coldplay's video was not intended to exploit or objectify the culture it depicts. Another person said that the presence of a film crew automatically lessens the authenticity and questioned whether or not a music video is required to take on the responsibility of depicting a culture in its entirety in the limited time span of a song.

The music videos are just one of many subjects that QPOC has covered and plans to cover. According to Byrd and Sewell, the group has addressed issues such as religion, sexual racism and non-binary gender identities.

Sewell said that although Tuesday's meeting did not address every specific point he had planned, he was still satisfied with the discussion.

"It was one of those things where the discussion was so vibrant and lively that I think it was good that we let it keep going, especially because there were so many differing opinions on so many things," Sewell said.

Byrd said that there has been discussion about expanding the size of the groups, but he is concerned that making them bigger would negatively affect the "safe place" aspect of the discussion. QPOC's goal is to encourage people to come forward with their concerns and struggles, not be intimidated by large groups.

"The idea here is that we're wondering, afraid, whatever, that ... by not making this an exclusive space that is kind of homogeneous and like a caucus space, we're alienating a lot of people who might need a space like this," Byrd said. "And of course we want people to come, but we want to make sure that we're feeding people the way they need to be fed."