The Art of T.R.U.T.H.
A Real Unapologetically Healing Journey Through the Arts
By Robert Ross
It’s no lie, there’s an art to the truth, and one organization is mastering it in three ways: it’s real, unapologetic, and healing.
The T.R.U.T.H. Project (Telling Real Unapologetic Truth through Healing) is a Houston based social arts movement that was started by founder Kevin Anderson in 2011. Its mission is to educate and mobilize LGBTQ communities of color and their allies through social arts that promote mental, emotional and sexual health. Since its inception it has reached more than 6,000 people.
Anderson, who works in the field of HIV prevention, is also known for his work as a local artist and emcee. It was through his work as an artist that he observed the struggle of LGBT poets in often homophobic environments. A poet brave enough to speak their truth would sometimes be bashed by subsequent poets on the mic. In frustration, he set out to fill the void of a safe space for LGBT artists to be transparent in their art.
“We needed a space where LGBT artists could express themselves without restraint,” says Anderson. “I believe The T.R.U.T.H. Project helps our brothers and sisters first realize they have a narrative, and that their narrative is valid in whatever form they choose to express it.”
He initially began a monthly LGBT focused open mic night called HeArt & Soul, where he was struck with another revelation. The new found freedom LGBT artists had to explore their artistic expressions in a safe space brought out very transparent stories; some were fun and oozing with eroticism and others more seriously focused on abuse, addiction, and isolation. It was in those moments when The T.R.U.T.H. Project took shape in Anderson’s mind; establishing a platform where the arts could be used to create awareness and connection to resources.
Houston’s arts scene has had a sect of artists waiting to emerge. The T.R.U.T.H. Project has been a renaissance of artists wanting to share creative works inspired by their own real truths. No more changing or altering their story for the comfort of others.
The T.R.U.T.H. Project has served as an incubator where artists have an opportunity to hone their skills while creating works that help address issues affecting the community. Performances have focused on mental health, domestic partner violence and bullying, HIV/AIDS awareness, and marriage equality. Every installment brings forth real life experiences, and also includes access to or awareness of local resources for anyone in need.
“We are building a synergistic platform through the arts,” says Anderson. “We listen to the community, and present performances that address issues they want to highlight while bringing in doctors, mental health professionals, public health, and other resources.”
Unapologetic truth expressed without fear is a challenge many LGBT members continue to face. The unique challenges experienced by LGBT members of color become a divide that creates more trauma and isolation. The LGBT community has been trying to cope and recover from trauma for a long time; trauma that gets exacerbated by witnessing and experiencing the effects of public policy, the effects of marginalization, and racism for LGBT members of color. Where do we hold all that sadness, anger, and frustration? When do we express our moments of joy? and to whom? The T.R.U.T.H. Project is empowering people to openly and unapologetically walk in their truth with the affirmation of self-worth.
Artists who are involved with The T.R.U.T.H. Project experience a bit of their own evolution. While using their creative process to help others, they end up helping themselves. It is here where the therapeutic exchange begins to occur. Their transparency and fearlessness becomes the bridge to both self-healing and the healing of others.
Anderson carries with him an abundance of artistic testimonies: the person who experienced abuse, and found their voice in a poetic piece that brought hundreds to tears and some to revelation; then there’s the dancers who articulate stories of living with HIV through movement; the artist so inspired by the topic of mental illness, they painted a live mural that captivated an audience; and the vocalist, the film producer, the photographer, the author, and more.
He shares his thoughts on how art moves us into a healing space, “Art captures us in the most vulnerable and unassuming way. It shakes us up and moves us past the boundaries of denial, shame, and oppression.”
The healing that takes place at The T.R.U.H. Project extends outside Houston city limits. Anderson has worked on installments in other cities and has been recognized by the Texas State Department of Health for his use of the arts as a vehicle for information, awareness, and access to resources. They awarded the organization a grant that provided an opportunity to extend outreach by partnering with national recording artists Marsha Ambrosius and Chrisette Michele.
The T.R.U.T.H. Project became a 501c3 in May 2015, and has a vision of becoming the premiere resource center for LGBTQ communities of color. Installments are held quarterly and leave room for work to be done in between. Community discussions have become the bridge between performances. The discussions provide a direct and even more intimate opportunity to discuss mental and emotional wellness, aging in the LGBT community, and other topics the community requests to include. Program expansion is on the horizon with the introduction of a series of support groups. Anderson and The T.R.U.T.H. Project board of directors are doing the work and continue to move forward in their real, unapologetic, and healing journey.