next night following “Moonlight’s” win for Best
Picture at the Oscars, a first for a black LGBTQ film, True Colors
Out Youth Theater - the country’s longest running LGBTQ youth
theater company - celebrated a first, too - a 2016 National Arts and
Humanities Youth Program Award presented in November at the White
House by First Lady Michelle Obama.
National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the highest award
in the country for youth development programs, and receiving the
award is a historic moment not only for True Colors, but also for the
White House in recognizing and honoring the artistic talents of
America’s LGBTQ youth, especially youth of color.
one of the 12 awardees - chosen from a pool of more than 251
nominations and 50 finalists - True Colors is the first LGBTQ
organization to receive the award.
Francis, 40, director of programming at The Theater Offensive, the
organization behind True Colors, and troupe member Traeshayona
“Trae” Weekes, 18, accepted the award from First
Lady Michelle Obama. Weekes shared
what it was like to travel to the White House to receive the award.
never left Boston until True Colors… Accepting this award from
the First Lady of the United States at the White House was an
unforgettable experience, and I’m so proud to be part of the
first ever LGBTQ organization to receive this honor,” said
Weekes. “It’s amazing to see that the power of True
Colors’ work in helping make communities a safer space for
LGBTQ youth while giving us a place to explore our identity and find
our own culture in a way that is recognized and valued.”
Colors celebrated receiving the award at the historic Hibernian Hall
in Roxbury, and the evening was an extravaganza showcasing local
LGBTQ artists and performers, like rapper Oompa, poet Black Venus,
and the fabulous Fly Girls-Neon Calypso, Yune Neptune and Candace, to
name a few. Generations of True Colors participants proudly returned
for the evening to celebrate not only the coveted honor, but also the
man who made it all happen.
moment means the world to me because it’s the coming together
of all the generations of True Colors Out Youth Theater. This is
crazy! There are people who were in True Colors in the beginning who
have children old enough to be in True Colors now,” Abe Rybeck,
self-proclaimed “queer hillbilly” from West Virginia,
ebulliently shared with me wearing his signature incandescent
Colors Out Youth Theater is the creative genius of Abe Rybeck, 56,
renowned Executive Artistic Director of The Theater of the Offensive.
The youth troupe has been in existence since 1994, and is the oldest
out and allied youth theater in the world. The ages range from 14-22,
where 75 percent are youth of color and 40 percent are either
gender-nonconforming or transgender coming from Greater Boston’s
Colors serves as a community sounding board and home base in forming
and nurturing Greater Boston’s diverse LGBTQ youth artistic
talent pool. The troupe receives theater training, leadership
development, and performance opportunities across greater Boston and
beyond. And with the training the troupe challenges heterosexist
cultural and familial norms by creating educational and social
opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue within their communities by
touring schools, churches, youth groups and social agencies.
23 years, True Colors teaches troupe members how to create art work
from their authentic unapologetic lives. Learning that their lives
are a work in progress as they grow and evolve, troupe members have
shared that Rybeck have taught them how to put their stories in their
bodies, and keep them there.
has something inside, but don’t know it, but it’s in
them. Giving True Colors a voice we must support it for this to work,
seeing what each person has, not correct it and judge it. It is a
pleasure to have that be your work every day” Rybeck shared.
members learning the art and discipline of putting pen to paper then
orally telling and finally acting out their stories before an
audience is not only awe-inspiring to listeners, but it is also
awe-inspiring to watch these young actors proudly evolve and
embodying their unique narratives.
work at True Colors builds confidence, and acceptance of self and
others. The power derived from sharing their stories and publicly
holding them up as models of activism empowers the troupe and informs
communities struggling with LGBTQ-acceptance.
with this Trump presidency LGBTQ communities across the country are
worried if the country will become less accepting. Just last month
the Trump administration rolled back protections for transgender
students revoking federal guidelines that allowed use of public
school restrooms matching their gender identity. The week True
Colors learned of their award Trump used the Orlando gay nightclub
shooting to broaden his ban on immigrants.
asked how will True Colors respond to a Trump presidency rollbacking
on LGBTQ rights Rybeck laughed stating, “My young folks will
not tolerate it!”