Pittsburgh groups unite to raise money for local LGBTQ nonprofit

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Photo: Oli Alexandre


For nearly 10 years, PGH Sisters has been a small but vital part of Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community. Founded by activist, former sex worker and trans woman Ciora Thomas in 2013, the local black and trans-led nonprofit serves as a welcoming and safe space for people in the QTBIPOC area. But it wasn’t until last year, at Greensburg’s first in-person Pride celebration at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, that J. Trafford, the bassist and vocalist of local dark rock/post-punk band Sommelier , became aware of the organization. .

From that moment Trafford knew he wanted to work with SisTers PGH in the future. So when the opportunity to host an event at Black Forge Coffee House II at McKees Rocks arose, the idea for Sounds for SisTers – an upcoming benefit concert where all proceeds will go directly to SisTers PGH – was innate.

“I have the ability to book a venue, I have musician friends, and I can make new musician friends,” Trafford says. “I think it comes naturally to me, and it’s something I want to do because I think it’s important.”

Over the past few years, Trafford has taken an active role in supporting local LGBTQ organizations in the best way he knows how: music. In 2020, he self-released a compilation of collaborative recordings with proceeds benefiting the non-profit housing relief Proud Haven. Two years prior, her Sommelier group held a concert in Greensburg to benefit No More Dysphoria, a grassroots organization started by a New Jersey artist that provides financial assistance to transgender and non-conforming people in transition. Sommelier has also organized concerts to benefit the Trans Women of Color Collective (a national organization based in Washington, DC) and the Persad Center in Pittsburgh.

But Trafford is keen to stress that these efforts were by no means a solitary effort on his part, or even on Sommelier’s part. Ultimately, he says it’s about community support and the universal language of music that brings people together.

“I really want to focus on organizations first,” he adds, “because the only way I found out they were working with them was either by attending LGBTQ+ events where they were present. , or by word of mouth from friends”.

The next Sounds for SisTers event will feature performances from Sommelier, emo-grunge band Hearken, rapper Shamar, acoustic artist Thousandzz de Beez and indie-pop singer Halloway Williams. The SisTers PGH team vetted each ac, to, as Trafford put it, ensure “everyone is on board and everyone is okay with this gathering of human beings coming together to support the SisTers”.

Additionally, a framed print of “No Pride in War” by artist and graphic designer Micah Bazant will be auctioned off to provide additional funds for SisTers PGH.

“I remember an explanation by musician Van Dyke Parks about this, which I’m going to paraphrase,” Trafford says in an interview with the Of Music and Mind blog when asked about the role of music in change. community. “Music and lyrics have enormous political power – to be memorable and to unite people. I may be a dreamer, but I believe there is value in what cannot be stolen or compromised.

Sounds for sisters. 7 p.m., Saturday, July 9. Black Forge Coffee House II. 701 Chartiers Avenue, McKees Rocks. $10. Blackforgecoffee.com

Sommelier. sommelierband.com

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