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‘Now is not the time to relax’: Why Pride should inspire activism and change

June 14, 2021 by Sydney James Harcourt
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As an artist (my chosen tribe), it can be hard to make art that feels relevant and useful to the world, while also being commercial enough to break through the noise. So when my high school best friend, Sara Botkin, called me after getting her second Covid-19 vaccination shot singing “Vaccinated” to the old tune “Reunited,” I immediately laughed and agreed that we should make her video idea happen.

It was a way to bring awareness to the worldwide vaccination effort, laugh together at our shared experience of the dumpster fire known as 2020, and talk about science and truth in a way that felt a little more Schitt’s Creek and a little less the Handmaid’s Tale

It was also a way to reconnect with an old friend who I used to harmonize with every day in echoey stairwells in our school, which are some of my first memories of falling in love with music, and also the year I finally had the courage to come out as a gay (and as a lamb). 

At 15 years old, I was Sara’s first gay friend (she will forever be my first hag), bonded over our shared love of all things Mariah, and I never felt anything but acceptance from her, even when her parents tried to convince her that I was only pretending to be gay so that I could make a move on her. “Trust me, I know gay guys, and he is DEFINITELY straight.” I can hear her mother’s sweet words as if it were yesterday.

I tend to gravitate towards projects that feel personally meaningful and, hopefully, start a larger conversation.  My upcoming animated musical short film The Outlaw Ocean, which explores the lawlessness and human rights abuses at sea, and my leading role in the independent feature film musical I’m Not Gay, which explores identity, pride, and chosen community, are both projects that fulfill this mission. 

Neither is likely to beat Hamilton as the most streamed musical film in history (you never know gurl!), but they are projects I can stand behind with no reservations, proud of the message, the mission, and the integrity of the creators involved.  Proud of another day that I can thrive and be visible as a gay artist of color, living in my authenticity.

We gays have claimed the month of June, and we wield that power to force everyone (and ourselves) to confront the personal meaning of “pride,” and by extension, notions of identity and community. It’s the only month in which I can claim to be a proud boy and not be arrested as a seditionist.  

As we examine pride this year, let’s remember that we are still locked in an everlasting battle of truth vs. lies, democracy vs. fascism, freedom vs .servitude, Mariah vs. Whitney. Now is not the time to relax. More than ever we must stay engaged, stay VISIBLE, and stay purposeful.  

A sought after New York vocalist and Grammy winner, Sydney James Harcourt has since performed on some of the world’s finest concert stages including Radio City Music Hall, Avery Fisher Hall (with the New York Philharmonic), Carnegie Hall, and Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open Finals. He has appeared on and off-Broadway starring in productions like the cultural phenomenon Hamilton (original Broadway company), Disney’s The Lion King, Green Day’s American Idiot, and the U.S. premiere of Bob Dylan’s Girl from the North County, in which he originated the role of Joe Scott, receiving critical raves and nominations for the Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, and Audelco Awards. No stranger to television, Sydney has appeared in Tell Me A Story, Blue Bloods, FBI, NCIS: New Orleans, Elementary, Younger, The Good Wife, Law and Order, and also on film in Hamilton, Disney’s Enchanted, and starring in the upcoming musical feature film I’m Not Gay.