Rejoice in our authentic selves: Franklin County Pride kicks off June 14 with dance party premier of Carrie Ferguson’s queer anthem, ‘The Many I Am’

Carrie Ferguson, from left, with “The Many I Am” co-directors Fritha Pengelly and Wylder Ayres.

Carrie Ferguson, from left, with “The Many I Am” co-directors Fritha Pengelly and Wylder Ayres. CONTRIBUTED

Dancers during the filming of Carrie Ferguson’s music video for “The Many I Am,” which was filmed in Unity Park in Turners Falls.

Dancers during the filming of Carrie Ferguson’s music video for “The Many I Am,” which was filmed in Unity Park in Turners Falls. CONTRIBUTED

Dancers during the filming of Carrie Ferguson’s music video for “The Many I Am,” which was filmed in Unity Park in Turners Falls.

Dancers during the filming of Carrie Ferguson’s music video for “The Many I Am,” which was filmed in Unity Park in Turners Falls. CONTRIBUTED

By SHERYL HUNTER

For the Recorder

Published: 06-07-2024 11:48 AM

Modified: 06-07-2024 12:20 PM


“We are beyond between
Woman and man
There’s not enough words
For the many I am”
Carrie Ferguson, “The Many I Am”

Franklin County Pride will take place on Saturday, June 15, and this year is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet. The festivities will kick off on Friday, June 14, at 7:30 p.m. with “The Many I Am,” the official Pride kickoff party at the Pushkin Gallery in Greenfield. This event, presented by Hawks & Reed, The Rainbow Rack, and Carrie Ferguson, promises to be a lively celebration of queer creativity.

Drag queen Serenity Lockhart will host the multimedia event that will celebrate the debut video for Carrie Ferguson’s new song “The Many I Am.” Ferguson describes the song as a dance party anthem, a love letter to the LGBTQIA+ community, a celebration of gender diversity and inclusive community, a call for unity, and a joyful declaration of hope and resilience.

The video features a group of trans, non-binary, and queer dancers and was filmed in Turners Falls.

The message of this music encompasses the overall feel of the event, which, in addition to the video debut, will include musical performances, drag performances, a queer fashion show, a DJ, and more.

Ferguson, a non-binary and queer artist from Northampton, has been an active figure in the local music scene for many years. They lead their self-titled band as well as the popular kids’ group, the Grumpytime Club, and are known for their upbeat music.

“Carrie’s music has been a life-saving and life-giving vehicle of queer representation in my life since I was in my late teens,” said theater director, actor, and musician Wylder Ayres, who co-directed the video.

Ferguson revealed that they were inspired to write “The Many I Am” about 10 years ago after hearing about a distressing incident in Maine where a young student was not allowed to use the bathroom of their gender identity.

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Over time, Ferguson started reworking the song to reflect their own perspective as a non-binary person. “In some ways, this song was a tool for my own discovery of my own identity,” they said.

In addition, they were thinking about all the discrimination and hate legislation directed toward the trans community and knew that this song needed to come out now during Pride month. The official release date for “The Many I Am” was June 7 and is available on all streaming services.

Ferguson produced the song with their longtime collaborator and bassist Garrett Sawyer and recorded it at Northfire Studio in Amherst. JJ O’Connell played drums and Pamela Means was brought in to play guitar.

The song is heavy on the horns, which gives it some real flair. While it sounds like there’s a full horn section, all the parts are played by 14-year-old Samara Sawyer. Forest Kamerin adds some nice harmonies.

The song will be performed a cappella at the kickoff party, and you can also hear it when the Carrie Ferguson Band takes the stage at the Franklin County Pride celebration at the Energy Park in Greenfield on the 15th.

After “The Many I Am” was recorded, the next step was to create a music video. Inspired by Chaka Khan’s “Like Sugar” video, Ferguson knew they wanted to feature dancers to capture the song’s energy. Additionally, they aimed to involve a team of LGBTQ individuals in the project.

Ferguson assembled a talented team to bring their vision to life. They collaborated with Queer Videography from Salem for filming and brought in Ayres and Fritha Pengelly to co-direct. Pengelly, who is a dancer, was the lead choreographer with assistance from Julian Amari Smith.

“Our goal was to make a beautiful piece of art that is a great vehicle for this message,” said Ferguson.

They advertised locally and in Boston and New York for talented non-binary and trans dancers. They received a great response.

“I was going to have four dancers, but they were all so amazing I ended up with all of them and a $15,000 budget!” they explained. The project was growing, and so was the cost.

“This was the biggest project I’ve even been involved with and it just kept expanding,” Ferguson said. “A big part of it was just having faith all the way through it. There was a lot of ‘build it and the money will come’ kind of thinking.”

Thanks to a supportive community here in the Valley that believed in the project, the money did come. Over $12,000 was raised through a Go-Fund-Me campaign, local business donations, and grants.

The community support continued when the crew filmed in April at Unity Park in Turners Falls.

“Turner Falls was just amazing. They really support art there,” said Ferguson, noting that the group was allowed to use the park’s field house for the day of shooting and that RiverCutlure also helped with some of the arrangements around filming.

“The day of the shoot there was such a feeling of teamwork and camaraderie,” Ferguson said. “It’s like the message of the song was the lived experience of the day. It was about acceptance, community and celebration.”

After months of hard work, the team is ready to share this powerful song and video to the world.

“It was an honor to assistant-direct this project alongside a passionate team of queer artists and community members,” said Ayres of the video.

The video will debut on YouTube and all streaming services where you view videos on June 14, but it will be more fun to view it at the kickoff party.

“This feels almost like a pre-Pride mini festival, because there are so many different elements to it,” said Ben Goldsher, manager of Hawks & Reed. “We have done pride kickoffs in the past, and we love to support Franklin County Pride. So when Carrie reached out about a place to premiere the video, it seemed that pride was a great time to make it a cool event.”

Goldsher thought a fashion show would add to the special evening and he reached out to Kelly Surprenant of Rainbow Rack in Wendell.

“I had worked with Hawks & Reed in the past and did a fashion show for Pride last year, but this is bigger than anything I’ve been involved with before, and it’s going to be amazing,” said Surprenant.

In addition to modeling clothing from their own Rainbow Rack, a company committed to using sustainable material to create unique fashion, Surprenant has lined up three other local designers — Pixxie, Found & Faded and Flobosc0, whose fashions will dazzle on the runway.

At the time of our conversation, Surprenant was recruiting models for the show. “I’m looking for all sizes, all ages, all genders — this is for everyone,” she said.

Ferguson hopes that the power of music and the message of the song and video will help bring about change and build a world where everyone can rejoice in their authentic selves.

“I want this video to feel like a big hug or an invitation to celebrate who you are,” said Ferguson. “There is so much stress in the world right now and so many things to fight for and be angry about. But it is also at the same time important to have joy! We are here and we aren’t going anywhere, and it’s an amazing beautiful thing.”

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Tickets are available at hawksandreed.com. Nobody will be turned away due to lack of funds.