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I sleep better because of one woman

Editor’s note: This is a part of a collection of stories SDNN will publish throughout the month of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. Join us as we recognize Women’s History Month by sending in your stories too and checking SDNN every day for stories from other women in our region. Happy Women’s History Month!

Most entertainers hired for LGBT Pride Festivals are straight. It’s funny to me how a bunch of happy gay and trans-folk get excited about straight musicians. Since so many performers are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-attracted, transgender) it would be easy to hire them exclusively. But, I guess the gay-world knows equality, not association, is what’s most important.

Celebrations like Pride serve a purpose in bringing people together in a safe environment, they have their place. Personally, I like parties doused in consciousness, with activism as the focus. I remember attending San Diego Pride one year and feeling uninspired. It seemed the social politics were toned down, until she took the stage.

She was a tall, lioness of a woman with the mane and voice to rival any male that could challenge her. Her presence matched her conviction as she sang of gender equality, of racism, self-expression and perseverance. Her lyrics were brutally honest, yet avoided insult. The skill with which her band cushioned her words, was far from injurious.

She was Danielle Lo Presti, a straight singer supportive of the LGBT community. Now she’s part of the LGBT community, and supportive of other singers.

From witnessing Lo Presti on stage, I was compelled to write her first unsolicited review. Someone gave the published piece to her, which led us to meeting. Years later, I remain impressed.

At some point, Lo Presti surprised us all by falling in love with women. She had not previously realized she was capable of it. She had morphed from a musical muse worthy of a girl-crush to a new found reason to remain an activist-for lesbian rights on top of women’s rights, on top of human rights. She’s not only remained true to her passion for music infused with political messaging, she’s increased its depth and breadth by embedding her lyrics with more of her new found passions.

Lo Presti’s concern for equality is unmatched by anyone I’ve known in the music industry. In an effort to create exposure for quality independent artists she founded and produces San Diego Indiefest, the first-ever independent music and arts festival of its kind which is celebrating its 6th year. With well over 100 bands, over 50 films, an open-mic stage, spoken word, dance and art, the festival will spread out over a two block radius in North Park this Friday and Saturday, March 26-27.

San Diego Indiefest is held in March to honor National Women’s History Month, and includes, among the many stages, a women-only Women’s History Month Stage in Claire De Lune Coffee Lounge. The festival is co-sponsored by the San Diego Women’s History Museum which will feature historic displays from the Museum at the Women’s History Stage and women dressed in suffragist costume to register voters.

Although men are central to her life, and to the indie rock industry, Lo Presti highlights women’s music by including more women led bands than virtually any festival in the country, and is proud to tell me that this year has an unusually high percentage of lesbian acts, more so than any other year.

Her Web site states that she produces music “cause I believe in writing music and singing myself to it. This music isn’t safe…it’s…personal.” Like me, she believes the personal is political. I’m sure that’s why we relate so effortlessly.

When I called her to ask why she continues, year after year, to provide festivals, play countless fundraisers, to build cd after informative cd, to speak up and ask for more despite the rough economy and the constant push for bubble-gum music for mainstream success, her answer surprised me. She said, “I don’t want to become resentful. I believe in it. The alternative is to give up.” She went on to explain that “there’s so much goodness that doesn’t get press because they’re small.” Her plight is to uplift others while she uplifts herself.

Although Lo Presti claims being aware is a commitment that is inseparable from disappointment – not all social and political problems, like marriage equality, can be solved easily – she lives a life of awareness because she sees the need. It’s her job to make other people aware of the other women and men who share her commitment through art, action and effort. She feels if she didn’t work hard, she’d resent that not enough was being done to inform people of inequalities.

Activism and the environment seem to be in Lo Presti’s blood. Her Mom owned and operated Sun Harbor the world’s first LEED certified marina right here in San Diego until recently selling it to Lo Presti’s father who will keep it green. Lo Presti’s sister, Gina Angelique founded Eveoke Dance Theatre which trains inner-city youth and like-minded people to move, dance, create and perform with forethought to action. They believe that in coming “together around issues of political, social and aesthetic import” they “help make the world a better place.” Eveoke believes, as Lo Presti does, that by incorporating purpose with performances, “when the curtain is raised, so is awareness.”

One of Lo Presti’s favorite events in SD Indiefest is the Durga Awards given to a few outstanding individuals for their commitment to positive social change. Her favorite cause is teaching non-violence to youth, as outlined by the Tariq Khamisa Foundation. For Lo Presti, a historic woman herself, it’s not enough to provide a stage and a mic and an audience, it’s only enough if she keeps the political commitment of fellow artists and activists alive and well.

It must be tiresome to forever dodge resentment with right action, but I bet Lo Presti sleeps well at night and wakes to the hope of a brighter tomorrow. In honor of March as National Women’s History Month, I say thank you Danielle. Because of you, I sleep better too.

Tryce Czyczynska is the co-founder of 51%: A Women’s Place Is In Politics and host of “Coffee & Conversation with Cool Women.” She is an SDNN contributor. Follow her on Twitter.