The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. (GMCW) didn’t let an unfortunate surprise stop them from sharing their inclusive message in Tennessee this weekend.
Members of the chorus were boarding a bus outside the Knoxville Civic Coliseum June 17, where the city’s Pride festivities were taking place, when they encountered a group of about eight anti-LGBTQ protesters. Though the bus was ready to depart for a nearby hotel, Artistic Director Thea Kano told the driver to stop. At that point, the men stepped off the bus and began singing in unison, effectively drowning out the protesters, local CBS affiliate WVLT-TV reports.
The chorus’s four-song set was politically tinged, featuring the national anthem, “We Shall Overcome” and “Make Them Hear You,” from the Broadway musical, “Ragtime.” Participants and passersby captured the impromptu concert on their phones, as seen below.
Additional footage of the performance has since been viewed over 5 million times since being uploaded to NowThis News’s Politics page. It’s also been shared by the likes of “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing on Twitter.
GMCW is currently in the midst of its six-city Southern Equality Tour, visiting states that have enacted “discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community,” such as North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee, according to their website. Given the inclusive mission of the tour, Executive Director Justin Fyala told HuffPost that the decision to sing out against the public display of homophobia in Knoxville was a no-brainer.
“GMCW never backs down when an opportunity to share our mission of equality and justice for all presents itself,” he said. “In my mind, we had no choice… We also did it to empower the people attending Knoxville Pride to raise their voices and as a way of thanking them for the powerful work they are doing on the front lines.”
Ultimately, he hopes the chorus’ performance will send the message that “love always wins over hate.”
“Until the day when all people are respected as they come, [the chorus] will continue to raise our voice,” he said, “for those who are going through a difficult time, for those who have been bullied or harassed into submission, for those in fear of their jobs or, worse, their lives, and for those who are doing the work where it is needed most.”
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