Benefit concert to help LGBT asylum seekers

  • Songwriter/story teller Charlie King of Shelburne Falls. Contributed photo—

  • Playwright/composer Rick Burkhardt performs with Charlie King Wednesday at Trinity Church in Shelburne Falls. Contributed photo—

  • Rick Burkhardt and Charlie King, seen here in an earlier concert, will perform with vocalist Jermain Golden for a benefit concert to raise money for the LGBT Asylum Task Force, Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Trinity Church in Shelburne Falls. A $10 donation is suggested. Contributed photo

Recorder Staff
Sunday, November 26, 2017

SHELBURNE FALLS — Local songwriter/storyteller Charlie King teams up with Obie award-winning playwright Rick Burkhardt and vocalist Jermaine Golden for a benefit concert to raise money for the LGBT Asylum Task Force and to support the basic human needs of LGBT people seeking asylum in the United States.

The concert on Wednesday, Nov. 29, will be held at Trinity Church, 17 Severance St., from 7 to 9 p.m. A $10 donation is requested, with all proceeds going to the Worcester-based LGBT Asylum Task Force. Their goal is to educate the public to change policy around the world so that no one will need to seek asylum because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In the meantime, they are helping asylum seekers. Some, whose stories are posted on the group’s website, say they were beaten or tortured in their home countries because of their sexual orientation.

King of Shelburne Falls has been writing songs for about 45 years, some of which have been sung by Pete Seeger, Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, Arlo Guthrie, Peggy Seeger and Chad Mitchell. Grounded in the folk music scene of the 1960s, King is also a musical storyteller and political satirist. His awards include: an “Indie” award for one of the top three folk recordings of 1984; the War Resisters League’s 1998 Peacemaker Award; the 1999 Sacco-Vanzetti Social Justice Award for which he was nominated by Pete Seeger; and the 2009 International Labor Communications Association award for Best Labor History Story, among others.

Burkhardt of Brooklyn, N.Y., is a playwright, composer, director and performer who has performed world-wide. He is a founding member of The Nonsense Company, an experimental chamber music-theater trio, and The Prince Myshkins, a cabaret-folk political satire duo.

Trinity Church pastor, the Rev. Marguerite Sheehan, said King came to her with the idea of holding the benefit concert at Trinity.

“It’s mostly a community thing,” said Sheehan. She said the asylum group has been supported for years by the First Congregational Church of Ashfield, and “this came forward as something for us to do,” she said.

King said he and Burkhardt are touring the Northeast next week, and since their Wednesday night was open, “We could easily do it and give all the proceeds to the LGBT Asylum,” he said. “I have been writing and singing and working around solidarity issues with the LGBT community since my early days in college. I had a gay college roommate, and that friendship really opened my eyes,” he said. “Rick Burkhardt is also a lifelong advocate of LGBT rights. We will have a number of songs that will be celebrating LGBT rights and identity.”

The LGBT Asylum program was started in 2008 as a comprehensive program that provides refugees with shelter, medical help and a monthly stipend for expenses until the asylum seekers have their work permits and are able to live on their own — usually about a year, says the Rev. Judy Hanlon, pastor of the Hadwen Park Church in Worcester. About 18 months ago, the program helped between eight to 12 refugees, but is now housing 24. “Our costs are about $22,000 per month, which is a lot for us,” Hanlon said.