C.C. Carter performing on an Olivia Cruise
© Kathy Belge
Intellectual, intriguing, straightforward, and academically inclined, are only a few adjectives to describe this full-figured lesbian situated in the Midwest. She declares that everything in the Midwest is done big, so it makes sense for her to follow suit. She shared with us how Oprah Winfrey looks at the Midwest as it relates to its culture. She talks about how her grandmother influenced her career. She’s performed everywhere from cruise ships to colleges and universities including opening for famous poets like Nikki Giovanni. She talks about how a seven year on again/off again friendship has evolved into a comfortable, trusting 13 year partnership with her current hersband. C.C. Carter’s gift has given her insight on what people want to hear regarding poetry and she serves it straight up no chaser. C.C. Cater explains that her ambition as a performer has driven her into her desire of owning a publishing company to capture some of the over-looked talent in the Midwest and the South. Her goal is to change the perception of “All good voices come from the east and west coasts.” C.C. Carter is in agreement with the Stud/Femme differential and has explicit reasons why. Read on to find out all that this extremely scholarly, poetic performer had to say when she sat down with Lesbian Life.
Lesbian Life: Are you a spoken word artist?
C.C. Carter: I would like to say that I am a spoken word performance artist. My work does not stand alone in monologue terms. Of the work that I do, I use theater, dance and incorporate music you know, all of those kind of theatrical things that one would do.
Tell me about that, what kind of things do you write?
I’m most known for my work on body image and being full figured, and erotica in a very femme context. I also write around race, craft, and culture with emphasis on body politics. Body politics meaning women that are full figured loving someone who is Butch/Stud identified.
Do you play any instruments?
My vocals are my instrument. What’s different is that I like to take contemporary R&B, use the instrumental, and use my own poetry. This way there is a frame of reference for the audience in terms of content. They are familiar with the music itself, and the spin is that it’s my own spoken word.
Are you originally from the Midwest?
I’ve always felt like Chicago was my home, however I am a Missionary Brat. I was born in Little Rock, I grew up in my formative years in Chicago, and my teen to adult years I lived in New York. I went to Spellman College in Atlanta, fell in love and came back to Chicago.
How does your sound relate to where you are geographically in Chicago?
I would say that its hardy, meaty and full (smiling), I thank that is what the Midwest is about. It reminds you of big things, large living quality of life living. Everything here in the Midwest is done big but not grandiose, like big barbeques. It’s kind of southern meets northern. I think that people approach politics differently on the East Coast / West Coast verses Midwest/ Southern. I think the Midwest is more Southern, its more connected to what a Southern flair would be, but it does incorporate ideologies of what bigger cities would normally have and that’s kind of like my sound. I consider Chicago the New York of the Midwest. You have all different kinds of cultures, ethnicities, race and crafts but yet you have the most amazing gender identity politics that happens here (in Chicago). We have a LGBT constructs that don’t happen anywhere else. We are the only city in the Country that has a gay and lesbian hall of fame. You see what I’m saying? We do things big here when we do them, but it’s not grandiose as much as it is we have our own rooted identity. Chicago comes from this rooted place with a history.
I guess with Oprah Winfrey being there that speaks volumes for the city, would you agree?
Absolutely! When she came to Chicago she very much agreed that Chicago has its own culture. The Midwest has a culture that is nothing like any other area. Like from the East coast you know who is from the East Coast, they have this style, West Coast people sort of have their own flare and the Midwest has its own it’s almost like a third coast.
Is this always what you wanted to do?
To let my parents tell it I was born performing (Laughing). Because my father was a missionary I was in all of the Sunday school plays. I was in the school plays and I was a dancer. I’m a 60’s child and so the parents that raised children in the 60’s wanted them to be exposed to all of the finer things in life. They didn’t understand that some of those children would actually grow up to want to be those things they were exposed to. It was more of a class-bridger to know about art and to have gone to an Alvin Ailey dance concert, or a Gordon Parks gallery expedition. Things like that that were done in the 60’s were done so you could make your children well rounded when they go out into the world and have conversations with people who were not necessarily thinking that they knew about things like this. It was not necessarily or readily supported by our parents if we became the very people that we were going to see. That was not considered a logical, or a financial stable career that would give you longevity.
So do you think that if our parents had taken it more seriously that there would be more people from your era who would be doing what they were put here to do?
Exactly! My grandmother and I had a secret kind of relationship that no one knew about, she fostered in me this artistic performance kind of thing that I wanted to become, that I later became. When I would come home for homework and tell her I had a Langston Hughes poetry assignment she would say, “Let’s just get in front of a mirror, lets perform this poem, you have to really perform it to get the meaning of it.” And then when people came home what she would go back to this elderly women of the family who was always in the kitchen cooking. She would have been an amazing performing artist.
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