Magical T - 'Making Sweet Tea' at Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest

A still from Making Sweet Tea
6 Nov 2020
4 min read

Part of Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest, we’re screening the soulful documentary, 'Making Sweet Tea', an unmissable and authentic portrait of Black queer friendship. Choreographer and dancer Malik Nashad Sharpe writes about spilling the tea.

'And what of this magic which is conjured when the tea is spilt? All that you need to know is that this magic is conjured when the dolls speak truth to power. Truth as loving, a loving that could scold but never quite does, always done with articulated care. Spilling the tea feels like a practice, a ritual, a caress, a drama, and a willing, all in one moment. Or several. And when we spill this tea, or that tea, and when we then have our sultry sip in the cusp of our hands, this tickle and cackle in the throat and from the gut spanning generations, something magical really happens. Sacred, even. And this tea that we have brewed, Black tea sweetened to playful perfection, we are careful to not burn our own lips. To not speak something that we might regret for its untruth, its undue petty, to never write in stone with malice, it is so many things more than one could imagine. And girl...it could just be a cute lil moment, too.

Spilling tea creates a bond that says we are real. I see you.

I am so honoured by this legacy, by these moments. Someone on the outside of this practice with a history so large and deeply embedded might see Spilling the Tea as minorly tragic. Messy. Dramatic, sassy, rude. But it is actually the humanising gesture for me, to invite being fully seen, and to be seen with eyes and hearts smitten with the love of us.  Spilling tea creates a bond that says we are real. I see you. You might not like it but I. See. You. Sis. Real good, really funny, too. Black love, Black tea, towards each other, of each other, the tea we spill with each other reminds us that we are human. And more than. It's the validation of our existence, for me. It's the cadences in our speech that lulls us into our best moments and could yet end our lives unfairly in the next. For me, The Dolls Spill the Tea and you could run and tell that.

Holy, fully, honestly, Spilling the Tea is something to put faith into even with tragedy on the doorstep

Living life in the face of multiple, differentiated threats, a life where it feels that the baseline offer for us is either less than, or extracted from, and then erased and/or excluded, creates something in the core of us. There is a danger to Black queers and Queens everywhere. And instead of faltering in the face of this ruthless fact, Black queers, Queens continue this practice, this ritual of seeing, willing, loving, dramatising, soothsaying. This tradition of Spilling the Tea that has been passed down through multiple generations, across international borders, and social lines, helps us to survive. And as we continue to rearrange the conditions underneath which we live, and as we commit to seeing each other. Holy, fully, honestly, Spilling the Tea is something to put faith into even with tragedy on the doorstep. And these soothesaying, sing-song cadences of our throats, the ways that we walk, talk, share space, love and fight, could get us hurt in so many more contexts than one thinks, Spilling the Tea is a survival tactic.   

And so, what of this magic that is also a survival tactic, a way of being with each other, a way of willing the more marginal amongst us a future, a right to be, and to be unashamed? I think about the first time I had the kind of sweet tea brewed across Black households all over the United States, but predominantly in the South. I'm in Henderson, North Carolina, on a rural road with few homes, orange-coloured dirt, the sounds of the churches here fill the air with choirs of voices manifesting hope and joy in song. And afterwards we go to one of the church barbecues and I hear my Grandmother and Aunties and Cousins spilling the tea, talking about this church, and that church, about that unruly character, or that woman, about the houses of my family that were broken into and speculations on why. Even about my strange (to them) sense of style. My avoidance of masculine gestures. I sip my sweet tea quietly and attentively, softly biting onto the Styrofoam cup. A chorale of ‘mhm’s’ and ‘this is it’s' and before we know it but many, and I mean many hours later we are back on our way further South. We exchange hugs and kisses before we go, a rarer occurrence. ‘Nephew, promise me. Cut your hair. You are too cute to be lookin’ like that.’ She kisses me on my young forehead with her fabulous red lipstick. It leaves a mark I'm eager to clean but revel in this feeling that I'm loved, and seen. And we honk the horn all the way down this country lane, orange dust getting kicked up by the wheels of this van, in southern sunset. The sweetest tea I’ve ever tasted.' 

Watch the 'Making Sweet Tea' trailer

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