LGBTQ Book Excerpts, with Harp Accompaniment

If you are free April 14, consider stopping by the Kansas City Center for Inclusion. There, from 3 to 5 p.m., you can listen to three authors read from their locally relevant books, while the city’s favorite harpist plays in the background.

The event is free and open to the public. After the readings, there will be a Q&A session, followed by book-signings. To buy the featured books for the April 14 event, go to or the authors’ websites.

Calvin Arsenia in Paris, France. Photo: instagram-calvinarsenia

On the Harp: Calvin Arsenia

Whether you’re a local arts aficionado or simply a dilettante, chances are you’ve heard of acclaimed musician Calvin Arsenia. He plays several instruments and is a trained vocalist with a range of three and a half octaves. But most folks know him as the surprisingly tall and beguiling guy with a harp. You might call his style avant neo-folk but it really defies categorization.

Born in Orlando, Florida, Arsenia graduated from Olathe South High School. A vocalist since his youth, he taught himself the harp at age 20. He draws inspiration from many musical genres, including folk, gospel, neo-soul, R&B and Motown. Aresenia’s captivating vocals are pure and richly powerful, and it is his voice that truly defines him.

As a younger man traveling with a LifeMission Church group, Arsenia visited Scotland and performed in Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival. Later on, the pastor of Mosaic Church in Edinburgh offered him a job as an arts/music liaison between the church and the city.

So, in 2012, Arsenia relocated to Scotland for a couple of years. There, he was able to work on his art and gain confidence in his personal style of performance. Since returning home to Kansas City, he has released the EPs Moments and Prose and his Folk Alliance exclusive album Catastrophe.

Arsenia has performed all over the metro in showcases, art events, band collaborations and more. He teaches music to elementary students and is a graduate of the Artist INC professional development program at the Mid-America Arts Alliance.

“My job on the stage is to find the end of myself – to bleed for my audience – and thereby doing so, giving the audience permission to feel all of the emotional landscapes that we experience to the farthest extent,” explains Arsenia.

For more information on Arsenia, go to For tickets to his performance on April 20 at the RecordBar, 1520 Grand Blvd., go to

Historian David W. Jackson

Historian, author and archivist David W. Jackson will read from his book Changing Times: Almanac and Digest of Kansas City’s LGBTQIA History, which gives some insight into the gay liberation movement that occurred in Kansas City, Mo., in 1966, three years before the Stonewall riots.

Jackson co-founded the Gay & Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (GLAMA) and is director of The Orderly Pack Rat, a historical research, consulting and publishing service he founded in 1996.

He has worked with the Veterans History Project in collaboration with the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, written many newspaper and scholarly periodical features, written several topical guidebooks, and published books through the Jackson County Historical Society.

He has worked on books covering such topics as Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham and the American Civil War.

His honors include the Southeast Missouri State University Historic Preservation Association’s Arthur Mattingly Award in Historic Preservation, the City of Independence Heritage Commission’s Hickman Award and the Kansas City Area Archivists’ Fellow Award.

Jackson believes everyone’s experience is worth recording. To document Kansas City’s gay and lesbian past, stories, memories and even objects from one’s life can help. He encourages donations of oral histories and unique artifacts of local LGBT interest to GLAMA at UMKC (

He also wanted to thank Samantha Ruggles and the Kansas City Center for Inclusion and he encouraged readers to support this local LGBTQ+ center.

For more information on Jackson, go to

Biographer Patrick C. Byrne

Patrick C. Byrne is an author, opera critic, record producer and the founder of Ombra Records. He will read from his biography Double Entendre: The Parallel Lives of Mae West and Rae Bourbon.

As many know, Mae West was an actress, singer, comedian and bawdy sex symbol in the early part of the 20th century. Less well-known, Rae Bourbon (born Hal Waddell) was an actor, singer, playwright, comedian and female impersonator who performed at Kansas City’s Jewel Box Lounge. Bourbon was a contemporary of West’s, and the two were friends, sometimes working together. Byrne’s biography tells the story of how West and Bourbon’s lives intertwined.

Bourbon was born assigned as male, but in later years, is said to have identified as female and to have undergone gender-confirmation surgery in Mexico.

West is remembered for her scandalous Broadway plays and early Hollywood films. Bourbon’s performance venues included the music halls of London and vaudeville stages. Look up Bourbon online to hear some of the risqué recordings, which are still fairly popular.

Bourbon was known as the Lenny Bruce of drag queens, and the risqué performances were often raided by the police. West had similar experiences with her play Sex.

Bourbon’s life ended tragically. Implicated in a battery that resulted in the victim’s death, Bourbon was convicted, sentenced to prison, and died there.

Patrick Byrne attended Rockhurst Academy and College here in the Kansas City metro. He plans to donate his Bourbon materials to GLAMA for future researchers.

Double Entendre is Byrne’s first LGBTQ-themed biography. He co-wrote an earlier book with Taylor Pero titled The Colors of Callas: Reflections of an Icon. The book was released at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, during a gala presented by the Maria Callas International Club.

Byrne has also worked as an opera critic for The Belgian Opera Guide. His interest in opera led him to found the record label Ombra, which has released several recordings of Maria Callas’ live performances.

He has an interview coming up on

For more information on Byrne, go to

Writer/Filmmaker Mark Spano

Filmmaker and author Mark Spano will be reading from his murder mystery novel Midland Club. The protagonist of the book is a gay man shunned by his wealthy family in 1958 Kansas City. Spano lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but was raised in Kansas City, Mo.

The son of Sicilian immigrants, he grew up at Ninth and Chestnut Streets. He traveled each day to 93rd Street and State Line Road to attend Rockhurst High School. “That trip across town was something like traveling to the moon. It was culture shock. I looked different. My speech was different. I dressed differently. I didn’t even listen to the same music as my classmates,” recalled Spano.

He added, “I chose to go to Rockhurst. A decision I made when I was 13, thinking it would give me the foundation I needed. Even then, I was interested in writing, film and television. Rockhurst wasn’t the right place for me, but at that time, there were very few choices.”

Spano left Kansas City nearly 50 years ago.

“I have always worked in the mainstream. I will continue to do so. I don’t view my novel as a gay novel. It’s just a novel. There are gay people in it, but there are all sorts of people in my writing and films. I simply try to bring something to my reader or viewer that is authentic, that I know to be valid based on my own experience. In that way, Kansas City is one of the veins that I mine in my work,” Spano said.

His films include The Quality of Light: A Biography of Claude Howell and the documentary Reimagining Sicily.

“I will continue to make films of whatever gets funded. I think I make films because it gives me more control over my destiny, but by no means complete control,” he said.

Spano has six unpublished manuscripts and a first draft of another novel nearly completed.

He will be visiting Kansas City for the U.S. premiere of his new documentary Sicily: Land of Love & Strife on April 11 at Screenland Armour Theatre, 408 Armour Rd., North Kansas City, Mo.

For more information on Spano, go to

For tickets to the premiere of Sicily: Land of Love & Strife, go to

Event information

Facebook event:

Kansas City Center for Inclusion, 3911 Main St., Kansas City, Mo.  (816) 753-7770

On April 14, the meeting space could be tight and may be standing room only for about an hour-and-a-half. We would ask for everyone’s patience and understanding.

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