Music festival to raise funds for Morris Home, other LGBT charities

Get Better Fest 5 hits Chestnut Street’s First Unitarian Church this Saturday for an all-ages show featuring Empath, Mannequin Pussy, Big Nothing and more to raise money for local and national LGBTQ organizations.

Philadelphia’s Get Better Records, a queer-run independent label founded by Alex Licktenhour, is hosting the event and donating all proceeds to Black & Pink, Morris Home and Project SAFE. Each organization has its own groove, with Black & Pink focusing on supporting LGBTQ prisoners and “free-world” allies; RHD Morris Home supporting trans- and gender-variant individuals through issues of sobriety, emotional and behavioral difficulties in a recovery-oriented environment; and Project SAFE’s advocacy and health support for women working in street economies.

“We choose organizations we feel are important to donate to,” said Licktenhour, adding that “our radical politics are always involved in the decision process.”
Get Better Records is owned and operated by queer and trans people. The label focuses on releasing bands identifying as queer/trans and people of color, said Licktenhour. “Our label is directly tied to the LGBTQ+ audience because we are that audience.”

Along with running charitable events such as Get Better, which raises funds for local as well as national concerns (e.g., the families of the victims of the June 2016 shooting of the Pulse Nightclub in Florida), the label’s real work on the ground comes down to providing Philly’s LGBTQ+ crowd a voice.

“We try to give a platform to LGBTQ+ folks in Philly in the form of making and selling records and being on a stage with a microphone,” said Licktenhour.
Laura Sorensen is the director of the now-seven-year-old RHD Morris Home (named for Nizah Morris, a transgender woman killed in Philadelphia in 2002), one of the event’s beneficiaries. The eight-bed residential drug- and alcohol-treatment program serves members of the transgender and gender nonconforming community living with substance use and mental-health disorders.

“It is the only program of its kind in the country,” said Sorensen. “We support these individuals as they develop the knowledge, skills and supports necessary to promote sobriety, manage emotional and behavioral difficulties, choose and maintain safe and healthy lifestyles and develop healthy relationships.”

Morris Home provides a safe, trauma-informed recovery environment for individuals whose histories frequently include incarceration, complex trauma and chronic homelessness, said Sorensen. To that end, she said, they need all the money and support they can get.

“We’re grateful for community support of our program,” said Sorensen, who pointed out that all funds raised — from Get Better Fest and beyond — go toward covering necessities for people living in Morris Home. “We like to be able to provide our members with hair or wigs, makeup, binders, packers and other gender-affirming items, as well as keeping our clothes closet stocked with necessities such as socks and underwear.”

At least some of the funds raised on Saturday will allow Morris Home “to decorate our brand-new yard, designed as a safe sanctuary where we can have group- and individual-therapy sessions outside as well as garden and barbecue,” Sorensen said.

All proceeds go directly to the chosen charities, said Licktenhour.

“We want to help provide some sort of financial help for these organizations, even if it’s just a few hundred dollars from a tiny label.”