Puzzle Pieces’ Lip Sync Battle: Owensboro’s Celebration of Diversity
If you're always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be- Maya Angelou.
About a year ago, I was on my way to Louisville to emcee a weekend of dance and cheer competitions. I listened to the same song the entire length of the drive. It's a song called "Born Ready" by a group called the Disco Fries. Yes. It's random and you likely haven't heard it. However, it is a massive club anthem. One listen and it will make you want to get out on the dance floor and just let loose. For me, that day, it inspired the desire to celebrate diversity in Owensboro. Each time I listened to "Born Ready" on my one-and-a-half hour drive, the picture became clearer and clearer in my mind. Huge party! All walks of life invited and there. Coming together for a celebration of the human spirit. A celebration of togetherness and solidarity. When I returned home, I immediately contacted my friend Chad "Prof G" Gesser and shared my thoughts with him- that we needed an event in Owensboro that truly is for everyone. An event that celebrates diversity in every sense of the word. Chad and I met, exchanged thoughts and both fell in love with the idea and committed to bring that vision to town. What we failed to realize at the time is that we were already a part of that event. That event is Puzzle Pieces' Lip Sync Battle.
If you happened to be at the Owensboro Convention Center on Saturday night, you likely already know what I mean. While we all came together to raise money for Puzzle Pieces, something even more powerful and important was happening right under our lip-syncing lips. For two hours, we were all on the same page, under one roof, together, different, but the same and united.
I received a text Sunday afternoon from Puzzle Pieces Executive Director Amanda Owen. Several of us involved spent Sunday morning reflecting on an amazing Saturday night- sharing thoughts, memories, laughs, ideas for next time. In that text thread Amanda asked, "What other show in Owensboro has that much diversity?" The answer is simple. There's not one.
There are many reasons why the Puzzle Pieces Lip Sync Battle (presented and supported proudly by Kentucky Legend) has become one of Owensboro's most popular events. But that reason, for me, is now the event's biggest calling card. Shortly after the Owensboro Fire Department were crowned Grand Champions, I saw my friend and local realtor Glenn Ashby. He watched and enjoyed the show, but was also quite aware of the bigger, yet more subtle, picture in play. 1300 people had braved a winter storm to come together that night . . . white, black, Latino, Asian, straight, gay, able-bodied, developmentally-challenged . . . to rally around a shared cause. The result? Wildly entertaining, yet magical. Powerful. And a milestone for our community.
Look. Let's be honest about this. The "Make America Great Again" movement, regardless of which side of the fence you're on, has had the opposite effect that was intended. By the way, it's not the hat's fault. It's ours. We have let arguments on social media divide us. We have fallen into the trap of using Facebook, which is supposed to perpetuate community and unity, to sew the seeds of division. We are quick to share opinions about people and our thoughts about who we think they should be instead of celebrating them and appreciating them for who they really are. But over the weekend, my hope and faith in us was restored.
For two entertaining and affirming hours, all of our differences were on display and celebrated. Our Lip Sync Battle teams were unique collections of spirits and beings. They represented multiple ethnicities and races, orientations, age groups, professions, religions and tax brackets. And, you know what? None of it mattered. You know what else? It never should. Ever.
If you want to understand the true change a unified people can make, check this out. Misty Howard is the mother of a Puzzle Pieces client. She was at the Convention Center Saturday night and was moved to tears by the experience and the unified show of support for her child and friends . . .
Misty's right. The takeaway from Saturday night was "unconditional love and support." It's amazing what we can accomplish when we're all on the same page- joining hands, hearts and minds. The fundraising total from Lip Sync Battle 2019 is proof. An impressive $74,000 was raised- more than doubling what we raised with the inaugural event. This, my friends, is the true power of the people. The power of us.
I started this story with a Maya Angelou quote and it's only appropriate that I end with one. We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.
Look. It's fun and hilarious as hell. But Puzzle Pieces' Lip Sync Battle is more than a charity event where firefighters shoot confetti out of a fire hose, or a local banker rips off his shirt, or a real estate guy lives out his drag fantasy, or four friends pretend to be rock stars for five minutes, or Dad Bod comes in like a "Wrecking Ball" and slays it. It's Owensboro's united front. It's our celebration of diversity, our We the People moment.
And We the People need to continue to be better and together.