Leg­endary group Sis­ter Sledge head­lines At­lanta Pride

GA Voice - - 2015 Atlanta Pride Event Guide - By SHAN­NON HAMES

What do you do when you and your sis­ters were vo­cally trained by your Jul­liard grad­u­ate grandma, your fa­ther is an ac­claimed Broad­way per­former and your mom is an ac­tress who has you singing in church ev­ery Sun­day? You make a ca­reer out of it! And that’s just what Joni, Deb­bie and Kim Sledge have done.

Since they re­leased their first sin­gle in 1971, the sis­ters (mi­nus Kathy, who left the group in 1989) have made them­selves pop icons through their vo­cal tal­ents and by “shar­ing love” with their au­di­ences. The sis­ters un­know­ingly cre­ated a gay an­them with their 1979 an­them, “We Are Fam­ily,” and as a re­sult, have en­deared them­selves to the LGBT com­mu­nity. This year they will be head­lin­ing At­lanta Pride on Satur­day

night. The Ge­or­gia Voice caught up with Joni Sledge to talk to her about their fans, Pope Fran­cis and their love of peo­ple.

What does it feel like to still be tour­ing the world and per­form­ing for au­di­ences nearly 45 years af­ter you and your sis­ters first started?

Joni: It’s thrilling. And we don’t take it for granted even a lit­tle bit! We’re older and have less to prove. We don’t have any anx­i­ety. We’re just out there en­joy­ing our­selves. It’s also fun to see that our older fans are there, but now we have a new gen­er­a­tion with them. They come up to us and say, “My mom loves you!” We em­brace it be­cause peo­ple nowa­days have a need for love. There’s a void of it and we’re just shar­ing it. It’s gen­uine to us. It’s kind of a re­ward­ing feel­ing that goes be­yond mu­sic. We put the love out there and they soak it up.

You and your sis­ters just per­formed for Pope Fran­cis when he vis­ited your home­town of Philadelphia. How did you get that gig?

They didn’t just come right out and ask us. We heard he was com­ing to Philadelphia and we wanted to be a part of that. ‘Faith, Fam­ily and Love’—that’s our motto. So we asked if we could be a part of his visit. We sub­mit­ted a video with ex­cerpts from our 2014 world tour and some writ­ing of things that we be­lieve in. They called us back and of­fi­cially in­vited us and we are just thrilled.

I also just want to say that we re­ally love Pope Fran­cis. We be­lieve in God and we’re Chris­tians but we’re not dog­matic. I don’t think he is, ei­ther. He is a man of the cloth and be­lieves in equal­ity for all peo­ple. I think he will make some re­ally great strides in our world.

I am aware that in the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, specif­i­cally as it re­lates to multi-gen­er­a­tional faith-based com­mu­ni­ties, there is this taboo about be­ing gay. Yet here you ladies are, faith-based and mem­bers of the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, head­lin­ing a mas­sive gay cel­e­bra­tion. Have you re­ceived any back­lash for your sup­port of the LGBT com­mu­nity?

I don’t care. I feel like this: ev­ery hu­man be­ing on this earth de­serves love. I don’t look at a per­son’s sex­u­al­ity. I look into their eyes, into their heart. What is valu­able to me is in­tegrity, hon­esty, trust … things like that. That’s how we all feel. Our arms are open to that. If you are those things, you are welcome. We should look at char­ac­ter and that’s all we should judge. If peo­ple want to have a prob­lem with us over some­thing like that, it’s re­ally their prob­lem and not ours.

“We Are Fam­ily” has re­ally been adopted as an an­them by so many groups. How does it make you feel for it to be used so widely in the LGBT com­mu­nity?

The song is gen­uine. That’s why it res­onates with peo­ple. I asked a re­porter once why the (LGBT) com­mu­nity em­braced us so much. I mean, we re­ally get loved on by them. The re­porter re­sponded that a lot of times, (LGBT) peo­ple are os­tra­cized by their own fam­ily mem­bers. They see us lov­ing each other and singing about fam­ily and they feel like we’re their sis­ters and that this is a fam­ily. And it is. We just say to them, “Thank you for shar­ing your love and ac­cept­ing and em­brac­ing us, too.” We should all just love and em­brace each other.

At­lanta is look­ing for­ward to see­ing you at our PRIDE cel­e­bra­tion. Do you have any­thing to say to your At­lanta fans?

I would just like to say that we are all fam­ily.

Kim and Deb­bie Sledge of Sis­ter Sledge

(Pub­lic­ity photo)

Sis­ter Sledge per­form dur­ing their 2014 World Tour. (Pub­lic­ity photo)

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