Ricky got into activism at the University of Detroit Mercy. She was the first person in her family to go to college. On campus, she became president of the black student LGBT group. The campus was not welcoming to the group, but with the help of the Triangle Foundation (now known as Equality Michigan), the organization was able to continue.
Simone got her master’s degree in social work at the University of Michigan and began to explore social injustice as a poet and writer.
“I wasn’t courageous enough to get into music until I got to Athens, Ga.,” she relates. “I had to get this music out of me, and I did my first song in 2011.
“I do hip hop but without the noise or disrespectful messages. My music is positive and uplifting, motivational. My mission is to liberate the LGBT community.”
Simone says she seeks a partnership between the LGBT and other oppressed communities. Her concerns include economic justice, immigration issues, women’s issues and racial injustice.
Her advice to young people coming to terms with their sexuality is, “It does get better. There are a lot of sources of love and empowerment out there. Don’t try to change for anyone. Love yourself; don’t internalize the hate. Instead, work hard to change hateful attitudes.”
Although she realizes that there is quite a way still to go in the battle against prejudice, Simone is optimistic.
“I think the tide’s changing,” she says. “Love is the new normal. I think there really has been a shift in the way people think and hate is becoming a thing of the past. Of course, there are people out there who are holding on to it like it’s their last breath. But more people are getting tired of hating and getting over it. Hate is out of date.”
She points out that different groups such as African Americans and Jews have been singled out for prejudice through the years, with time dimming some of the harsh edges of judgmental attitudes.
“I think it’s finally our turn to experience some positive energy,” she says.
Among her many community activities, Simone has been involved in the campaign to implement domestic partnership benefits throughout the University System of Georgia. Although UGA adopted a resolution to provide soft benefits in 2012, a system-wide full benefit program has yet to be enacted.
“I’m happy and excited about performing at Pride,” she says. “It will be the biggest stage I’ve ever worked on.”
Ricky Simone performs Saturday at 2:15 p.m. at the Bud Light Stage.