CityLit Festival presents Who We Become

CityLit Festival presents Who We Become

Who We Become: Don’t Be Afraid
Festival Finale Featuring Musical Guest Be Steadwell

5:00 pm – 6:15 pm
Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
Lobby Stage



The festival finale spotlights Be Steadwell with roots in jazz, acapella, and folk in Who We Become. Don’t Be Afraid. Be is a queer pop composer and storyteller whose films have screened in festivals around the world, who has composed songs for Alvin Ailey Dance Company, and who has a forthcoming new album, Dear Ex Musical.

“With honesty, humor, and originality, Be Steadwell brings a poet’s heart to her songs. She is true to her Muse.”
– Christian John Wikane, PopMatters

“Be’s songwriting is fresh and individual in the same personal storytelling way of Joni Mitchell or Carly Simon. Some might think it’s premature to align Be’s Queer Love Songs with such large and iconic artists but much of their best and lasting music was created at the beginning of their careers. Queer Love Songs is a beautiful ode to queer love, or any kind of love because it speaks the truth”
– Nona Hendryx

“Be Steadwell is a force to be reckoned with.”
– Autostraddle

“Not only do their controversial lyrics address issues with the contemporary mainstream music scene, but their spoken poetry also confronts racism and the erasure of women of color from mainstream queer culture. “
– QWOC Media, 2013


BE STEADWELL (They, She, He, Be) is a queer pop composer and storyteller from Washington DC. Be composes songs on stage using looping, vocal layering, and beatboxing. Be’s original music features earnest lyricism, and affirming queer content. Be’s goal as a musician is to make other black girlies, introverts, and weirdos feel seen and loved. She earned a BA in Black Studies from Oberlin College and an MFA in film from Howard University in 2014. Their thesis film Vow of Silence screened in film festivals around the world, including Black Star, HBO’s OutFest, The Schomburg Center, and Inside Out Toronto. In 2019, Be composed the music for The Alvin Ailey Dance Company’s production of “the gone”. Later that year, they wrote and directed A Letter to My Ex, the musical. A Letter to My Ex imagines a queer Black woman’s experience of healing after a breakup. In 2021 Be released their latest album- Succulent. In 2023, Be joined the cast of Parable of the Sower the Opera by Toshi Reagon and Dr Bernice Johnson Reagon. This spring, Be will release their album, DEAR EX THE MUSICAL. Be currently works as a professor at Howard University.
Instagram: @besteadwell


CityLit Project and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in partnership with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company present CityLit Festival: Dismantling the Culture of Silence. This celebration of the arts showcases a bevy of leading poets and writers on April 20, 2024. We’re talking fiction, nonfiction, poetry galore, and ways to up the ante on your craft.

Download the CityLit Festival: Dismantling the Culture of Silence flyer.