On June 28, 2020––a date that marks start of the Stonewall Riots in 1969––a very important event took place: the Philadelphia Black Queer and Burlesque Community Town Hall was held on a Facebook Live video. This town hall served the purpose of holding white producers, performers, and organization reps in the Philadelphia queer community accountable for racist and otherwise problematic actions. Hundreds of people tuned in to watch the powerful conversations unfold live on Facebook.
The panel consisted of VinChelle, Icon Ebony-Fierce, and Amber Hikes who all did an excellent job of moderating and holding people accountable. Both the moderators and the witnesses who came in to make their statements all generously contributed a significant amount of emotional labor to make this happen, and we’re grateful for the time and energy they put into holding this very important town hall.
Some of the organization representative who were brought on to be held accountable included Mimi Imfurst, Bev of Bev’s BitchFest, Brittany Lynn and Franny Price from Philly Pride Presents, representatives from the Philadelphia Gay Mens Chorus, members of Tabu’s events team, and more.
The topics covered during the conversations included various acts of racism within the Philadelphia queer community. Some of the specific issues were tokenism, black queens being mistreated and paid less than white queens at the same shows, cultural appropriation, sexual predation, harassment of black performers, mishandling of funds, and much more.
One of the great points made by the moderators was that considering Philadelphia’s demographics––over 40% of the Philadelphia population is black––having all-white drag shows like those put on by some of the producers and performers who appeared during the town hall simply doesn’t make sense.
The people brought on were held accountable for their racist actions, paired with calls to take explicit, actionable steps to right their wrongs. Sadly, some of the people brought on centered themselves in their apologies, defended their actions, or issued vague non-apologies. However, VinChelle, Icon Ebony-Fierce, and Amber Hikes did a great job of calling them out whenever this happened, bringing them back to the fact that they needed to make a sincere apology to those they had harmed, paired with actionable steps.
This panel resulted in some important changes moving forward. For example, Brandon Roberts, Tabu’s social media and events manager, agreed to step down from his position, and several of the white producers and performers agreed to hire over 50% POC performers in their events moving forward.
Still we have a long way to go, and many changes to make. We also have yet to see if these people actually follow through with the commitments they made to the black queer community.
We highly recommend watching the video! Watch it here or at the top of this page. This was an extremely important event, and we sincerely hope that this accountability to the black LGBTQ+ community continues moving forward.
Holding ourselves accountable
As a white-led queer organization, QueerlyDesigns also has a responsibility to contribute to and support black members of the queer community. This month, we’re donating all proceeds from the Stonewall Riots Pioneers shirt to BLM Philly, and our regular 5% monthly nonprofit contribution will also go to BLM Philly this month.
Moving forward, 100% of the proceeds from the Stonewall Riots Pioneers shirt will continue to go to BLM Philly, and we’re going to make sure that our monthly 5% of proceeds nonprofit contribution continues to go to organizations that are primarily centered around the POC LGBTQ+ community in Philadelphia moving forward. Black lives matter, and none of us are truly free until all of us are free and black lives are respected by the state and by white members of our community.