A Literary Reflection on the House and Ballroom Scene

Conversation Fri 18 Apr 2014 4.30PM-6.30PM The New School, The Orozco Room
66 West 12th Street, Room 712
New York City

Free admission with reservation. RSVP to vlc@newschool.edu
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Authors of recently published books from and about the House and Ballroom Scene converse: Dominique Jackson (Icon Tyra Allure Ross), entertainer and model, Gerard Gaskin, photographer, Douglas Says, designer, and Marlon Bailey, Gender and American Studies scholar; moderated by Edgar Riviera Colon, sexality/gender and medical anthropologist.

The House and Ballroom Scene is a multigenerational, intentional kinship, and creative community founded and sustained by predominantly black and Latino/a LGBTQ individuals. Outsiders generally come to know the scene as mediated by journalists, researchers, and popular-culture gatekeepers who are not members of the community. Their coverage focuses almost exclusively on the New York scene's more spectacular accomplishments, such as the dance form Vogue and haute couture designs at the expense of the scene's long history and its engagement with and impact on a range of struggles, including movements against homophobia, transphobia, racism, housing and employment discrimination, cultural exploitation, and barriers to healthcare. This event highlights the work of four author-artists from within the House and Ballroom scene or with longstanding and meaningful connections to the scene. The fours authors discuss their recently published books, reflect on the history and accomplishments of the scene, and consider the implications of the scene's growing national and international presence.
Marlon Bailey is Associate Professor of Gender Studies and American Studies at Indiana University. His first-person ethnographic study, Butch Queens up in Pumps: Gender, Performance and Ballroom Culture in Detroit (2013), examines notions of gender, sexuality, kinship, and community within the Ballroom Scene.

Gerard Gaskin was awarded the 2012 Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography. Legendary: Inside the House & Ballroom Scene (2013) offers a photographic history of the Ballroom Scene compiled from an archive of images assembled over 20 years.

Dominique Jackson (Icon Tyra Allure Ross) is a member of the ballroom scene and one of New York City's legendary entertainers, hosting club nights, pride festivals, nonprofit organizational events and fundraisers. In her book, The Transsexual from Tobago (2013), she describes a personal and professional journey that highlights the crucial impact of Caribbean immigrants and culture on the Ballroom scene.

Edgar Riviera Colon is a sexuality/gender and medical anthropologist. He has spent over a decade engaged in training frontline African American and Latino/a LGBT HIV/AIDS preventionists in the use of ethnographic research methods in developing community-level interventions. His article "Between the Runway & the Empty Tomb: Bodily Transformation and Christian Praxis in New York City's House Ball Community" was published in Christianity and Culture in the City: A Postcolonial Approach, (2012, ed. Samuel Cruz). Edgar is a member of the Community Advisory Board of Hetrick-Martin Institute and co-founded with Arbert Santana the Ballroom Archive and Oral History Project.

For over 20 years, Douglas Says has dressed some of the Ballroom Scene's most legendary and iconic members, providing him with a unique perspective on the scene's investigation of beauty and style. His work is also acknowledged by some of the most important figures in the internal fashion scene, including the photographers Mike Ruiz, Alex Chatelain, Ghillian Lewin, Fadil Berisha, Marc Baptiste, Dah Len, Keith Majors, Anthony Barboza, and the late Jerry Jack. Douglas released his first book, Amuse, in 2009. His second, The Red Dress (2013), continues the conversation between himself, his designs, and the women with whom he works.

This event is part of BallStar Week-end: Toward a House/Ballroom Pedagogy (April 18–21, 2014), a weekend of events concerned with the Ballroom scene's history of autonomous, self-organized creativity, pedagogy, and collective struggle. This initiative continues the work of Vogue'ology, a collective effort initiated by Robert Sember as part of his 2009–10 Fellowship with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and Arbert Santana, founding mother of the House of Evisu. Vogue'ology brings together members of New York City's House and Ballroom scene and the sound-art collective, Ultra-red, to document and investigate the historical intersections between the Ballroom scene and related struggles for freedom. The collective has organized community listening sessions, seminars, two courses at Eugene Lang College, and exhibitions and performances. Ballstar Weekend events are a collaboration between the Vogue'ology Collective and the Scottish experimental arts organization, Arika.