By Jeff Kronenfeld
For over fifty years, LGBTQ people and their supporters gathered each June at Pride events to demand equal rights and celebrate together.
While COVID-19 makes physically gathering risky for individuals and the community, drag performers like Barbra Seville and Mia Inez Adams are joining with others to offer a safe online alternative. The pair will celebrate Pride while amplifying black voices with an online drag show this Friday, June 19, from 7-9 p.m.
Called Phoenix Rises Friday, the event will be free to view at Seville’s YouTube page. The performances will be broadcast from Vx3’s studio in Phoenix. Vx3 is a full-service audio, visual, lighting, and staging company. They recently reopened the studio, kicking off their online shows with a performance by Ultimate Bon Jovi, a Bon Jovi tribute band, on June 7. The show will benefit the Finding My Shoes Foundation and Drinking Gourd Farms.
"Vx3 has been doing great work in the community, including virtual graduations,” said Seville. “They approached us with an idea to celebrate Pride, and together came up with a way to commemorate Pride with a spotlight on Black and Brown people who started this movement. These charities are grassroots organizations, so the money raised on Phoenix will stay in Phoenix."
FMSF is a grassroots program supplying direct assistance to people experiencing homelessness. Dr. Brenda Combs founded the organization to distribute critical aid like shoes and blankets to those experiencing homelessness. When the air temperature in Phoenix reaches 104 degrees, sidewalks can surge to 149 degrees, according to Fulton Homes Cause for Paws. Further, asphalt can reach a blistering 162 degrees. Shoes allow those experiencing homeless to access services or even just to be able to walk without burning their feet. The Phoenix Rescue Mission estimates 25,832 people in Maricopa County are homeless.
Drinking Gourd Farms is helping the Valley’s Black community develop a network of gardens and farms to secure access to fresh, nutritious alternatives to processed foods. It is part of the Black Phoenix Organizing Collective, which brings together black people directly impacted by unjust systems.
“This isn't just about food,” reads a statement from the Farm’s website. “We must continue to fight the systems of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy that created this global pandemic and now worsen its impact through criminalization, eviction, and denial of health care at a time of crisis."