By Barbara Kay
TW: mentions of hate crimes and violence against LGBTQ community
The Multicultural Center streamed a virtual Drag Show with performers from around the world in an effort to fundraise an inclusive short film about gender, privilege, and the climate crisis.
“I grew up outside of urban areas and I’ve been exposed to a lot of violence with regards to LGBT people,” said the second performer, Belinda Qaqamba Ka-Fassie from South Africa. “My performance is paying homage to those who have lost their lives. I call them stars because I [believe] they [still] exist in the galaxy.”
The event, Regeneration: A Global Drag Show, took place on Friday, Feb. 25 in Fort Awesome. The hour and a half-long fundraiser was held on Zoom where prerecorded performances were played with Taiwanese drag king, Uncle Southside, as host. The fundraiser was for a short film Emergence of the Heart, directed by Liv Scott.
The film, which hasn’t begun production, captures the story of a non-binary child learning about climate change. Through their life, they learn about the colonial and white supremacist structures that developed climate change and its impact on other aspects of life, such as queerness and binaries.
After being introduced to Southside through the film’s original assistant director and current line producer, Jessica Chen, Scott and Southside cocreated Regeneration: A Global Drag Show to highlight the effects of global colonialism, and where we go from here.
Southside sat in front of a pride flag in full makeup and introduced the event as an open discussion centered around systemic oppression that affects the queer community, and environment.
He would introduce the performer, their country, and after their performance, ask them what their “vision” of the future looks like.
The “first stop,” as Southside called the location of the first performer, was in India with Durga Gawde.
Although Gawde was not on the Zoom call to answer Southside’s questions, he discussed how in precolonial India, there was a recognized and respected third gender, as well as how the first drag queen in America was an enslaved man named William Dorsey Swann.
The second stop was to South Africa with performances by Ka-Fassie, and Manila von Teez.
Ka-Fassie, Miss Drag 2019 and cofounder of #blackdragmagic, lip-synced to “Inkwenkwezi” by Simphiwe Dana in the Xhosa language. While the names and pictures of those killed in hate crimes were displayed on the screen.
So much darkness should not swallow you… sang Dana as a picture of Eudy Simelane flashed across the screen. Simelane was a South African soccer player and LGBTQ rights activist who was raped and murdered in 2008.
… You little star… continued the song as Phoebe Titus’, a trans woman who was killed in 2015, picture was shown. Ka-Fassie showed eight more victims’ pictures during her performance.
Von Teez, South Africa’s Got Talent 2016 runner-up, performed on the street where she grew up. She said her vision for the future would be, “Loving each [other] for their individuality… rather judging someone for their face value let us just love each other and be human.”
The fourth performer was Brooklyn-based drag queen, Emi Grate from Myanmar. She discussed her decision to leave her “militarist” country in 2011, and the worsening condition of the environment there.
“It’s only become evident to me now how the country is obsessed with the military,” Grate, who won Mr(s) BK in 2018 and Mx Somebody in 2021, said. “I’ve stayed in the U.S. to avoid persecution from my homeland.”
Grate is involved in the insurrection movement to diminish the stratocracy in Myanmar; attacks against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group; and the “critical moment in the transition of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to democracy from military dictatorship,” according to Myanmar’s Coup, Explained.
“I am very proudly involved in the insurrection movement… I probably shouldn’t even be showing my face out of drag,” Grate said.
She regularly quotes the country’s national anthem to audiences, “To bring peace to all people; the nation having equal rights and pure policy.”
“I have been quoting that line every time I’m in front of an audience and reminding them that although these lines were written after the revolution, these promises were not kept,” she stated.
The final performances were by Taiwanese performers Rose Mary, Dandan Demolition, and Nymphia.
While Rose Mary and Nymphia were not on the Zoom call, drag king Demolition spoke about the urgency that is climate change.
“There’s only so much we can do individually, it’s all systemic,” said Demolition. “We need to hold the companies accountable, and that’s why programs like these are so important. It’s very rare to see [LGBT people] at the front of these movements, and I don’t know if it’s because we’re already exhausted by existing, but I think it’s important because we all live here and have to think about the world we want to live in.”
Elizabeth Elvira, assistant director of the Multicultural Center, hopes that this is only the beginning of cultivating a new generation of drag at Purchase.
“I want to create more opportunities for students to explore drag as an art form and as a means of personal expression,” Elvira said. “I feel that the show on Friday really showcased creative ways of using drag to tell one’s own story or draw attention to important causes. I’m going to reach out to different artists I know and see how we can organize a drag makeup event and/or drag performance workshop.”