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'Kiki' showcased at HRW Chicago film-series event
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2017-03-14

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The kiki dance/ball scene was highlighted at the Human Rights Watch ( HRW ) Chicago 2017 Film Series ( in partnership with Black Cinema House ) with a screening of the documentary and a panel discussion March 10 at the Stony Island Arts Bank.

The film follows seven people from the kiki scene—Twiggy Pucci Garcon, Gia Marie Love, Chi Chi Mizrahi, Divo Pink Lady, Kenneth Soler-Rios, Izana Lee Vidal and Christopher Waldorf—from 2012 through 2016.

The kiki scene is an LGBTQ youth artistic activist subculture that performs at Kiki ballroom competitions in a variety of U.S. cities. This film focuses on the ballroom community of New York City and the "houses" that make up said community. The people featured in the film are shown preparing and performing in various ballroom competitions as well as talking about the road blocks they have faced as LGBTQ people of color ( POC ).

Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordeno directed Kiki. Garcon and Jordeno also served as co-writers on film.

Black Cinema House Director Jackie Najuma Stewart welcomed the approximately 100 people in attendance, while HRW Chicago & Midwest Director Jackie Kaplan-Perkins spoke about the work HRW does around the world.

Following the screening, Garcon, Human Rights Watch Interim Advocacy Director Tico Almeida, community organizer/transgender activist Monica James and academic/activist/performer Julian K. Glover participated in a panel discussion that Out Magazine Editor-at-Large Zach Stafford moderated.

Stafford asked Garcon about his role as a co-writer of the film. Garcon explained that it was all about creating a narrative and noted that, at first, they did not plan on doing a feature-length documentary, but it just happened organically.

As for why LGBTQ POC have gravitated toward the ballroom scene for decades ( going back to the days of the now-defunct Rockland Palace in Harlem ), James said it is a way of expressing oneself in a safe and affirming place. Glover noted that it was a reaction to transgender bodies being policed while Garcon explained that it has always been a part of Black people's pedagogy to express things with their bodies and has evolved over time.

The discussion also touched on current events and the next steps for the LGBTQ community, post-marriage equality.

James noted and named the seven transgender people who have been killed in 2017 as of this publication. She explained that LGBTQ POC need to be at the center of the movement for equality because too often they are pushed aside by white gay and lesbian people.

Glover said people need to support transgender organizations led by transgender people, especially those focused on POC.

In terms of the barriers transgender POC face, Almeida spoke about the work HRW does as a research organization to track what's happening to LGBTQ people in general and the sub-groups within that umbrella. He also noted the follow up to HRW's Hatred in the Hallways report that tracked the violence and discrimination that's happening to LGBTQ students in the U.S.

Stafford asked about lifting people up via storytelling. Garcon said storytelling is used as a way to heal as well as a way for folks to see themselves in whatever medium they are consuming. Glover noted that it's about the strategic and intentional sharing of resources.

James explained that it's great to tell stories but it's also a trigger at times because the person has to be vulnerable when they share their lives with others. She said it is important that those who tell their stories are taken care of after the fact.

A Q&A session and reception closed out the event.

See www.kikimovie.com/ and www.hrw.org/ for more information .


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