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Pride 2016

The Faces of Brooklyn's Queer Party Scene

This photo series captures LBGTQ nightlife's movers and shakers in the light of day.

by Sam Clarke
27 June 2016, 8:37am

This weekend, THUMP honors Pride with a celebration of all aspects of LBGTQ nightlife in NYC and beyond. Today, Brooklyn-based photographer Sam Clarke presents images from an ongoing portrait series capturing the movers and shakers behind Brooklyn's underground LGBTQ party scene. Follow our Pride Weekend coverage here.

My first time trying molly was at Fake Accent, a queer party/collective founded by Brooklyn-based artist Tygapaw. I got my closest friends to roll with me. We crammed into the back of a cab and felt the come up as we approached Trans-Pecos, instinctively reaching for each other's hands and marveling at our shared warmth. After a heavy, depressive winter, my pent up serotonin hit me like a brick.

I swung the car door open, the crisp spring air electrifying my skin and shortening my breath. As I made my way into the venue, I noticed NON Records co-founder Chino Amobi on the side of the room, and ran to give him a big, jittery hug. I made sure to let him know in no uncertain terms that I thought he was the most punk person I'd ever met. It was a goofy, molly-induced rush of love, and I meant it.

But it wasn't just the drugs—Fake Accent just had the most undeniable vibe, fostered foremost by a celebration of queer and trans people of color, mutual respect, and unrelenting sound courtesy of Chino; Fake Accent's Tygapaw, DJ Kala, and Night Doll; KUNQ king False Witness; Qweenbeat's baddest, LSDXOXO; and a blistering b2b set by DJ Haram and Mhysa. Rhythms rattled our knees. Sirens swirled. Gunshots cracked. This was music that seemed to capture both the beauty and brutality of the world, and I experienced a level of catharsis that I hadn't been able to find at the many punk shows I'd been to after moving to New York. A good friend recounted the night more clearly than I could. Apparently, when he asked where I'd run off to after missing part of DJ Haram and Mhysa's set, I told him that "I was busy telling everyone I love them."

This ongoing photo project is a celebration of just a small handful of the many people I love and admire in New York City, people who are making it happen for their community through sound and dance. Some I've known for years and have had the pleasure of watching grow; others I've admired from afar, and was blessed to meet for the first time while shooting this series. Now more than ever, it seems clear to me that their work reverberates far outside of the club. They're doing more than making great music and throwing great parties; they're saving lives.

Oscar Nñ

Profession: DJ and party promoter

Hometown: Washington DC

What brought you to this community?

It was honestly because of self-care. I was tired of going to gay bars where I would feel invisible, or where I would never hear the music that I wanted to listen to. There would be other men there like me, but I was still unable to talk to them and relate. It was like we were all there without any reason, and it felt empty even though it was crowded. There were so many dope people that I wanted to meet and talk to, and who I wanted to build a community and create with—that's when I knew I needed to do something. I approached my friend Adam about doing a party, and that's how Papi Juice came together.

What does it bring to your life?

Fulfillment—it centers me. I'm a Libra, so I'm all about balance. Papi Juice—and places like Shock Value and Fake Accent—make me happy to be in New York at this time.

What is one thing you've contributed to this world that feels really meaningful?

I've never brought something to this world that's perfect for everybody, but I really do try and help create spaces that as many people as possible can relate to, and feel loved and accepted within, and feel desired.

Total Freedom

Taphari

Profession: Singer-songwriter

Hometown: Brooklyn

What brought you to this community?

I was born and raised in the Brooklyn, but I was never aware of the queer scene here until I snuck into my first rave in Bushwick when I was 19. I knew there were bars and clubs, but had never considered there were spaces meant purposely for us queer folks in Brooklyn. Growing up, I always thought of it as an East village, Chelsea sort of thing—and being raised in an Afro-Caribbean religious family, I was never really given the space to think much about it. But once I found the scene, it felt as if I had stepped into a whole new world packed with energy, creativity, and culture. I've met some of my most genuine friends within this community. I've met myself.

What does it bring to your life?

It saves me from myself. Living in the city isn't easy. I find very hard to coexist [with people] in real time, especially now, when there's so much cultural tension and you have so many people projecting their insecurities and beliefs onto you. It gets very frustrating, and I find it very hard to hold my tongue, because it took me a very long time to love myself. Now that I finally love myself, I'm very protective of myself, and sometimes the rage becomes too much to conceal, and I turn to nightlife for release. I suit up, fuel up, and turn out. The energy and love I receive on the scene really brings me back.

What is one thing you've contributed to this world that feels really meaningful to you?

I would say my perspective. We exist in a time that feels very much like the future, yet we are exposed to so much cruelty and injustice—enough to negate any belief that the human race has advanced. I reflect upon this feeling a lot in my music. I reflect upon the experiences that come with being a queer person of color growing up in America.

In the first single—"UFO," which I'll be releasing on the 20th of July—I sing about how my time amongst humans has left me with a desire for alienation. I croon, "I always try; I always do. Send me clue/ What should I do?/ I always try, but they are so cruel." There's so much to be grateful for, but it's a battle. I go to these functions filled of so much love and vibes, but when it's over, I step back into the real world and the battle begins again. This is my life and I won't be pacified. So when I hear of cruelties like what happened in Florida, I don't get afraid. I fortify my defenses and weaponize my existence even more.

Tygapaw

Profession: Producer, DJ, visual artist, event curator

Hometown: Mandeville, Jamaica

What brought you to this community?

A: I wasn't necessarily brought here. I had to make a new space to be among like-minded people, regardless of race, gender, sexuality—and that space is Fake Accent. Fake Accent is a concept that emerged from queer club scene displacement. Part audio-visual installation, part cybercunt, Fake Accent reflects on digital humanism and borderless cities to ask a question: How do we come together?

What does it bring to your life?

Community, support, acceptance, love, understanding, peace—all things that are necessary in NYC, where [you] always [feel] a lack of these as a queer individual. It's something we yearn for.

What is one thing you've contributed to this world that feels really meaningful?

I've contributed a platform for queer POC DJs and artists like myself to perform in spaces where they could be themselves in an unpretentious environment. I just wanted a space where we could be ourselves and exist, where all that matters is the music and the vibe—the future of socializing in a progressive queer space.

Matt Holmes

Dyani Douze (Left)

Profession: DJ, producer, and filmmaker

Hometown: Hollywood, Florida

What brought you to this community?

Being a queer womxn of color, I naturally gravitated toward spaces where I didn't have to deal with straight cis men groping me or grabbing me. More than that, though, I feel like our movement consists of some of the most groundbreaking explorations of sound I've ever experienced.

What does it bring to your life?

As a DJ, I feel welcomed and embraced. There is so much love and collaboration, all the time. So when someone is hurt, we all feel it. However broadly one thinks of the queer community, this connection we have breaks boundaries like no other.

What is one thing you've contributed to this world that feels really meaningful?

Staying enthusiastic and being myself always feels the most meaningful to me and those around me.

Ali Salas (Right)
Profession: Curator

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

What brought you to this community?

The music and the communities who keep coming back. I am continually blown away by the innovation I have the opportunity to witness when I go out. I am also inspired by [the party collectives] Papi Juice and Fake Accent, who are doing such amazing work to manifest nightlife spaces devoid of hateration.

What does it bring to your life?

I can be loud. I can be enveloped safely in darkness. I can dance close to those I love without fear.

What is one thing you've contributed to this world that feels really meaningful?

I had the privilege of hosting Chino Amobi and SCRAAATCH for a NON WORLDWIDE event at MoCADA in January. I wouldn't necessarily call it a contribution, because I feel like everything NON does and stands for has given me so much. But it did feel very necessary for me to use the institutional resources I have access to to support work that is truly shifting paradigms in nightlife, contemporary art, and beyond.

Dyani and Ali are currently raising funds for MAMI, an art exhibition and lecture series at the Knockdown Center inspired by Mami Wata, a pantheon of water deities that originates from West and Central African matriarchal spiritual systems.

Andrew Akanbi