The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projected earlier this year that half of all Black men who have sex with men will receive an HIV diagnosis in their lifetime. Figures like this—underscored by HIV and AIDS’ historic and disproportionately deadly affects on LGBTQ peoople of color—often obscure how the community thrives in spite of the stigma and illness and gentrification that threaten its collective spaces.
Darnell L. Moore, journalist and host of Mic’s “The Movement” knows these spaces well, having “learned to be Black, queer and free” at some of the New York City clubs highlighted in the series’ latest episode. As he explains in an article prefacing the video, the dance-centered “ballroom culture” emerged as a space for queer Black and Latino folks to fight erasure:
The ballroom community is a site of Black liberation. The ballroom scene emerged in response to the exclusion and antagonism Black LGBTQ and Latino queer and trans people faced within their own communities and the LGBTQ spaces where many sought safety. Public health concerns, like HIV, are exacerbated by the racism Black and Latino LGBTQ people may experience within broader LGBTQ communities.
Moore interviews scholars, ballroom figures and others to demonstrate the culture’s importance beyond voguing and the “dooming statistic prophesying our deaths.” Watch the episode above.