by Mark Van Streefkerk
The fifth anniversary of Legendary Children, a celebration of QTBIPOC art, performance, and ballroom culture, takes the virtual stage this Saturday, November 21. Featuring the work of 25 creatives, including six houses, the star-studded event spotlights the creativity and fierceness of queer and trans Black and Brown communities in the Pacific Northwest. Hosted by CarLarans and Aleksa Manila, Legendary Children will include live house music from DJ Riz Rollins and video content from Seattle Public Library (SPL) artist-in-residence Momma Nikki. Last year the event was held at the Seattle Art Museum in partnership with SPL and other community partners. Due to the pandemic, this year the glitz, glamor, and talent will be live streamed via Facebook and YouTube with production help from Michael B. Maine. The free event begins at 8 p.m. this Saturday, and those wanting to participate in the virtual runway are encouraged to RSVP for a Zoom link here.
Multi-disciplinary artist Dakota Camacho and performer and artist Adé are co-curators of the event, with guidance from curator-at-large and icon Dr. Stephaun Wallace (Blahnik). Through the unique opportunities of an online platform, Wallace encouraged Legendary Children to reach beyond the spectacle of ballroom culture to its foundation of QTBIPOC community care. The artistry and resilience of ballroom has sustained queer and trans Black and Brown communities for decades, including during the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, adverse political administrations, and now COVID-19.
SPL’s Public Engagement Programs Manager, Davida Ingram, said, “Stephaun Wallace asked us to consider, ‘What’s the substance of house and ball culture?’ Yes it’s fashion, yes it’s fierceness, yes it’s bold, and at its essence is about radical care and love and nurturing.”
CarLarans explained that Legendary Children “Is actually not a ball. A full-on ball is more of an actual competition where people are competing for prizes … what’s really cool about Legendary Children this year since we’re not doing it in person is we wanted to focus on the behind-the-scenes. We did interviews with all of the house leaders in the QTBIPOC community. You get a chance to see how people are surviving the pandemic — how people are caring for each other.”
The event will begin with “music and laughter. We have a celebration of Black, trans femme leadership and Black femmes in general,” Ingram said. “[Legendary Children is also] very intentional about uplifting Pacific Islander communities who are queer and trans.”
Camacho, who is of Matao/CHamoru ancestry, pointed out that the Pacific Northwest has “one of the densest Pacific Islander populations on the continent” and emphasized the performance of Guma’ Gela’, a queer CHamoru art collective representing Laguas yan Gani (also known as Guam and the Central Northern Mariana Islands).
Live and pre-recorded performances will include visual and spoken word artists as well, like two spirit Sugpiaq/Black/Choctaw poet and artist Storme Webber. Momma Nikki has compiled innovative video profiles with leaders of the six houses, such as The Royal House of Noir and The Illustrious House of Essence. “You’re going to get a little bit of everything. Every house is different,” noted CarLarans.
Legendary Children will end with a live, virtual runway. Those who choose to walk the runway can participate via Zoom, dropping their names in the chat, and a technical director will tell them when they have the spotlight. Those who don’t want to participate can view the streaming event via Facebook and YouTube.
Ingram noted that one lesson learned during COVID-19 is greater accessibility through online platforms. “We definitely want to keep the disability justice skills we’re all picking up and hold onto them as the pandemic hopefully shifts,” she said. Legendary Children will be archived at SPL.
Though free to all, Wallace said he hopes the event will inspire people to do their own research and honor the complexities of house and ballroom culture. “The ball community is self-sustaining and doesn’t require saving, which is associated with [the] white gaze … While people may be learning about the house and ball community for the first time during this event, I’m looking forward to people understanding that the house and ball community has been in existence for decades, ensuring that level of history gets out there so people can really understand the context,” he said.
Legendary Children’s participating performers:
The Marvelous Monéts
The Royal House of Noir
The Illustrious House of Essence
Celestial House of Arcadia
The Royal House of Noir
The Royal House of Princeton
Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based journalist living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Featured image: Performer and artist Adé is a co-curator of this year’s Legendary Children along with Dakota Camacho. (Photo: Momma Nikki)
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