During the early-morning hours of June 28, 1969, LGBTQ people threw bottles, coins and debris at police outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.
SEXx Interactive, a local collective of activists and artists, has organized an event that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the riots: “Stonewall: Roots. Rage. Revolution.”
The provocative mix of TEDx-style talks and sex-positive entertainment is being held May 17 at the Ruba Club, 416 Green St.
Proceeds from the event will benefit GALAEI, Philadelphia’s queer Latinx social-justice organization, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
This year’s SEXx, the sixth annual version of the collective’s signature event, is roughly divided into two halves.
In the first, attendees will hear brief presentations from various speakers including Briyana D. Clarel, who will explore the connections between art and healing in a talk titled, “Non-Linear Journeys: Adventures in Black Queer Creating & Healing.” Amanda Cruz Gerena will discuss the negative impact of colonialism in “Puerto Rico’s Colonial Status & Queers.”
The first half of SEXx includes lighthearted fare too. Evie Snax, one of the cofounders of Hot Bits, a queer erotic film festival, will screen “Kitchen Talk” and “Orally Fixated.” Drag king Rasta Boi Punany, the first person of color to win the title of Mr. Philadelphia Drag King, will perform.
SEXx’s focus on queer and trans people of color is deliberate, according to Elicia Gonzales, who cofounded the group with Dr. Timaree Schmit in 2014.
As she pointed out, Marsha P. Johnson, a black drag queen, and Sylvia Rivera, an early trans-rights activist of Latinx descent, were integral in the Stonewall riots.
“The LGBTQ community sometimes does a bad job of honoring the history of queer and trans people of color and whitewashing our history,” Gonzales said.
To help rectify that, the SEXx collective — which has expanded to include David Acosta, Susan DiPronio, Didier García, Feminista Jones and Katelyn Regan — has programmed an evening that focuses at on the experiences of those who have been overlooked.
As Gonzales explained, “It felt very much in line with the need to remind folks that we would not have our rights as LGBTQ folks were it not for queer and trans people of color who were fed up and, quote-unquote, threw the first brick during the Stonewall riots.”
But this anniversary event isn’t an exercise in mere nostalgia. An important part of SEXx’s intention is to commemorate the liberatory spirit of Stonewall by connecting it to the present.
In celebrating the roots of LGBTQ equality, Gonzales said, the collective is also “honoring the rage that drives us still, that drives us still towards equity, and then revolution, which continues to sort of evolve and take shape as we continue to fight for our collective liberation.”
Jorian Veintidos, who is presenting a talk called “Positively Queer,” exemplifies how LGBTQ activism manifests itself today. The 26- year-old, who works at GALAEI, is an HIV and sexual-health activist. He was diagnosed with HIV at 19.
Veintidos also created a website called Positively Queer, a fun, friendly informative resource for poz folks and their allies.
“It’s really a story of my life on that website,” he said. “It shows me being HIV-positive and what that looks like amongst my allies who support me.”
This is Veintidos’ first time attending SEXx and he’s presenting, he admitted, thanks to some gentle nudging from Gonzales. Despite the usual jitters, he said he’s excited about the prospect of talking about his activism in an informal and supportive atmosphere.
“You know, a lot of times we only talk about these things in conferences or in personal spaces. And to do something at an event like this — it’s very powerful to me.”
While SEXx primarily aims to educate with this commemorative forum, the organizers said they also want guests to have fun. That’s why they’ve included performers like Jade Glitterbomb, a local burlesque artist.
After all the presentations and performances, DJ Saint Manifest will spin tunes so that attendees can get out of their seats and get down on the dance floor.
“Dancing is a super-revolutionary act,” Gonzales said.
She added that the collective views promoting pleasure as a vital aspect of its mission — one that’s equally as important as education.
“We wanted to create space in which people could just come out, be their full selves, shake to some tunes, and to be able to join together in community in a way that’s celebratory and lifting people up, helping people find their joy, and like really just be in their bodies.”
Tickets for SEXx Interactive’s upcoming event, “Stonewall: Roots. Rage. Revolution,” range from $5 to $20, with queer and trans* POC “to the front.” For more information, visit www.sexxinteractive.com.