Alex Frazier and Avery Ware wanted to turn their intimate Juneteenth gathering into a festival for a whole community. And that’s exactly what the two community activists and friends did. Now in its second year, Mx. Juneteenth reimagines the celebration of this pivotal moment in American history through a queer lens.
Frazier has worked in community organizing for over 14 years. The failure of mainstream queer culture – and mainstream Black culture – to recognize the efforts of Black queer activists has often served as inspiration for their work.
“A lot of queer spaces aren’t made to accept Black people in an honest way,” Frazier said, “and a lot of Black spaces don’t accept queer people in an honest way either.”
A Family Affair
Along with fellow Mx. Juneteenth organizers Navy Tolbert and Zoë Byron, Frazier and Ware see the overlap of Pride and Juneteenth as an ideal opportunity to celebrate the intersection of Black and queer culture. As an abolitionist community collective, they have made an intentional and safe space to uplift people whose identities are “at the intersections of Black, LGBTQ+, elder, disabled, immigrant, refugee, and other forms of marginalization.”
Frazier’s family – biological and chosen – is their biggest support system. They wanted the festival to bring people of all ages and generations together. Hosted at Blk Punk Press in Cleveland, Mx. Juneteenth gave Cleveland’s Black queer community a space to celebrate their culture with their biological and chosen family. Folks young and old traveled across the state (and country!) for this joyous family reunion.
Centering Black excellence, community care, and the unapologetic expression of joy
Mx. Juneteenth gave Black queer artists a space to connect with the community. The vendor village showcased locally made food, clothing, jewelry, and skincare from Black queer businesses. Folks could also get COVID-19 vaccinations, register to vote, and speak to prevention specialists about protecting their sexual health.
On the main stage, over 100 attendees cheered for performances from fire twirlers, dancers, and local drag talents, Dakota Cox and Joliee Black. For many in the crowd, this was their first drag show. To make sure everyone enjoyed the show, the organizers gave out a guide on tipping etiquette and rules on touching the entertainers.
Keeping folks safe. No police needed.
The organizers also wanted to make sure Black and queer folks felt safe and comfortable at Mx. Juneteenth, which is why the event was police-free. Frazier did not want to put the safety of Black and queer bodies in the hands of people who unfairly target and criminalize them.
“It just doesn’t make sense to help people feel safe by having people there that don’t make them feel safe,” said Frazier.
The Huey P. Newton Gun Club provided security. Founded in 2014, their mission is to end police brutality and violence in the Black community. If a situation would have called for police involvement, they would have acted as the moderator between the officers and event-goers.
The key words here are “would have.” On a day centering the expression of joy, Black excellence, and community care, it didn’t happen.
For the community. By the community.
According to Ware, the team planned the first Mx. Juneteenth event in “about 6 weeks.” Things were different this year. “We had more time to fundraise, and we also had so much community and local support.” Part of that fundraising included a $2,000 grant from the Equitas Health Racial Justice Fund.
By providing a safe and inclusive space to celebrate Black queer culture and access services, Mx. Juneteenth inspires our mission to Care for All.
To learn more about Mx. Juneteenth, visit mxjuneteenth.org.