DANCE BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER.
Always has, always will. Collective movement is a powerful and liberating force that can’t be restrained or restricted.
In this truth lies the sentiment of queer dance parties popping up across the nation, from the glitter-fueled grooves outside of Mike Pence’s house in January that inspired the cheeky rallying call “Daddy Pence, Come Dance?” to the White House dance protest planned for this Friday to celebrate trans youth.
This joy-filled resistance is a direct response to anti-trans and homophobic policies promoted by the current federal administration that have emboldened state legislators with a track record of their own civil rights violations.
When people scoff at the “productivity” of direct protest and wonder whether this or that strategy is counterproductive, I always think:
Listen, this isn’t for you. We’re not trying to change your mind. We’re trying to heal our community. We’re showing up so you can see we exist, but most importantly, we’re showing up for one another. Visibility matters. So we’ll keep dancing.
I spoke with one of the four organizers of Austin’s own Queer Dance Freakout, put on in front of Governor Greg Abbott’s mansion (adjacent to the Texas State Capitol) on Feb. 23.
Here’s what Ezra Edwards, also known as DJ Girlfriend, had to say about pulling off the event that drew hundreds of people out to dance to proclaim their love for inclusion.
To start, for some context for the Dallas + out of town folks, could you describe who you are and what you do around Austin?
Hi there! My name is Ezra Edwards and I’ve been a DJ and event producer in Austin, Texas for close to six years. While I consider myself an entertainer, I work with a lot of non-profits who try to give back to the community. As of lately, I’ve become more of an activist in the best way I know how: to make people dance. My most notable events are Middle School Dance Party, A Peaceful Pulse, the Queer Freakout that just happened and the upcoming EMPRESS fest.
I remember you talking about the event when it was just a seed of an idea about a month ago! Can you talk a little about the evolution of the planning?
The day after the Women’s March, I sat down with Becca Hyatt (fellow organizer) to create the event. We had intended it to happen much sooner but then decided it would be best to wait for word from the city about our permitting needs. We really wanted to make sure we could make everything safe and legal. It took a few hoops to jump through, but the city finally came back with word that we were good to go. Without a permit of any kind. Our main contact, Chris Currens of the State Preservation Board, was very accommodating and friendly. Aside from promoting the event, the main planning happened towards the final days leading up to the protest. Going to Home Depot, figuring out how a generator works, making sure we could have adequate sound, renting the sound, etc.
Did the reception and turn-out go beyond your expectations?
We had about 1,000 people express interest on Facebook and I would say 500 of those people came through. The people were just incredible. The energy was out of this world! Everyone was happy and positive. Very familiar. The next day, I read through some of the comments from the media coverage in the Austin-American Statesman. One man commented: “The work of Satan” to which someone replied, “Satan, whoever that is, has some good taste in music.” That just about slayed me. Oh, also, during the Statesman’s live feed someone commented: “I don’t even care what this protest is for – I would come just to hear this DJ set!” So that was flattering.
How did you feel when you got home on Thursday night and had time to decompress and reflect?
When I got home, I passed out immediately because planning and executing a giant dance party protest can really take a lot out of you – haha. But the next day, I felt very rejuvenated and that perhaps there’s hope for our nation even in the face of the White House (and the Texas House and Senate) stripping LGBTQ rights away from us.
Which mainstream media publications – Texas or beyond – reached out to you for interviews?
We had a lot of love come from the Dallas Morning News. Their piece helped the word spread fast through Texas. KVUE, Outcast KOOP Radio, Reporting Texas, Austin American-Statesman. There was a LOT. Oh! And we had the pleasure of Infowars come through to the protest and attempt to harass some of the dancers. All press is good press, right?
All right, maybe the most important questions of them all… How did you decide on the *ideal* playlist for this event?
Ah yes. It was easy to be honest. Gaga, Beyonce, Cher, Britney, Kesha, Rihanna, George Michael Freedom 90, Martha Reeves “Dancing in the Streets.” Classic disco. The music of our people!
I typically hate “favorite” questions, but was there a song (or a moment) during the night that stood out for you personally?
Hmm, well at one point I surprised myself by getting on the mic and making an impromptu speech about the importance of looking out for each other, standing up to corrupt politicians and the importance of voting in 2018 to get the bigots out of the House and Senate. To not sleep, to stay woke. Also, I just loved seeing families come through with their children. What a great way to demonstrate acceptance and solidarity! Oh, and also, at the end as we were cleaning up, one of the state troopers came up to us to thank us and said that was the most fun they’d ever had at work. Haha! They were awesome.
It’s important and difficult sometimes to keep up the momentum after such an extraordinary event. But we’re going to. One city at a time. One state at a time. Stay tuned!