It’s been well documented that club and dance music culture was built off the blood, sweat, and tears of the black and latino LGBT community. Its greatest inspirations and heroes, from David Mancuso, Larry Levan, and Frankie Knuckles in New York (and then Chicago) to Ken Collier in Detroit, were all gay men. These innovative and progressive DJs influenced generations to come. That’s why the massacre at the gay Orlando nightclub Pulse in the early morning hours of June 12th hits home for anyone who enjoys today’s contemporary dance floors and is well aware of their progressive past. It’s also why we felt compelled to collaborate on a video with Ansley Jukeboxx Jones for Keep Dancing Orlando.
As Obama, hailing from the middle of those three integral cities and well aware of Knuckles’ — and groups like the Chosen Few DJs‘ — contributions to Chicago’s culture, so eloquently put it, “The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub, it is a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights.” The Paradise Garage in New York, for instance, housed the earliest offices of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis — a charity Open House Conspiracy gives to annually — and held some of their first fundraisers to help fight the AIDS epidemic. Clubs gracefully tore down the stigmas of the day, beginning as shelters for gay men to congregate safely and quickly becoming hot spots they couldn’t keep the straight crowds away from.
The blood, sweat, and tears spilled on the night of June 12th came at a time when momentum was on the LGBT community’s side, with so many victories pouring in over the past few years, and in the middle of the month of Pride, a celebration of such achievements and a bold display of owning one’s identity, without fear. The reason for this tragedy isn’t clear. It wasn’t an attack on a city, although Orlando has since beautifully come together in solidarity to say, “Not here.” The perpetrator wanted us to believe it was attack in opposition to American foreign policy, but if so, then why Pulse? There’s already many different theories being floated, but no matter what, this is clear: it was an attack that targeted the hispanic LGBT community, in a place where people go to let their guard down and be free. It certainly was a blow to the sensibilities of anyone who lives for going out and dancing at clubs on the weekends.
Still out at a party after working the door at The Castle in Ybor that night, I remember reading the news on my phone and my heart sinking, followed by a numbness as I showed a friend next to me the news. Although I frequent alternative, hole in the wall bars, the thought of the gun violence that sometimes occurs in the crowded nightlife of main city drags seeping over still crosses my mind. It’s part of why our Open House Conspiracy events have tried to be well out of the range of downtown, whether The Warehouse on Gaines Street in Tallahassee or along Robinson Street in Orlando.
The Pulse nightclub shooting makes these out-of-the-way safe spaces all the more important, yet chips away at the idea of them at the very same time, as Pulse was meant to be exactly that to its community. Open House Conspiracy’s Keep Dancing Orlando video collaboration with dancer Ansley Jukeboxx Jones was made in solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters facing violence, not just in times of immense tragedy but every hour of every day. Until our spaces are no longer a shelter but the only way. No senseless act of violence can take this away. Never forget, but always remember to keep dancing.