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UAlbany Queer Joy Coalition Hosts Queer Block Party

By Danielle Modica & Christian Hince | April 24, 2023

Queer Joy UA hosted a “Queer Block Party” Tuesday evening, April 18, at the University at Albany small fountain. The event, which was Queer Joy’s fourth organized gathering since its creation in early April 2023, featured performances by local drag queens, queer comedian Kailey Strafford, as well as speakers from the Black Abolitionist Directive and UAlbany’s Pride Alliance.

Drag performers Matti Cation, Portabella, & Rosetta Stoned posing at the Queer Block Party.

Photo Credit: Danielle Modica / The ASP

Queer Joy UA is a coalition of UAlbany student organizations formed earlier this month in support of the protesters countering an alleged anti-transgender speaker presenting at UAlbany Turning Point USA’s April 4 “Free Speech” event. The coalition includes UAlbany chapters of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), Mutual Aid, Pride Alliance, Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), Association of Southeast Asian Students (ASEAS), Project Shape, and College Democrats.

Queer Block Party was originally planned for April 11 but got rescheduled due to planning elements – such as permission for amplified sound outside the Campus Center. It was created as a part of a weeklong schedule of events to “uplift and support UAlbany’s transgender and queer community” “as [UAlbany] administration continues to stay quiet,” according to the Queer Joy UA Instagram. Their mission statement is in reference to student discontent with two separate “Commitment to Protect Free Speech & Expression” statements from University President Havidán Rodríguez, Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Christakis, and Chief Diversity Officer & Associate Vice President Samuel Caldwell.

Both university free speech statements, mass emailed to UAlbany students.

One of the night’s speakers was YDSA president Mehr Sharma, who gave an animated speech encouraging Queer Joy activists to continue their dissent discontent with the university’s stance.

“Those movements [Black Lives Matter, activism during the AIDS crisis] didn’t succeed because of our government’s protections,” Sharma said. “They succeeded in spite of the government!”

Sharma then listed off the demands of the Queer Joy Coalition, which include dropping charges against both students arrested on April 4, re-allocation of UPD funds towards a social worker response unit, expansions of sexual, mental, and queer health services, including a universal student healthcare plan, an amended code of conduct which prohibits transgender discrimination, and more.

Representatives from the Black Abolitionist Directive speaking on stage.

Photo Credit: Danielle Modica / The ASP

The night was emceed by Carmen Munoz, co-founder of Mutual Aid at the school and co-chair of YDSA’s eco-socialist working group. Munoz talked about how the event was organized to help students “realize that not only can you protest through having signs up and yelling,” but “you can also just celebrate what it is to be queer.”

Gina Verney, a coordinator for capital region event promotion Queer Inclusivity Social, shared similar sentiments.

“Everyone here came to f***ing party and to finally relax and enjoy ourselves after so much protesting and activism and relentless negative energy in our communities,” Verney said.

Part of Queer Inclusivity Social’s programming includes drag shows, such as Tuesday night’s performances from local queens Rosetta Stoned, Matti Cation, and Portabella.

“[I want to help show] the light and laughter and entertainment that we can all provide, and that drag and clear people and trans people are just as important,” Cation said.

Portabella doing a mid-performance split on the podium small fountain.

Photo Credit: Danielle Modica / The ASP

Alongside speakers and performers, clubs associated with the Queer Joy Coalition tabled around the fountain. Tables involved representatives from SSDP, Project Shape, Mutual Aid, ASEAS, and YDSA. SSDP and YDSA primarily shared information about how to get involved in their individual clubs. Project Shape handed out condoms, lubricant and other sexual intercourse protective gear, and ASEAS shared sexual violence prevention resources at their respective tables. UAlbany Mutual Aid held a donations table for students to take and leave dorm supplies, clothing, and non-perishable food items.

Photos of UA Mutual Aid’s table, filled with donated goods.

Photo Credit: Danielle Modica / The ASP

“We are here tonight because some of our E-Board members are part of [the LGBTQ+) community and we would like to support them,” UAlbany SSDP President Brandon Tietje said. “We believe that open minded people [like those a part of the LGBTQ+ community] attend [SSDP] meetings, and are more likely to be interested in the War on Drugs and how to make positive change in that climate.”

UAlbany SSDP’s table, with representatives posing for the picture.

Photo Credit: Danielle Modica / The ASP

According to Sharma, she was “overjoyed” by Tuesday’s turnout.

“The level of support I think really shows that a majority of students on campus, a lot of students on campus, want resources, need more resources,” Sharma said. “They want less intervention from [University Police] UPD.”

The block party occurred simultaneously with TPUSA’s first event since April 4, a comedy night featuring stand-up comic K-Von. Sharma didn’t find this relevant to the event’s meaning, however.

“It's not really worth engaging with them, or validating really their kind of false scientific beliefs and their really hateful rhetoric,” Sharma said. “This is about supporting and uplifting queer and trans people.”

For more information about Queer Joy UA and future events, visit their Instagram page, @queerjoyua.

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