Many people may know the dance style of "voguing" as something they've seen in a Madonna video or the documentary Paris is Burning. But members of the LGBTQ community know that vogue has deeper roots as a platform for safe sex education in queer communities and communities of color.
To honor that legacy, Ypsilanti's Corner Health Center will host a Vogue Night at Riverside Arts Center, 76 N. Huron St. in Ypsi, from 7-11 p.m. Friday, June 22. The event aims to encourage more LGBTQ youth of color to feel welcome at the health center, which has a mission of helping local youth develop healthy behaviors.
"Vogue started a little before the HIV/AIDS crisis, and was mostly used by queer people of color, primarily black and Latino," says Miles Perry, a Corner Health Center summer intern who is organizing the event. "A Vogue Night was a place where they could gather safely and have a good time without being in fear of persecution."
The tradition also involved a sense of community and belonging, with "house mothers" and "house fathers." Perry says a "house" in this sense is an affinity group of peers, like the houses in the TV show Game of Thrones or the Harry Potter books.
Perry says that tradition was transformed into a space where public health agencies could come in and get participants screened and connected to services to prevent the spread of HIV.
"In the same tradition, we're trying to get more queer people of color into the Corner Health Center," Perry says. "We have a variety of people who come through the doors, and a majority of our patients are (racial) minorities, but we're not seeing the same diversity with queer patients."
As a relative newcomer to Ypsi who was placed at Corner Health Center through a University of Michigan public health program, Perry says he likes the energy in the city. The Rochester, N.Y. native says he's been getting a lot of positive feedback on the event, including being welcomed to put up posters in all the local stores he has visited and having several businesses offer to sponsor prizes for the event. As of the second week in June he was still looking for local businesses to donate food and drink and a volunteer DJ for the event.
Entry to the event is free, and anyone over age 15 is welcome. For more information, visit the Facebook page for the event.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Miles Perry.