In his essay, Michael Roberson reminds us that the immense resilience and creativity of the House | Ballroom community are deeply historical and politicized. Roberson writes from within “a freedom movement, a radical pedagogy, and a spiritual formation in response to race, class, sexuality, and gender oppression. … Since its history has not been included in larger narratives of racial struggle, situating it in this historical lineage can add tremendous insight to racial justice…”
The Queer City program and publication series has focused extensively on the queering practices of urban spaces, which can be simultaneously contested and liberatory, surveilled and inventive, racist and radical. Black queers in the diaspora have created richly textured practices of thriving despite power being arrayed to impede even basic surviving.
In 2016, Roberson and Robert Sember, his comrade from the collective Ultra-Red, were invited to share these pedagogies of freedom in a rich and intimate exchange with organizers, artists, and radical movements in São Paulo, Brazil. The EXPLODE! Residency was part of the ongoing work of João Simões and Cláudio Bueno. Some of the key community members and participants in this process appear prominently in Danila Bustamante’s mini-documentary.
London-based photographer, archivist, and activist Ajamu also visited São Paulo, where he made photographic portraits of community members engaged in these freedom movements. As Ajamu noted in our conversation, “[he] wanted to create living archives, so that archives are not seen as these cold, dusty places where things go to die; archives can be a place where things go to live as well…”
Photo Credit: Darnell Moore by Ajamu, 2016.