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Paris is Burning doc highlights relationship between LGBTQ+, Black communities

Chris Besik
Arts & Entertainment Editor

A screening of the iconic gay ‘drag ball’ documentary Paris is Burning last night at Humber College was followed by a discussion with four panelists well versed in the history of Black and LGBTQ+ communities.

“What was most important is having good dialogue, which I think was a success. After the film, the discussion really allowed folks an opportunity to hear from people in the community which really share those identities,” said Natalie Elisha, Student Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives coordinator.

Organized by the LGBTQ+ Resource Centre, Ignite and The Bridge program and held at the North campus LGBTQ+ space, the presentation featured activists and public speakers Leslie Ramsay Taylor, TravoyintheFlesh and Pirom Houth, and film maker and photographer Jonathan Thiang.

Aimed at extending ties between the black and LGBTQ+ communities, the discussion also specifically targeted the effects of homophobia on the black LGBTQ+ community, and other issues that face these groups.

“We have to teach each other, we have to teach and learn from each other, we need more allies, we have to come together, it’s harder when we’re fighting these battles by ourselves,” said Travoy. “It makes it easier when you know someone is in your corner and you have a strong support system.”

First released in 1990, Paris is Burning was focused on the trans-community in New York City and their culture, community and struggles.  The filmmakers followed the ‘Extravaganza’ balls and the drag queens of the Bronx, recording the creative and colorful lifestyles but also the dark and violent treatment that members of these communities often received.

“Without conversation there is no learning, there is no lesson, there is no understanding, there is no change at the end of the day,” said Travoy.

The film has been long celebrated for its success in humanizing its subjects and showing that all people require a place where they can be themselves and express their beliefs and emotions. It provided a vivid inside look into a community most people had not been exposed to.

“Sometimes the most important resource we have is that community, it’s our family it’s our community and I really hope that this message transcends through the event is that we are here for each other,” said Ammar Abdul-Raheem, Vice President of Student Life at North campus.

Abdul-Raheem added, “The people behind the Bridge program, behind the LGBTQA+ Resource Centre, behind Ignite, there are so many people there that are willing to hear you out and are willing to support you.”

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