The Harlem Fantasy ‘82

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I have a right to show my colour, darling! I am beautiful, and I know I am beautiful 🌟

The exhibition, and the accompanying public programme, celebrate the origin(s) and contribution of Pepper LaBeija and Dorian Corey, and the Royal House of LaBeija which laid the foundations for a global movement for the self-expression and advocacy of queer, black and brown communities.  

Crystal LaBeija, The Queen (1968)  

In this exhibition, featuring photography by Nick Kuskin, we are offered the opportunity to go black to the future. Black to a night in 1982 when Pepper LaBeija (Mother of the House of LaBeija) and Dorian Corey (Pioneer Founder & Mother of the House of Corey) threw the Harlem Fantasy Ball Il, celebrating the creative genius of the Ballroom community of New York City and, to paraphrase the Cuban-American queer cultural theorist José Esteban Muñoz, the “queer futurities” proposed therein. 

On West 125th St NYC, the then twenty-one-year-old Kuskin found himself invited to document the historic night of avant-garde self-expression and community creation. The ball offered a political space for celebration and respite for marginalised communities most harshly affected by the repressive social and economic climate imposed by Ronald Reagan’s administration - and its lack of response to the HIV crisis -  and more generally by the heteronormative white ideology.  

With the curatorial support of Kopano Maroga, Ballroom Pioneer Diamond Icon - Historian Kevin Ultra Omni/Kevin Burrus, Overall Overseer Jeffrey « Kiddie Liddah » LaBeija/ Jeffrey Bryant and Nick Kuskin. The public programme about Black Queer self-representation is conceived in collaboration with Eric Cyuzuzo - Som•m•e of Us.

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