"I am strong because I have no choice . . . But I am fragile. I am fragile too."
Every year, June brings a sense of freedom. We're literally free from layers of cold-weather clothes, but we're also free to express our sexuality in whatever way we feel possible. This is (at least a piece of) what Pride Month is about. It's easy nowadays to forget that Pride stems back to a riot. Yes, a riot of bricks and broken glass and beaten bodies — a majority of those bodies being Black and brown.
Tajabone is just one part of NOWNESS's "Just Dance" series, "genre-busting" videos that seek to transform what dance can accomplish. Running three and a half minutes, the film, directed by Raphael Chatelaine and Nicolas Huchard, reminds us how both fragile and powerful the queer community of color is. Huchard, a young Black choreographer and performer from Paris, reached out to Chatelaine, a director whose work focuses on queer themes, to collaborate on this project. Mixing choreography, poetry, and fashion, the film comes together as a celebration of self-expression and tribalism.
Dancers make the sand their stage, balancing softly between confidence and vulnerability in their movements, voguing and serving face. Rapper and poet Mykki Blanco's words bind these movements together in a way that cuts through the surface of joy and into the depth of Black suffering. The film is a mournful, yet hopeful, call for a world that we can create. This roller coaster of emotions is nothing new to queer people of color — especially during Pride Month.
While I have found ways to bask in my own queerness this month, there will always be a hesitancy for me to insert myself into queer spaces: bars, parades, marches, even drag shows. I have witnessed the ways this month can put certain queer people on a pedestal and the confidence that gives them to separate themselves from our shared history. Are the ways Pride is assimilating into mainstream society (please see: megabrand logos becoming "rainbow-fied" for a month) actually the type of progress queer people want? What happens when June is over and Black queers still don't know if there is room for them in this community?
Queers can be racist, too. Shocker. Like many communities, this racism is engrained and buried under a pseudo-paradise. As a young kid, I always thought coming out was the end goal. Once I did that, everything about my identity would fall into place. But now, realizing that my own Blackness can be used against me even among queer spaces, it's disappointing and heartbreaking, but it's also the truth. And in that truth is where our fight continues.
Tajabone is one example of representing what queerness looks like in all its forms, and it's the type of content that we need to uplift. Recently, shows like Pose and Legendary have emphasized Blackness, as well as femininity, family, and joy. We get to see transness and body types that go beyond washboard abs and branded WERK QUEEN T-shirts. For me, these things are a revisitation and remembrance that Pride isn't a party, it's a cause for celebration, that cause being our survival in a world that doesn't want to see us.
As the sun rests on the dancers, and their Black bodies move and worship each other effortlessly, Blanco says, laughing, "This is what freedom feels like, baby."
We have come a long way. I am proud of that. And we have always known pride because it is what keeps us together and alive. But as a pillar of what Pride Month is, our bodies need to be seen — all of them. Tajabone is a calling for those Black bodies to rise from their suffering and whatever pain is around us to remember where we came from and to point us where we need to be going because we are, and have always been, the only way.