Wednesday, June 05, 2013
The Black Drag Queens Who Kept My Brother Safe
I was on Tumblr today and I saw a post on some one's site that made me nostalgic. It was about drag queens who saved a 16 year old gay boy from being raped by a man who had drugged him. It really touched my heart and made me think about something from my childhood. I wrote the message below and then re-blogged it on my site. I decided to share it here, because I don't have all of the same followers on both blogspot and tumblr.
We grew up in New Orleans. When my brother was barely a teen, he was already a professional jazz musician who had traveled overseas a couple of times. He was much too young to play in the jazz clubs out here, but those laws weren't really enforced. He got the opportunity to play a weekly (nighttime) gig at a well-known spot. He would be paid in cash and he could refine his skills and built a reputation.
My mom didn't like it, but this was his career and a rare opportunity. At night he'd have to get dropped off at the club on the edge of the Vieux Carré (the French Quarter). He'd finish the gig and get off from work at around 3 or 4 O'clock in the morning. It would have been impossibly dangerous for a young kid to be standing in the dark, outside of a club, in the wee hours of the morning, holding expensive instruments, with a pocket full of cash. That was almost a deal breaker.
However, the situation was resolved when he was "adopted" by the Black drag queens who frequented a club two doors down. They'd wait with him out there until someone arrived to pick him up and then they'd face those same dangerous streets by themselves as they left to go home. This went on all the way until my brother stopped playing there, which was several years later. By then he was a muscular 6'3" guy who able to look out for the queens and make sure that no one bothered them.
My brother is an adult jazz musician now and he has played on stages with Nina Simone, Wynton Marsalis, Doc Cheatum, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Harrison, and many, many other artist whose names most folks would recognize. But it all started with that one weekly gig that was all made possible for him, because of the kindness and protectiveness and goodness of heart of a bunch of Black drag queens in one of the most dangerous parts of town.