In late Spring, Juanita MORE! experienced a moment that many queer people in San Francisco have been craving for the last 18 months. The setting was the Powerhouse, a bar in SOMA; the occasion an online virtual fundraiser for the San Francisco Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund. The bar was empty, except for a vaccinated threesome: Juanita, her good friend DJ Rolo, and a videographer. The DJ booth was lit; the rest of the bar was in shadows. There was a quiet excitement in the air.
This was one of many fundraising events Juanita has produced during the Covid-19 pandemic to help San Francisco’s queer community. But as DJ Rolo started playing, Juanita realized it was the first time she listened to a live DJ in a bar since the start of the shelter-in-place orders in 2020.
“Oh my God, this was the first time I heard live music, with somebody playing at a club. It just warmed my heart. It was fabulous,” Juanita said of that memorable evening of live music, timeless friendship, and community support.
Inspired by that moment of music bliss, encouraged by the latest health guidelines, and driven by her tireless desire to help her extended queer family in the Bay Area, Juanita quickly pulled together “my ragtag team of amazing people” and started planning Juanita MORE! Pride 2021 (JM! Pride)—a live and in-person homecoming party.
Queer Homecoming Party
“For me, this year’s JM! Pride is a coming home and a celebration of LGBTQ+ nightlife,” Juanita said about how this year’s Pride Party is particularly special since people have had to barricade inside state and county lines, inside apartments, inside Zoom breakout rooms, inside phone and computer screens during the pandemic—away from family and friends. The gay community is now ready to come out and celebrate.
“Pride is a time to celebrate together. This is a time to celebrate our friends, our chosen family and our family,” Juanita said. For her, it’s a time to celebrate queer performers and entertainers after they experienced a year of closed venues and compromised earnings. “Personally I have friends that are still not caught up with rent from last year, so this fund raising is super important,” Juanita said.
Queer entertainers have always played a key role in breaking through challenging times, social stigma, unjust laws, and the AIDS pandemic. Drag queens and transwomen of color have been at the forefront of the gay movement—from the Cooper Do-nuts riot in downtown Los Angeles in 1959, to the protest outside of Dewey’s restaurant in Philadelphia in 1965, to the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in San Francisco’s Tenderloin in 1966, to the protests at the Black Cat Tavern on Sunset Boulevard in 1967, to the Stonewall Inn riots in New York in 1969.
“Our history has been rooted in clubs and bars,” Juanita said. “We love to meet and dance in those places, and I’m excited to make that happen again this year.”
And excitement, lots of it, is what’s in store for this year’s JM! Pride Party. The event will be hosted at 620 Jones, which features striking indoor and outdoor spaces complete with four bars, two levels, a state-of-the-art sound system, and views of the heart of downtown San Francisco.
Juanita has lined up a must-hear, must-see roster of DJs and entertainers. “I’m pulling DJs from SF and the East Bay,” Juanita said. “They’re all so great. They’re people I admire, I love their style.” Of how she’s envisioning the music, Juanita said, “Musically, I’m lining up the DJs as if I’m doing a sound track for a movie. I got to know what the event’s going to start out like, where it’s going, how it’s ending.”
The lineup includes Jumpr, Josh Cheon, Brown Amy, Chuck Gunn, Rolo, Guerrilla Pump, Fiera Ferari. Click here for more details about their music.
“The other amazing thing is One Thrilling Combination—a performance happening at 3 p.m. with over 30 local performers who have not had a big chance to perform over the past year,” Juanita said. “It’s going to be mind-blowing.” About the group of notable performers, Juanita said, “It’ll be such a diverse beautiful representation of what San Francisco and East Bay drag performance style is at the moment—it’s going to be thrilling for sure.”
One Thrilling Combination includes Alotta Boutte, Boy Young, Camille Tow, Dulce De Leche, Effervescence, Fauxnique, Jef Valentine, Jota Mercury, Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, Kim Burly, Kochina Rude, Laicey Crop Top, Landa Lakes, Lisa Frankenstein, Mercedez Munro, Mr. David Glamamore, Mutha Chucka, Newonce, Oliver Branch, Paige Turner, Rahni Nothingmore., The One & Only Rexy, Tito Soto, and Tye Olson.
“This event is important to me because I want to see queer nightlife in San Francisco reemerge in the most healthy and great way,” Juanita said. “While we strongly encourage all attendees to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the event will comply with current state and local legislation, which require no proof of a completed vaccine series or prior Covid-19 test before entering the space.” Please check here for up-to-date JM! Party Covid-19 event guidelines.
“I want everyone who comes to the party to feel comfortable and safe and to be able not to wear a mask,” Juanita said. “There are of course people, and I know some, who still don’t feel safe. I love them so much. I will see them at another time, at another party.”
“The party is also a great place for people to show up and turn a look,” Juanita said.
“I’m excited to see what everybody arrives in—that’s such a big fun part of it.” Juanita’s fashion designer, Mr. David, is designing her an elaborate outfit for the event. Juanita said, “It’s going to be something spectacular.”
Juanita started hosting JM! Pride in 2005 in an effort to offer a less corporate alternative to the official Pride events at a time “when San Francisco was starting to get flooded by dotcoms, when large corporations first started branding with rainbow flags yet sometimes not really supporting what they should be supporting,” Juanita said.
“I felt I needed to do something outside of what everyone else was doing, where my friends felt safe and where I could celebrate with them.”
Since then JM! Pride has grown to be one of the most anticipated Pride parties of the year and has benefited many community organizations like Trans Youth. TRUTH is a youth-led program for trans and gender nonconforming young people to build public understanding, empathy, and a movement for liberation through storytelling and media organizing.
Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center, SF LGBT Center, GBLT Historical Society & Archives, LGBT Asylum Project are among the more than a dozen organizations that JM! Pride has benefited throughout the years with its more than $900,000 fund raising to date.
This year’s event will benefit two community gay organizations: the Imperial Council of San Francisco (IC), a non-profit organization that produces and participates in a variety of entertainment and educational fund raising events to support diverse community-based charitable initiatives and projects, and the San Francisco Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF), a collective of nightlife organizers, producers, entertainers, venue owners, and nonprofit community leaders working to provide resources and opportunities to promote and support those in queer nightlife in the SF Bay Area during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Over the past year, QNF has given out over 300 grants to queer nightlife workers—drag queens, entertainers, bartenders—who have lost income at the closing of so many venues,” Juanita said. Juanita has special connections to both organizations. Earlier in the year, Juanita was crowned Empress of the IC and many of Juanita’s dearest friends are supported by QNF.
After more than a year of social distancing and emotional masking, of wealth and health equity protests and social justice demonstrations, JM! Pride Party is set to be a homecoming—a very queer homecoming celebration.
Date: Sunday 6/27
Time: 12 noon – 10:30 p.m.
Location: 620 Jones, 620 Jones St. San Francisco, CA 94102
Cost: $60 at the door / All Day Access. $30 After 6 p.m.
Click here for more details including ticket sales, sponsorship opportunities, host hotel, and a complete roster of Juanita’s Pride events leading up to JM! Pride Party, including Project RunGay ExDRAGaganza on Saturday, June 26, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., and People’s March and Rally, Sunday, June 27, 10:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
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