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Ice Cream Social: A Community Space for QTPOC

QPOC and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community packed into the back room of the newly opened Flora and turned it into their own beautiful and diverse club on Friday, May 19th, for the fourth Ice Cream Social: Queer DJ Dance Party.

The turnout was huge, and the back room was filled to the brim with people dancing their butts off to diverse mixes by Cell Saga, DJ SKRT SKRTDan.Mango, DJ NOHOMO (Jafar Flowers) and the guest artist for the evening, DJ Sissy Elliot.

Musically, there was a little something for everyone; the DJ’s covered a huge range of genres, mixing everything from darkwave to reggaeton to trap and many other genres while keeping the energy going for hours.

When I showed up with my date a little later than the advertised start time, we went through main stretch of the restaurant area to find the show room alight with colorful lights and lasers during Cell Saga’s set. The crowd was starting to grow a little bit, and being the nervous person I am, I decided to go out and smoke a cigarette instead of dancing immediately.

A little background on me before I continue: I am white and identify as non-binary and queer. I have also been sober from alcohol going on a year and a half.

Being someone who was assigned male at birth and expresses my gender outside the traditional social norms, dancing in public has normally been an activity surrounded by a lot of anxiety (this is totally exacerbated by the absence of alcohol; drunk me dances much more easily, but drinking just doesn’t work well for me). Rarely does it happen that I find it in me to dance at just any club or show.

So after nursing my nerves outside with some friendly conversation and a little nicotine, we went back in and were shocked at how many more people had arrived in just those few minutes. I found a spot over to the side of the room and parked myself there (like usual) after occupying myself for a minute getting a water.

Most nights, this is the point at which my brain starts doing its thing, that is, rationalizing standing in the corner at a dance party. But that didn’t happen this time. Instead, all I could think about how positive I felt being in that space and all the good energy I’d gotten from all the attendees I’d talked to. So instead of continuing to do what I’ve done at so many other dance parties, I followed my date out onto the floor and danced the night away without a worry (besides hydration), and I definitely had one of the most positive experiences I’ve had at a dance party.

The Ice Cream Social events are the brainchild of artist + musician Jafar Flowers, who is a member of the ice cream support group multimedia art + music collective.

After having such a blast after attending my first event of theirs, I was excited to get to interview them over the weekend about the past, present and future of Ice Cream Social events, ice cream support group and the significance of community and collaboration in their work.

Dust Up: Can you introduce yourself and tell us about what led to the creation of ice cream support group?

Jafar Flowers: I’m Jafar Flowers. I’m the co-founder of ice cream support group, the creator of the Ice Cream Social Queer DJ Dance Party, a performative artist, avid anime fan, non-binary and lover of cats around the world.

Ice Cream Support Group started last summer. It was during a particular time when a lot of my friends and members of my community started to really pursue their craft, project, or mission. That summer I got to hang out with Christian Nöthing (co-creator of icsg) a lot, and we’d attend Richmond parties and events that were under the big umbrella of “DIY”.

However, we still saw that most of the attention when it came to things DIY in Richmond was usually hosted, organized, performed, and attended by white people. Even though some events were well put together, we were disappointed with our experience in the space.

We wanted to carve out a space for ourselves, while also giving a platform to others so that we could help present QPOC with opportunity to take their events, their presence, and their material farther.

DU: What inspired you to start hosting the ice cream social events in particular? How has the community’s response to them been so far, and how have you felt about the events?

JF: I was blessed enough to have multiple inspirations for the Ice Cream Social.

First of all, I felt left out in so many parties or clubs intended for queer people in Richmond. Most of the music would be pop remixes of things. When people would ask for something like rap, r and b and trap to be played, they’d say that they didn’t have it or to “come back on urban night”- when it’s obvious that many people in the space would dance to that kind of music.

Secondly, I got to see DJ Haram play a set at Crystal Palace earlier this summer, and getting to see a femme of color in the flesh Dj’ing loud noise rap and hard hitting dance beats was something I’d never got to see before in Richmond.

I kept up through social media and was able to find out about about Disc woman, which is:

“Founded by Frankie Hutchinson, Emma Burgess-Olson and Christine Tran, Discwoman is a New York-based platform, collective, and booking agency—representing and showcasing cis women, trans women and genderqueer talent in electronic music.” (from the website).

So, as I said earlier, Christian and I intended ice cream support to be a platform for people, so I wanted to create something for not only Dj’s, but the queer community that wants to come out to events, feel represented, and have fun in an environment that has a safer space mentality.

We threw our first Ice Cream Social on a Sunday night at Gallery 5, and a lot more people showed up than expected. After that, the socials kept getting bigger and bigger. The last one’s turn out was ridiculous. It was a sea of people.

The response to the Ice Cream Social is what pushed me to keep going, to really make an effort on its outreach and it’s spread, because I saw the importance through perspectives I would have never thought of.

At the first Ice Cream Social, myself and a large part of the community got to meet someone named Roni, who was a QPOC person from Montana who had moved to Richmond for a little bit. Because of the social, they got to make new friends, and it inspired them to take something like that to Montana with them so that they could start hosting events for people that want to feel included, represented, and heard.

At the most recent ice cream social, my friend Karla got to go to their first queer party ever after they found a sitter. They had so much fun dancing that their shoe broke during the dance party, and called it the best Richmond party ever.

My friend Ry told me that they wish there were more events like that in Richmond to meet more people, and that they want to be a part of more events like that.

Micah, I think you even messaged me that dancing without anxiety is rare for you, and that touched me too.

The feedback I’m getting tells me that people want the Ice Cream Social, that it’s operating as a healthy event for queer folks, and that I want to take it in directions that fosters these kind of experiences.

DU: Your mission statement is so positive and full of energy and all of your contributors creativity is really inspiring to me personally as an artist. Do you think a sense of community plays a significant role in that energy? And how do you think ice cream support group has contributed to establishing that environment?

JF: Ice cream support group has everything to do with community in Richmond. When our first events were first held in my old house on Clay Street, the first people to attend ice cream support group events were people that were my friends and members of my different communities. I think even back then, ice cream support group events have connected people that have never met before. Just like I shared earlier – people got to meet lots of different folks. I’ve  noticed that there’s so much talent coming from our queer and of color community in Richmond, and that collective success for everyone is possible throughs supporting and uplifting one another.

With ice cream support group, we want to offer events, spaces, and a lifestyle that prioritizes QPOC peoples. To provide them a space to not only be themselves, but to meet others, grow and learn.

DU: I know you’re a multimedia artist, musician, and poet in addition to being an event organizer, can you tell us about the other artistic endeavors you are a part of? What kind of role does collaboration play in your art?

JF: Collaboration plays a huge role in my art. I think that’s one of the hardest questions: when people ask about the art I make.

I was trained as a theater performer throughout grade school and high school, and after that is when I really started to break into more visual art and poetry. Recently, I’ve been transitioning more into performance art, as it allows a “no holds barred” kind of environment where I can make whatever I want and do whatever I want, while being able to include all my different multimedia art.

As of a month ago, I decided I would be focusing more and more on projections and learning projection mapping to really help tell the stories during my performance pieces. Later down the road, I’d like to use those pieces as therapy or rehabilitative exercise with children and older folks dealing with the repercussions of coming out, or trauma from existing in a queer body.

This summer, I’ll be doing a lot of writing for screenplays of two different bodies of work that I have going on, and directing them too. So collaboration has a lot to do with my art.

A lot of my work has to do directly with my experience of existing as myself and the things that come from that. So, in other words, it’s all extremely vulnerable and super transparent in an attempt to help me process and grow, and also as a bridge of empathy to people who are dealing with the same or similar thoughts and feelings. Communication with folks before and after any project I make is essential. I always  want to know how they felt during their witnessing of it, because what people take away after the fact is the most essential part.

A lot of my artistic endeavours just happened within the past couple months, and none of them would have been possible without the help of my friends, and members of ice cream support group. I’ve learned so much through talking and working with them, and everything from my filmed works, my music, videos of poetry and performance, 3D animation work, was all done through the helpful labor and or suggestions and instruction from others.

The funny part is, I have a lot of material available to share now, but before the conception of ice cream support group I really didn’t view myself as an artist. I knew I had a creative mind, but I didn’t really believe in my ability to create or present anything worth sharing. Collaboration is what gave me the courage and confidence to get out there.

Collaboration is everything to me, it really gives me strength to keep going and venture forth with my ideas if I have a team behind my back.

DU: Is there anything in particular that you plan on doing next with ice cream support group and or the Ice Cream Social events? What seems most exciting for you for the future of this collective?

JF: What I can say about the future of ice cream support group is : stay tuned for the month of July, our one year anniversary, and a very special two day event that’s coming in late August.

As for the Ice Cream Social, I want to keep reaching out to Dj’s of color and QPOC to come spin at the event that live within and outside of RVA to introduce people in Richmond to talent that’s happening right now from people that they can relate to. I want to continue striving to find out how I can make this event a safer space and more welcoming to the aforementioned people to come out and have a good time. I want to take it even bigger in terms of experience when you go to the event, and honestly figure out how to keep it at it’s growing scale, make it so that you don’t have to be 21 to get into the venue, and keep it free.

The most exciting thing about ice cream support group is the rapid rate of growth and interest that’s happened in less than a year of our existence. It’s been so healing and empowering to grow as a person and an artist with the experience of this group. And as time goes on, we plan to just keep getting bigger and better with everything that we give to you all.

The most exciting part of the Ice Cream Social is hearing from all the wonderful queer people who tell me that their excited for the next event, that they are coming to the next one, recounting beautiful memories from the experience there and that they want to learn how to DJ too.

I’m a firm believer in queer healing and expression being able to be done through dancing, moving, learning, music and being among other queer folks. I just cant wait to keep providing space in which folks can be excited to have a really good time at.

Check out photos from the May 19th Ice Cream Social at Flora by Sarmistha Talukdar above/below: