New York City-Based Drag Queen Celebrates Black History Month with “The Black Women Empowerment Project”

Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Pride are often celebrated in silos, with very little intersectionality across these celebratory months, and with what little representation there is in each month seeming to evaporate when corporations forget our existence during the remainder of the year. But, Merrie Cherry, one Brooklyn’s most prominent drag queens, has disrupted this formulaic and monolithic approach to celebrating Black History with an impactful photo project titled “The Black Women Empowerment Project.”

 

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DAY 5- Marsha P. Johnson (August 24, 1945 – July 6, 1992) was an American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen and later on a transgendered woman. Known as an outspoken advocate for gay rights, Johnson was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. A founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, Johnson co-founded the gay and transvestite advocacy organization S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), alongside close friend Sylvia Rivera. A popular figure in New York City’s gay and art scene, Johnson modeled for Andy Warhol, and performed onstage with the drag performance troupe Hot Peaches. Known for decades as a welcoming presence in the streets of Greenwich Village, Johnson was known as the “mayor of Christopher Street”. From 1987 through 1992, Johnson was an AIDS activist with ACT UP. In the 1980s Johnson continued her street activism as a respected organizer and marshal with ACT UP. In 1992, when George Segal’s Stonewall memorial was moved to Christopher Street from Ohio to recognize the gay liberation movement, Johnson commented, “How many people have died for these two little statues to be put in the park to recognize gay people? How many years does it take for people to see that we’re all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take for people to see that we’re all in this rat race together.” ———————————————————- Makeup and Outfit by ME Hair by @chris2134567 Photo by @curlygoldie ———————————————————- #blackhistorymonth #marshapjohnson #mua #blackgirlmagic #blackqueens #blackwomenempowermentproject #queen #merriecherry #brooklyndrag #draglife #blackandqueer #translivesmatter #legend #stonewall #herstory

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Every day during the month of February, via her Facebook (@Merrie Cherry) and Instagram (@merrie_cherry), Merrie Cherry released a new photo of an influential female figure in Black culture side by side with a photo of herself in Drag as the same woman. Each image was accompanied with historical information about that days’ woman, giving the reader more details of her story and influence.

 

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DAY 2- Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama was born on January 17, 1964. She is an American lawyer, university administrator, and writer, who was the first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, and was the first African- American first lady. Raised on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, Obama is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. In her early legal career, she worked at the law firm Sidley Austin, where she met Barack Obama. Michelle married Barack in 1992 and they have two daughters. Obama campaigned for her husband’s presidential bid throughout 2007 and 2008, delivering a keynote address at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She returned to speak for him at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. During the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, she delivered a speech in support of the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, a former first lady. As the first lady, Obama served as a role model for women and worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating. She supported American designers and was considered a fashion icon. Makeup by ME Hair and Photo by @chris2134567 Outfit by @caleb.krieg Editing by @tinaturt #blackhistorymonth #michelleobama #blacklivesmatter #blackqueens #blackwomenempowermentproject #bhm #february #merriecherry #instaphoto

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Some of the women featured included international entertainer, Josephine Baker; trans-revolutionist, Marsha P. Johnson; and more contemporary figures like former First Lady Michelle Obama. As Black women are among the most marginalized groups in America, Merrie felt it was important to, “Highlight some of the strongest members of our society who still stood up strong, regardless of how the rest of the world treated them.”

 

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DAY 3- Joséphine Baker was born on June 3rd, 1906 and died April 12th, she was an American-born French entertainer, French Resistance agent, and civil rights activist. Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adopted France. Baker was the first African-American to star in a major motion picture, the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics. During her early career, Baker was renowned as a dancer and was among the most celebrated performers to headline the revues of the Folies Bergère in Paris. Her performance in the revue Un vent de folie in 1927 caused a sensation in Paris. Her costume, consisting of only a girdle of artificial bananas, became an iconic image and a symbol of the Jazz Age and the 1920s. Baker was celebrated by artists and intellectuals of the era, who variously dubbed her the “Black Venus”, the “Black Pearl”, the “Bronze Venus”, and the “Creole Goddess”. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she renounced her U.S. citizenship and became a French national after her marriage to French industrialist. She was known for aiding the French Resistance during World War II. After the war, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French military and was named a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by General Charles de Gaulle. Baker refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States and is noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1968 she was offered unofficial leadership in the movement in the United States by Coretta Scott King, following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. After thinking it over, Baker declined the offer out of concern for the welfare of her children. _________________________________ Makeup and hair by ME Photo by @neoncalypso Outfit by @highwastedstudio – – #blackhistorymonth #americanhistory #blacklivesmatter #blackqueens #joesphinebaker #instaphoto #blackandqueer #blackisbeautiful #blackexcellence #drag

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Through this project, we are reminded that there is no Black History Month without queer history and representation, and there is no Black History Month without women’s history and representation.

Merrie Cherry – proclaimed ‘Mother of Brooklyn Drag’ is the creator and founder of popular events including The Brooklyn Nightlife Awards, that celebrates the queer Brooklyn nightlife scene. She is an original and major contributor to the collective of Bushwig, the largest drag festival in the United States. She continues to create and deliver positive, uplifting messaging to her local and social media communities.

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