By Camila Ceja
Hundreds gathered along the Lake Merritt amphitheater on Friday October 30th, to share space in protest of the dominant forces that affect the trans and Black communities. Hosted by The Peoples Oakland Pride, a non-profit, community-ran mutual aid organization, the “United We Resist Ball” was held as a celebration of life and an uprising against racism and trans and Black brutality.
Though uncommon to many, the ball scene is a prominent form of protest and safe space for trans and LGBTQ folx of the Black community. Originating in New York, balls became an underground celebration for the threatened community, where folx dress up and walk in categories for prizes and trophies.
The Oakland community united to continue trans and Black resistance providing this free event. The event began with a lively performance by various contestants, calling the crowd to dance and celebrate the beauty of trans lives.
All categories were open to the public. Each category participant had a chance to win a prize ranging from one hundred to one thousand dollars. Guests appeared in their drag outfit for category or even in their Halloween costumes, all united to support the community ball. Following covid measures, guests were forced to wear masks and keep distance, filling the seated and grass areas around the amphitheater.
The ball was also streamed live for those who preferred to stay at home. Although distance was enforced, the crowd still danced along with the contestants and to the words of Bay Area rapper and commentator Precious (@juss_precious on instagram). The combination of the crowd, dancing and music filled the space with love and empowerment.
As a protest against the harm of trans and Black lives, the event brought awareness to mutual-aid projects and services for the community. Reiki healers offered free services to BIPOC folx, a community leader provided a self- defense demonstration and organizations that collaborated with the event announced events and services, including the Queer Arts Center. Another project presented during the ball was the #ARMTHEGIRL PROJECT, a mutual aid initiative organized to put safety and power directly into the hands of BIPOC Femmes in the Bay Area.
Though the event was set to end at eight, the ball had a late start and continued until after sunset. As the sunset and the amphitheater lights lit up, the ball continued to be fueled by a love for Oakland, Black and trans lives.
Overall, Oakland’s strength and unity shined through as this community-ran event was held with the help of donations and community crowd fundings.