Last weekend, on Saturday, November 11, 2023, the House of Garçon celebrated their 15th Anniversary as a house with their Black Is… Ball, held at EchoStage in Washington D.C. While it’s difficult to capture the full scope of the experience in a few words, the ball was a dazzling, uplifting homage to Black culture and the ballroom scene.
In the words of the house’s Founder, Shannon Garçon, “Black Is… represents a way of acknowledging the resilience, creativity, and determination of Black people in the face of systemic racism and oppression. It is an inspiration and a source of pride for the House Ballroom and the global Black community.” Each of the ball’s runway categories began with “Black Is…” and went on to include terms such as “Love,” “Beauty,” “Unapologetic,” and “Heritage.”
In a departure from the traditional category format, GLAAD collaborated with the House of Garçon to craft a special pre-submission PSA category titled “Black Is… Awareness.” The category tasked participants to create a PSA that raised awareness surrounding the health, economics, civil rights, and safety barriers that Black transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people face.
The winner, Eva Oricci, of the International Royal House of Nina Oricci, emotionally accepted congratulations for the PSA, which shared a deeply riveting message about wanting to be oneself.
Throughout the event, the House of Garçon celebrated community members with the Time Capsule, Founders, Distinguished Honor, and Outstanding Rhetorical Virtuoso Awards, taking care to honor the people who built ballroom from the ground up, investing in the culture and community before it was profitable. Between the distribution of awards and lauding of the extraordinary Garçons who make up the house (and who made the event possible), participants took to the stage to walk categories celebrating the essence of Black excellence, imagination, creativity, beauty, history, and authenticity.
Historically, the ballroom scene emerged as a queer subculture, designed by Black and Brown LGBTQ+ people of color and emerging as a critical act of resistance in the face of the discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, and ostracism the community faced.
In addition to being a site of critical resistance and revolution, the ballroom scene and community is also a site of connection and nurturing. Community and family are forged through the establishment of houses; and ballroom houses prove, time and time again, to be pivotal and important centers of love, strength, and shelter for their members.
As houses are organized around house mothers, fathers, and parental figures, they build out tight knit structures and communities of chosen families who offer unconditional support. While unequivocal care is integral to the nurturing of every person, the love and care found in the ballroom community can be especially groundbreaking and impactful for LGBTQ+ people of color whose families of origin reject or diminish them, rendering them invisible and unseen, and fail to provide them with the foundational support system we all deserve.
The House of Garçon Black Is… Ball was a testament to the power and abundance that is found in the family we seek out. Attendees of the ball arrived as their full, unapologetic selves, fitted in fashions that rivaled Paris Fashion Week and internationally renowned designers.
Overall, the energy at Echostage was electric; being in the room felt like both a celebration and a homecoming, like the fullest expression of Black queer joy.