Robyn Banks recalls attending plenty of parties at now-defunct clubs like Escualita and Splash, where there would be tables filled with pamphlets intended to educate attendees about sexual health. While that approach had all the right intentions, Banks noticed those tables weren’t usually getting the attention they deserved.
There must, Banks thought, be a better way to disseminate that information.
“It was a hassle to get people to step over to the table unless it was a freebie or something,” Banks explained in an interview with Gay City News.
Banks serves as the director of events for the non-profit group Impulse NYC, which organizes LGBTQ-focused parties in the city. Banks, who is active in the city’s drag scene, started brainstorming about how to seamlessly incorporate educational initiatives into nightlife events — and that was part of the motivation behind a new 18-person variety show Banks is co-leading called “Black and Boujee.” Lola Michele-Kiki is also leading the show alongside Banks.
“We’re very excited for it,” Michele-Kiki told Gay City News. “It’s a big cast with performers of color. We’re just going to dive into it.”
The first show is scheduled to take place on February 27 at 7 p.m. at Hush Bar at 348 West 52nd Street in Hell’s Kitchen.
Banks said the show serves multiple purposes at once. It aims to provide a platform for people of color, offer an outlet for self-expression, educate attendees, and commemorate Black History Month as the month closes out. Moreover, Banks noted that the show aims to create a more inclusive environment for transgender and non-binary individuals as well as people of color in a nightlife scene that is so often dominated by white cisgender men.
“I have always been very vocal about getting more people of color into different bars and lounges,” Banks said. “I am the kind of person that likes to do more action than complaining.”
The show will feature dancers, including pole dancers, as well as singers, drag queens and kings, and others who will make up the well-rounded event. The group of performers includes Zelina Duval, Detoxx Busti-AE, Myster E Mel Kiki, Dey Phoenix, Bianca Dagga, and Senerio.
And, instead of simply dropping pamphlets on tables, Banks is weaving educational themes into the show: Speakers are planning to discuss issues around HIV/AIDS in the LGBTQ community and spread the word about PrEP and HIV prevention.
The plan is for folks to arrive for the show, mingle for a brief while, and then enjoy two or three performances before shifting to a discussion featuring educational tidbits.
Banks added that the show is made possible by funding from Impulse NYC, and that money is used to pay performers and others who are involved in the project.
“I believe the change has to start somewhere,” Banks said. “There is so much talent among people of color in New York, and I want to showcase as much of it as I can.”