Last night, June 13, a vigil was held in Soho, London, for the 49 people who were killed in the shooting at Orlando's LGBTQ nightclub Pulse on Sunday June 12. Thousands turned out at Old Compton Street, where a silence was held at 7 p.m. and 49 balloons were released. On social media, videos were rapidly snapped and shared of a small group of voguers bringing the street to life in a celebration of their culture.
The vogue battle was instigated by dancers Jason A. Cameron (a.k.a. Jay Jay Revlon of the House of Revlon), Omar Jordan Phillips (a.k.a. BamBam Khan), and D'Relle Khan of the International House of Khan. Reached over Facebook DMs and voice messages, all three explained to The FADER what it meant to them to vogue in the street — significantly in London's famous LGBTQ center, Soho — for Orlando.
JAY JAY: Vogue is a dance outlet that comes from the ballroom scene, and within the ballroom scene there's many categories, but it was for the queer people of color, black, Latino, et cetera, to come together in this world — it was for queer people of color to create this feel of a ball. A place where everyone feels comfortable, a place where there's no judgement. [Yesterday], I called everyone and was like, "let's vogue down!" — because there's so much upset and sadness and that is happening, and voguing is uplifting. It's an outlet for pain.
D'RELLE: I think why it was so important to me was because I was in Florida only a week ago, and left my friends out there. We needed to do something to show our support and solidarity because although it was in Orlando, it could happen anywhere. I called Jay Jay and we both agreed we need to go down there and vogue. Why vogue? Vogue — like Pulse — was for the black and Latino gay community, and is an expression of strength, freedom, and unity.
JAY JAY: Vogue always brings people together, no matter if you can vogue or you can't vogue, you always love it, you always find some kind of love for it. People come together as one community, and they forget about all the negatives. That's what voguing does, and that's why we brought it to Soho — it was such a sad day in the beginning, and we wanted it to not just be sadness and pain. It is sad, it is painful to see this, it's painful to understand it. But we need to come together and empower.
D'RELLE: We could have arrived holding candles with heads bowed but Soho was already in a sombre mood. So we expressed our fear, hurt, pain, and strength the best way we know how. Through movement. Through vogue.
JAY JAY: [Soho is] a place that is dying out in terms of clubs and venues for gay people, or LGBT people to go to. We don't have a lot of places to go to. So this was a stand, of taking back our own space...It was a sense of going in a space, and dancing, doing what they did. They danced. They were just dancing. That's what we wanted to do; we wanted to dance, and make everyone feel love and happiness and joy — and not to forget about the pain, but to place it into a positive place.
OMAR: As Jason mentions, we always go to Soho. I think in the light of such a horrible attack to our community, we wanted to not only show solidarity to those in Orlando, but ensure we showed solidarity to our own communities. Especially when Soho and other LGBT spaces are under threat of closing down, from high rent, cuts to arts funding, etc, and they are integral to enriching society and allowing everyone to feel safe. We were reclaiming our space, and letting our community know they can do the same. When me, D'Relle, and Jason walk through Soho, we never walk on the pavement — we walk in the middle of the street, our street. Soho needs to stay an iconic safe space for our community.
JAY JAY: You might take us out of a community, but you'll never take our spirit. Pride is very important, living in your truth is very important. Don't ever feel you have to shy away from your sexuality. That's what that whole thing was in the street yesterday. It might have been raining, but there's always a sunny side...That's something we just had to do yesterday. Let it all out.
D'RELLE: Every journey begins with a single step, and I just vogue mine in a pair of heels. Marsha P. Johnson didn't back down, and we were blessed with the Stonewall riots. This was our fight back.