Valentine ballroom event to celebrate queer Black and Latino culture


Black Graduate Student Association, Queer Graduate Student Association

The event celebrating Ballroom culture will take place Sunday from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m.

For Iowa State student A’Ja Lyons, queer Black representation in Iowa is hard to find. This issue led to the creation of the Valentine/Palentine Ballroom formal, an event celebrating Black and Latino queer culture and community.

The event, hosted by the Black Graduate Student Association and Queer* Graduate Student Association, will take place from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m., Sunday in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

“I just really felt like it would be fun to do something to honor New York ballroom culture,” said Lyons, a graduate student in the English department. “I felt like there wasn’t much Black LGBT representation period in the society at large, but definitely for Iowa.”

The event is mainly for the Black and Brown LGBTQ+ community in central Iowa, but it is open to anyone that wants to support the spirit of the event, according to Lyons.

Ballroom culture, the theme of the event, began underground in New York and is linked to African Americans and Latinos, according to Lyons.

“The judges were always white, so a lot of [African Americans] were excluded,” Lyons said. “Prizes were judged unfairly, so they started their own balls.”

Lyons said these balls grew to include members of the LGBTQ+ community and Latinos. According to Lyons, these houses became a family since many were excluded from their homes. Older members, typically gay men and drag queens, became the mothers and fathers to the younger members of the house.

“I know that college people really do not feel that they’re in a community,” Lyons said. “I really want people to get a sense of community no matter who they are and where they are.”

While the event is free, donations will be accepted at the event. The event will include food such as pizza and snacks.

Along with dancing, the event will include drag show performances, DJ ChuckFresh and a performance from Motion Sickness Dance Team, a student organization.

“I’m hoping that people will have fun and understand the importance of community,” Lyons said.

The event is characterized as being an “in/formal” event, so there is no specific dress code.

Lyons said a person can show up in jeans or their “most fancy glitter outfit.”

“I want people to feel comfortable and their authentic selves, whatever that looks like,” Lyons said. “I want people to feel welcome to show up and dance.”