“It’s a celebration of life,” comments Dang Nguyen, smiling as he takes in the sights.

Nguyen is referring to Oaklash, the Bay Area’s annual drag and queer performance festival.

After it was held online in 2021, this year marks Oaklash’s return to an in-person week of events showcasing queer art and culture. 

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As Nguyen, from Alameda, says, “There’s so much hate going on right now … so it’s good to get out and support the community.” 

And what better city than Oakland — with its long history of social justice activism and diversity — for drag performers to strut, stun and serve onstage during Oaklash’s Block Party on Saturday.

The full-week festival got underway on May 23 with the discussion panel “Indigenous Voices: Drag as Medicine, Drag as Ceremony” and wrapped up Sunday with “Rollin’ With the Homos,” a roller skate-themed drag show at Township Commons Park.

Saturday’s Oaklash Block Party, scheduled from 1-8 p.m., featured hosts Adriana Roy, Meatflap, Kaikai B. Michaels, Beatrix LaHaine, Nicki Jizz and Mama Celeste, several DJs and performances from over 50 drag queens, kings and nonbinary royals — many local, some from other states and one from the most recent season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”: DeJa Skye.

Heaven on Earth, one of Saturday’s performers, explains, “The energy here is really powerful because there are so many performers and community members. So it’s particularly special, like performing in front of a large family.”

It was chilly on Saturday, but that didn’t deter a large crowd from gathering at the two stages and cheering on those who lip-synced, danced and “werqed.” The joyful vibe at the block party was palpable, as was the notion that drag is for all genders, all races and ethnicities, all sexual orientations — all people.

Says Heaven on Earth, “This is an opportunity for everyone to come together.”

Saturday’s Oaklash Block Party in Old Oakland offered a “drag swap” table, open to all. The sign on the left clothing rack reads, “Take some drag, leave some drag. But the furniture stays, please!” (J.L. Odom/Bay City News)