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Over half a decade ago in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, a restaurant on Turk and Taylor streets was the site of an uprising recognized as a pivotal moment in LGBTQIA+ history.
As Diamond Stylz explains, “It’s one of those events — like Stonewall in New York, like Dewey’s [sit-ins] in Philadelphia — that really stamped and solidified the Pride movement and was the catalyst for where we are now, in feeling great about ourselves and feeling that we have the power to be ourselves. We don’t have to hide or be harassed or in the closet.”
That all-important, stage-setting occurrence — the Compton’s Cafeteria riot — is the “event of honor” at this Sunday’s Riot Party, a concert and fundraiser for San Francisco’s Transgender District that proudly showcases trans, queer and gender-nonconforming performers.
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Stylz, the executive director of Black Transwomen Inc. and the producer and creator of the podcast “Marsha’s Plate,” is co-hosting the Riot Party with comedian and “Transparent” actor Ian Harvie and entertainer and reality-show personality TS Madison.
Her role as host will entail setting the tone of the Riot Party, and she’s particularly looking forward to introducing the array of artists who are traveling to San Francisco to participate in the event.
As Stylz, who lives in Houston, says, “I host things all around the country … but one thing you don’t see is organizations really putting together a showstopping showcase that includes mostly trans people.”
The inaugural Riot Party, in 2021, was held outdoors because of the ongoing COVID-19 concern. As Stylz, who also hosted the party last year, recalls, “We blockaded off that whole block of Turk and Taylor, right where the Compton’s Cafeteria riot happened. There was a stage and 360 cameras; it was just an amazing party.”
This year, the party moves indoors, with the historic Hibernia as the chosen venue for the event. The Hibernia is located in San Francisco’s Transgender District, the first legally recognized district of its kind nationwide and an important cultural component of the city. Notably, Sunday’s party is taking place during the city’s first official Transgender History Month. So while Riot Party 2022 may be the second installment, it is connected to certain monumental firsts — while also celebrating the 56th anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in the very same neighborhood where it occurred.
For Stylz, the trans-centering district, month and party are welcomed and extraordinary achievements. As she comments in an interview, “As a Black trans woman from the South, we don’t see this kind of investment in our trans community in our city. So going somewhere like San Francisco, that has such investment in the lives of trans people, it’s beautiful to see.”
Sunday’s party, in its recognition of the riot that “started it all” and celebration of the existence and diversity of the trans community, is in itself a protest of the inequalities, oppression and discrimination that trans, queer and nonbinary individuals continue to encounter.
Says Stylz, “We need that kind of pride, that rebellious spirit, that community-building and that community love to combat what’s happening now.”
Riot Party takes place 5-9 p.m. Sunday at Hibernia, 1 Jones St. in San Francisco’s Transgender District. General admission to the event is free, with VIP tickets available at a cost. Riot Party organizers are also looking for day-of-event volunteers. For more information, visit https://www.riotpartysf.com/.