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Jason Culler speakes about Doing More for People of Color

by: Jason Culler, Social Life Entertainment LLC,
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THE FIVE: 2019

Welcome to 2019. We are ready for a fun filled years of circuit boys, drag queens, party lesbians, and much more! Are you as excited as we are?

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Philadelphia - In 2014 one of my partners Terrance Morrison & I started Social Life Entertainment LLC. with the idea of creating spaces we could enjoy. We quickly found out that space we created for ourselves was also a need that our community wasn’t receiving, but wanted.

In April of 2014 Terrance & I put that idea into play by creating the first day party in the gayborhood at Raw Lounge on 13th & Sansom. We expected only 150 people, but somehow we reached over 800 + people, with one bar tender and one server. Those who came out to the event were outrage due to them only being able to get 1 drink every 45 min. In spite of the slow service, they still enjoyed themselves and demanded more. We knew we were on to something and wanted to create more; more space for our community. Later that same year, we included Robert Graves, Maurice Monroe, Bajon Braxton, Leonel Torres, Halo & Jordan Cherry,  young man, who was doing extraordinary things within the community and abroad. 

We went on to using some of Philadelphia’s best venues such as The Kimmel Center, the Jewish Museum, African American museum, and the Convention center. Social Life Entertainment brought the first block party during Philadelphia Black Pride to the City Hall Court Yard. We hosted the very first LGBTQ event at Vanity Grand; Philly’s #1 heterosexual night club, and the first LGBTQ event at Sugar House Casino. We were able to gain access to spaces that our community only could dream, but SLE was able to kick down doors demanding spaces for our community. 

Still, we wanted to do more for our community.

I always volunteer at the HERO community center by tutoring children and young adults. I was able to create a yearly event to give back by feeding the homeless and organizing a toy drive for children in North Philadelphia during the Christmas holiday. 

Still, we wanted to do more for our community.

In 2016, a video surfaced of the owner of ICandy using the N-word. We heard rumors of racism within the gayborhood for years and I myself have experienced micro-aggressions inside the gayborhood but for the first time we heard an owner of a popular LGBTQ night club express his racism. With anger and frustration I got out of work at 4pm and ran with my sign in my hand stood outside in front of this building (ICandy) screaming from the top of my lungs with anger and frustration in the pouring rain. After that day I was empowered to help the LGBTQ community, but more so, the Black & Brown LGBTG community. 

Still, I wanted to do more for our community.

In September of 2016, Social Life Entertainment arranged a town hall meeting with the mayor’s office & the community at the African American museum to discuss racism within the gayborhood and what steps would be taken to prevent an incident like this from happening again. We were assured by the Mayor’s office that they were putting steps into place to hold club owners & organizations accountable. In late October, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations held a public educational hearing in response to growing tension and wide-ranging reports of racism and discrimination in the LGBTQ community. In June of 2017, Mayor Kenney signed a bill allowing the commission to temporarily close businesses if they repeatedly violate the city’s fair-practices ordinance.

With all of that I felt it wasn’t enough and still, I wanted to do more for our community.

In late June of 2017, The COLOURS Organization, Philadelphia Black Pride & Social Life Entertainment started to hold meetings with community members and officials around ways to create a safe place for those who chose to come back to ICandy night club. When the community heard of our efforts they praised and encourage us to continue but, there were a small few who made noise trying to stop our efforts in creating that safe space. Nevertheless, we moved forward creating a contract of a list of demands with the owner of ICandy and its staff. 

However, I still wanted to do more for our community.

SLE decided on September 2nd of 2017 to host an event at the popular night club for our community to heal and move forward as well as take this opportunity to raise money for Black & Brown LGBTQ youth. That night over 1000 + people came out in solidarity to heal and to move forward. In the beginning of 2018, with the funds raised from the Salute event, Social Life Entertainment kept its promise by giving the House of Blahnik $3500 to help continue supporting their efforts in providing much needed services to the ballroom community. 

Still, we wanted to do more for our community.

When my team & I heard rumors of the COLOURS Organization closing we knew we could do more. We took funds we made during Pleasure 2018 during Philly Black Pride weekend and committed ourselves again to help one of the longest Black & Brown serving Organizations in hopes that other would follow.

Why is it important for us to do more by supporting the Colors organization? Simple, because The colors organization belongs to us!

Remember when we were young adults and some children? We had no safe spaces. We had no one we could talk to about our sexuality, no one that cared enough to listen to our complaints. I remember Robert and how he opened the COLOURS doors and invited me in, giving me counsel and providing advice on how I should deal with my own depression as a young adult. He did that free of charge, no expectations, no gimmicks, just a safe space for us to just BE!

It’s important that the Black & Brown LGBTQ community not just stick together in times of injustice but also in times of need. It is my hope that SLE not only continue to create events that the LGBTQ community could enjoy, but also spaces where we can call our own. For months, I have been in talks on how to buy spaces that we can proudly say, “this is ours”. We are more closer now than we’ve ever been in  owning something that is ours. But until that day comes, I will do more by supporting organizations that service Black & Brown LGBTQ people.

I’m here this evening, just to do more, I am here, to present the COLOURS Organization a check. This is my example of my company doing more. I’m hoping that you within the community, would volunteer, donate financially and speak highly of this organization and forgetting those things which are in the past. Let’s press forward together and remember, the COLOURS organization belongs to US.

Not only am I presenting the COLOURS Organization a check, but I’m also presenting the house of blahnik a check to kick start a scholarship in honor of Stacy Blahnik, a transwoman who was killed in 2010. It is very important that in our fight for equality and safe spaces for the LGBTQ community,  to also strengthen and provide support for our trans brothers and sisters who are also targets for discrimination, violence and injustice in this community. I knew Stacy personally and I knew her heart wanted nothing more than to help other trans women of color. There is no one more deserving to have a scholarship named after her then Stacy Blahnik. As long as Social Life Entertainment exist, we are committed in supporting our community.

In conclusion, I sure you all noticed a theme throughout my speech, which is, “I still wanted to do more”. This is just a message that despite various gains we have made throughout the years the work is never finished and there is STILL much more to be done.

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