RACE TALKS: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism

Filling the spaces between races with compassion, conversation, and education





Poison Waters, Alexis Campbell Starr, Amara Lynn Valentine, Zalaya, Devlin Lynn Phoenixx


Poison Waters, Alexis Campbell Starr, Amara Lynn Valentine, Zalaya, Devlin Lynn Phoenixx, Lawanda Jackson

2023 »

Thursday, June 15th

Host: Poison Waters

Lawanda Jackson

Kourtni Capree Duv

Isaiah Esquire

Epiphany Valentine Dupont

Performances By:
T’Kara Campbell Starr
Arcadian Campbell Starr

Poison Waters
Lawanda Jackson
Isaiah Esquire
Kourtni Capree Duv
Epiphany Valentine Dupont


Friday, June 16th

Host: Lawanda Jackson

T’Kara Campbell Starr
Arcadian Campbell Starr
Kourtni Capree Duv
Epiphany Valentine Dupont

Performances By:
T’Kara Campbell Starr
Arcadian Campbell Starr
Kourtni Capree Duv
Epiphany Valentine Dupont


History of Drag in Portland

Poison Waters dives into the history, craft and politics of drag. Crystal Ligori & Tiffany Camhi. Oregon Public Broadcast, opb.com. June 23, 2021. Article with transcript.

Drag has been a staple in the Portland entertainment community for decades, with a strong presence of Black drag performers since the late 60s. With the formation of the United United Kingdom (UEK), the Black drag community secured its role in Portland’s Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) history. From pageant queens to bar queens, showgirls, emcees, event producers, and more, the Black queens of Portland continue to lead the way! Following in the footsteps of the UEK pioneers, the annual Hot Chocolate PDX remains the premier Black Excellence Drag Experience!

—Poison Waters


Did you know that Black and Latine trans women and drag queens are credited with starting the Pride movement? Did you know that the drag scene in Portland dates back to the 19th century? 

This year, RACE TALKS: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism honors the intersectionality of Pride and Juneteenth by hosting an event that centers and welcomes QTBIPOC to be in a safe space together and celebrate our legacy and future together.  We offer a brief synopsis below about the origins of Pride and Juneenth and how Portlanders commemorate them. We hope that The History of Black Drag in Portland is an inaugural event, with many more years of celebration to come. We recognize that the contributions of Black people are the link between Pride and Juneteenth; we welcome information and feedback to this page. 

Pride is celebrated throughout the month of June and has become synonymous with predominately white cis male and female celebrations across the United States and around the world, even though the origins of Pride began with Black and brown transwomen challenging for their place among cis queer and hetero society. Juneteenth is celebrated on or around June 19th, and this year, falls within Portland’s Pride celebrations. Pride encapsulates the many colors of the Queer Rainbow family, but Queer Trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (QTBIPOC) still struggle to find spaces where they are welcomed, seen, and safe. 


The Black QT+ (Queer Trans plus)  community has a long history as a vibrant part of American culture. Black writers and poets of the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s, such as Countee Cullen and Zora Neale Hurston; and musical entertainers, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and Gladys Bentley were some of the most legendary lesbian, gay, bisexual, and gender non-conforming artists whose influence on American culture was far reaching and vital; and Bayard Rustin, who was quietly credited with being the brains behind the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, was a proud advocate and fighter in the Pride Movement.

During the early 20th century, most QT+ identified people did not have the choice to be open about their sexuality, as severe laws, restrictions, and homophobic public opinion actively suppressed their freedom. 

The modern American gay rights movement began in New York City on June 28th, 1969. Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village pub and haven for the underground LGBTQ+ community. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black Trans woman, is credited with throwing a brick, sparking a riot that expressed the frustration and anger of QT+ citizens subjected to oppressive systems of racism and homophobia. Marsha P. Johnson, along with other Black transgender activists, Zazu Nova, Jackie Harmona, and Latin activist, Sylvia Rivera, led the rebellion at the Stonewall Riots. They went on to form the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to support the trans community, who were facing insurmuntable discrimination, along with housing and health care insecurity under the rising AIDS epidemic.

In June 1970, one year after the Stonewall Riots, the first gay liberation marches were held in resistance to homophobic laws and bigotry. Thousands of people in the QT+ community bravely demonstrated their demand for equal civil rights, in cities all across the county. Several powerful QT+ organizations were formed and the Pride movement gained momentum. The original movement was a fight for housing, health care and other resources for transpeople, sex workers, and community impacted by the AIDS epidemic.

The first Pride celebration in Portland, Oregon was the “Gay Pride Fair” in 1975, held in the South Park Blocks. In 1977, the first “Gay Pride March” in Portland took place. Up to 400 people marched with signs demanding gay rights. Portland Mayor Neil Goldschmidt proclaimed this “Gay Pride Day;” however, Pride marchers were met with 200 anti-gay rights antagonists; many anti-gay Christian church members in Portland tried to recall the mayor, because of his support for the gay rights movement.

Portland’s Gay Pride events continued annually, and by the early 1980s, organizers renamed the celebration Lesbian and Gay Pride Week. In 1997, the name was changed to the Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans Pride Parade to be even more inclusive. By the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic was a crucial issue tragically affecting the QT+ community. People of color represented a disproportionate number of people with AIDS, yet the fight for gay rights and AIDS activism was largely centered around whiteness. In 1983, a white attendee at the Portland Pride Parade wore blackface with an Aunt Jemima costume, further illustrating the chasm racism presents between the fight for QT+  rights and the fight for racial justice in the same community. While large victories have been achieved for LGBTQ+ citizens over the decades, maintaining and achieving further equality and justice remains a continuing fight, especially for QTBIPOC. The threat of hard-won civil rights being rolled back by bigoted lawmakers, the tragic reoccurrence of hate crimes, oppressive laws, ignorance and bigotry are a grim reality that overlaps both LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities. At the forefront of celebrating QTBIPOC Pride is resilience, excellence, and love and the demand for justice and equality remains strong in our spirit. RACE TALKS is committed to serving and creating a safe space for the QTBIPOC community, and educating cis BIPOC and QT+ white folx to be better allies.  Please refrain from performative participation of Pride, and instead, attend RACE TALKS quarterly affinity conversations; participate in the monthly QTBIPOC program offerings in your local community; and please write your Congressional officials to pass federal QT+ protection laws.


Juneteenth is celebrated on or around June 19th, and commemorates the two-year extension of enslaved labor that Blacks in Texas were forced to provide because white people did not convey the news that the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved Blacks in the Southern States. It is celebrated by Black Americans across the country; however the federal government just recently acknowledged it as a federal holiday.  

In Oregon, the Juneteenth Oregon Celebration was founded 50 years ago by the late and beloved community leader Clara Peoples. The celebration of Juneteenth Oregon dates back to 1945 when Peoples introduced the tradition from Muskogee, Oklahoma, to her co-workers at the Kaiser Shipyards in Portland. Upon moving to Portland in 1945, Clara Peoples was surprised to learn that the Juneteenth holiday was unknown in this part of the country. She introduced the holiday to her co-workers at the Kaiser Shipyards during their break beginning the first Juneteenth Celebration in Oregon.

Later Clara helped to initiate Portland’s annual citywide Juneteenth celebration in 1972. Juneteenth Oregon’s celebration starts with a parade, followed by the festivities which includes live music and entertainment, art, food, educational booths, cultural booths, community resources and a children’s play area.

We urge our community to learn about and support local Juneteenth celebrations in their community by patroning Black owned businesses and attending local celebrations. Please refrain from performative activities such as purchasing corporate products that highlight Juneteenth marketing, in an attempt to solicit business away from the Black community. To truly support Juneteenth, please urge your Congressional officials to support and pass a reparations bill.

Source Material From JuneteenthOR



WHEN: June 13th Doors at 6:00 PM, Program at 7:00 PM
WHERE: McMenamins Kennedy School Theater 5736 NE 33rd Ave

Get Tickets Now


RACE TALKS: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism, McMenamins History Department, Poison Waters and local Black drag queens, and sponsoring community partners are teaming up for a second year to present an intersectional Pride and Juneteenth event that will explore the history and contemporary experience of Black drag in Portland, Oregon. This event features an all-star panel of local drag queens followed by fabulous drag performances. We began this special forum in an effort to close the gap between our BIPOC and QTBIPOC communities. In our first year, we emphasized QTBIPOC and BIPOC in-person attendance because there are few Pride events that are centered around Black and brown queer folx in Portland. Given the positive feedback we received from last year’s inaugural event, and the heightened ignorance and attacks on the Black, Trans, and Drag communities throughout our country, we are returning, and added a second night for all community to attend.

Please keep reading for important event information.


We are prioritizing Community Organizations led by, serving and employing QTBlack and  QTBIPOC.

  • Please promote the event to Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, People of Color community members. See below for social media promotional materials.
  • Your organization will receive up to 5 guest seats specifically for QTBIPOC members. Each guest will receive free admission and a $30 food and beverage voucher at the door. 
  • Submit the names of the people attending under your organization as verification. Your invited guests will still need to submit a community supported ticket request form online or when they arrive. If their name is not submitted by your organization, they will not be given priority entrance, so it’s important that you submit names of any prospective guests.
  • Again, we do ask for verification on our community support ticket form, so be sure to submit to us the names of your guests so no further verification will be required of them.

Please promote to QTBIPOC Community members connected to your organization – All Ages are Welcomed. 

  • QTBIPOC and BIPOC members will receive a FREE community supported ticket that includes admission and a $30 food and beverage voucher. We have 100 FREE tickets that include food and beverage exclusively for QTBIPOC and BIPOC attendees on BIPOC night. We have 25 tickets reserved for the all-community night.
  • Sign up for these tickets will be prioritized for QTBIPOC and then BIPOC.

In order to receive this FREE ticket, community members  must submit a community supported ticket request form and then RSVP for their ticket through your organization or through our website. 

  • To ensure a seat, youth must also submit a form for their own ticket. An adult is required to accompany all minors. If there is a minor needing an adult, please contact us and we will make arrangements for the minor to attend safely under our care.

Virtual Participation – Not available this year.


Due to the high predisposition QTBIPOC and immune compromised folx have to COVID and other transmittable virus, RACE TALKS is still taking preventative  precautions to ensure this is a healthy and safe space for all of us. Please test yourself before you come. If you feel sick or have any symptoms of any kind, please stay home.

Please Bring the following to the event:

  • State ID or Driver’s License; if drinking, you will need to show the bar legal ID. Minors must have a student ID or be verified by their adult.
  • Masks are encouraged  in the theater, unless you are consuming food or beverages, or taking pictures. Masks will be made available.


This is a fundraiser event for RACE TALKS! We provide monthly in-person and virtual community programming that focuses on building community through educational events and facilitated dialogue. Help keep our programming free and reduced. 

There are two ways to support us: 

  1. Donate! Become a monthly patron or contribute to our community supported ticket program. 
  2. Be a RACE TALKS sponsor and complete this pledge form! Help keep the lights on and our programming accessible to all. 
  3. Complete this volunteer form. We need volunteers for both nights. Volunteering is a great way for queer and cis white folx to participate and support the event.


2023 & 2022 SPONSORS 

McMenamins History 
Our goal is to keep the past in the present, to celebrate and connect us all with the people and events that have helped define each McMenamins property. To that end, we research, interview and compile materials to identify and commemorate our properties and their surroundings.

Follow on Social Media: 

Pride NW 
Pride Northwest, Inc’s mission is to encourage and celebrate the positive diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans communities, and to assist in the education of all people through the development of activities that showcase the history, accomplishments, and talents of these communities.

Follow on Social Media: 


Q Center 

Q Center is Portland’s LGBTQ2SIA+ Community Center.

Follow on Social Media: 


2023 »

A huge thank you to H. Darnell Peterson of Darnell Peterson Photography for snapping the fun and excitement of RACE TALKS celebrations in June.

6/13 Film Screening of Back As U R

6/15 History of Black Drag in Portland – BIPOC Night 

6/16 History of Black Drag in Portland – All Community night

2022 »

A huge thank you to BAILEAVES PHOTOGRAPHY for capturing every moment from our first BLACK DRAG PDX in 2022. Visit their website to view more of their work and find contact info.




  • #racetalkspridejuneteenthpdx 
  • #racetalkspdx
  • #historyofblackdraginportland 
  • #racetalksblackdragpdx

Promo Images

RACE TALKS Social Media 

2022 Press Release (for background reference only)