In the wake of the Southern Baptist Convention’s homophobic and transphobic “Nashville Statement” and popular Nashville music festival’s 82% white male line-up, party planners shut down a city block and hosted an intentional celebration of the city’s diversity. And so the Church Street Block Party was born.
In the heart of a rapidly growing and gentrifying city, the Church Street Block Party created a sense of community: those often forgotten or ignored by a downtown that caters towards country music tourists and bachelorette parties had the opportunity to dance in the streets outside of the once a year pride festival.
This inaugural event bolstered big names such as host Bob the Drag Queen and performer Mykki Blanco along side local heroes like DJ Jane Dupree and singer Morgxn. While concerts and DJ sets took main stage, drag shows happened every hour inside of Play Dance Bar, Nashville largest gay club.
I got the chance to talk to and photograph some of the gorgeous humans who showed out for the party and was met by love and power and vulnerability.
Name/Pronouns/Occupation: Ren / Ren / Server
Most excited about: Alex Newell and Bob the Drag Queen
Serving you: African goddess chic
How does your style relate to your personal identity?: “If I don’t represent myself no one will. I try to stay true to who I am and how I grew up but bringing it into modern day. I find it refreshing to be true to my heritage.”
Name/Pronouns/Occupation: Whitney / she/her / Server, Drag King Calvin Brookes
Most excited about: The drag shows, “everyone loves daytime drinking”
Serving you: Modern biker
How does your style relate to your personal identity?: “I feel most comfortable in black. I channel Calvin when I get dressed. Calvin gives me confidence.”
Name/Pronouns/Occupation (left to right): Kaya / she/her / college applicant Jessica / she/her / professional single
Most excited about: hearing new artists
Serving you: casual/everday
How does your style relate to your personal identity?: “I mostly wear black & white. I think my style puts the spotlight on my queerness.” / “I’m weird but I’m still fun.”
Name/Pronouns/Occupation (left to right): Herewego / “as long as it’s used with respect” / commune resident River / they/them / commune resident Skrat / he/him / commune resident
Most excited about: dancing in the street / Mykki Blanco / taking up space out in the sun together
Serving you: all protein fibers / urban comfortable / silk shirt shamanism
How does your style relate to your personal identity?: from Skrat, “psychodelic, second-hand, refashioned, natural”
Name/Pronouns/Occupation: Cooper / he/him / barista
Most excited about: Mykki Blanco and that “it’s something different. Instead of trying to bring new people into the city, it’s an event for Nashvillians”
Serving you: 80s New York punk
How does your style relate to your personal identity?: “Something alternative, counter culture in the South. I enjoy the idea of fashion, what’s starting a new conversation.”
Name/Pronouns/Occupation: Alana / she/her / visual merchandiser at Topshop
Most excited about: Porches (who was unable to perform at the event due to injury)
Serving you: casual Sunday menswear
How does your style relate to your personal identity?: “I’ve been dressing ‘boyish’ for as long as I remember. It’s what I know and what I like.”
Name/Pronouns/Occupation (left to right): Kaiden / they/them / animation major Cas / she/her / student
Most excited about: being openly gay / holding their hand
Serving you: space ace / space gay
How does your style relate to your personal identity?: “I’m not afraid to be different. To be able to express myself with clothes is the best thing I have.” / “having the confidence to show more skin and my scars means a lot to me.”
Article and photos by Kelly Ann Graff
Kelly Ann Graff is a writer and cook who lives with her partner in Nashville, TN. She enjoys rugby, classic horror films, and thrift store knick-knacks.