For Valentine’s Day weekend this year, William Way LGBT Community Center will host a series of virtual events called Love + Solidarity. Saturday, Feb. 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. will consist of performers, a drinks demo, a discussion panel, a Zoom mix and mingle including a chat with William Way Executive Director Chris Bartlett, and a DJ-led dance party. On Sunday, Feb. 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., community members can enjoy a brunch-time food and mocktail demo, more performances, drag tutorials and a kiki with drag queen Icon Ebony-Fierce and special guests.
Icon Ebony-Fierce organized the lineup of performers, which includes Mercury, Paula Deen-White, Yari, Sa’mantha SayTen, Luna Jawnette-Fierce and Eric Jaffe.
William Way staff will also recognize individuals and community members who have made substantial impacts on the local LGBTQ+ community, including Fifty Shades of Purple for their work as community partner; Deesha Dyer for their work as an ally; and VinChelle, Icon and Amber Hikes for organizing and moderating the virtual town hall, where they invited other queer and trans performers of color to address racist behavior among white producers and bar owners in Philly’s gayborhood.
In addition to general operating support for William Way and payment for performers, funds from the event will go toward the center’s healthcare and advocacy work.
“We see ourselves having even more work to do over the next six months,” Bartlett said. “Particularly with supporting people through COVID in the mental health sphere, assisting in getting the LGBTQ community vaccinated and continuing to be an advocate to trans people, people of color and seniors in the ways that we always have been.”
The discussion panel component will focus on mutual aid and the different ways it manifests in the community.
“I think one of the great focuses of this [emergent COVID] is the idea of mutual aid, and LGBT people who’ve been at the forefront of organizing funds to support trans people, artists and houseless LGBT people,” Bartlett said.
William Way has partnered with the organization SELF to help secure rental subsidies for LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness, and center staffers have been communicating with Food Not Bombs to organize external food distribution.
“We’re always looking for ways that we can be of direct [assistance] to LGBT people and our allies at a time when there’s such deep need, whether that’s for food and homes, mental health support or payment as an artist,” Bartlett added.
Bartlett also stressed the complicated nature of Valentine’s Day for many people, as well as the need to keep fostering a sense of togetherness and mutual support, whether or not you’re in a relationship.
“[Valentine’s weekend] is not always an easy weekend whether you’re single or in a couple,” he said. “It brings up [feelings of] ‘am I in a relationship? Am I in the right relationship?’ Though it’s a great time to express love and solidarity, it’s also a natural time to bring people together into one big virtual space and experience community, and get people in the frame of mind for how they as individuals and groups can be supportive of other LGBTQ people.”