Juanita MORE!'s Pride party returns
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One of the more exciting pieces of news regarding the state's reopening is the return of Empress Juanita MORE!'s annual Pride Party at 620 Jones on June 27, Pride Sunday. MORE! has designated the San Francisco Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) as a beneficiary of her party.
"It's always been a time that brings people together," MORE! said when asked what Pride means to her. "And that's been something that I think I've celebrated so much of my drag career with. I'm someone who brings people together, I'm a community organizer. That's really what Pride means to me, celebrating our history of course, and creating a new future, a better and stronger future."
The San Francisco Queer Nightlife Fund is offering one last round of grants just as the state fully reopens from the COVID-19 lockdowns. This is the eighth round of grants for the fund, which has provided critical financial support to bartenders, barbacks, doormen, performers and others who work in the nightlife industry and saw their incomes disappear during the lockdowns.
So far, QNF has provided 418 grants totaling $316,351. Fund recipients could use the money to catch up on rent, buy food, or whatever other emergencies they might be facing.
For this last round of grants, two new supporters are contributing to the fund, Dirty Habit Restaurant at 12 4th Street is donating a portion of their proceeds each night in June, and Sonoma Hills Farm, a cannabis farm and culinary garden in Sonoma County, is donating proceeds from sales of their newest offering, Double Rainbow.
Along her ongoing philanthropic events, MORE! added that it felt great to be elected San Francisco Empress.
"It's part of San Francisco history," she said. "I'm super proud to carry this crown, and help the court move forward."
MORE! noted that this is the 18th year of her Pride party. At first she wasn't sure if the party was going to happen this year, but then she became comfortable with the rules from the city and state, and about a month ago, she started planning the big bash.
"It feels like we're coming home," she said. "We've had the party at 620 Jones since 2015, and it feels to a lot of people that that's what we're doing. I created a safe space that is a great gathering place on Pride Sunday."
MORE! is very excited about the performance she's planned for 3pm with more than 30 of her friends who are performers. There will be drag kings, drag queens, and other types of performers from San Francisco and the East Bay.
"It's going to be pretty spectacular," she promises, though she declined to say what they'd be doing.
"I don't want to print that," she said. "That's a surprise."
MORE!'s party has traditionally been a fundraiser for various causes. In 2005 she donated to the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center, and she also helped to fund the bust of Harvey Milk at San Francisco City Hall. The Transgender Law Center and Bay Positives are also among her beneficiaries.
"This year we're benefiting two things," she said. "The Imperial Court of San Francisco, which I am Empress of, and the second part of it is the Queer Nightlife Fund. I was on the steering committee when it started at the beginning of the pandemic, and we've given out over 300 grants to Bay Area nightlife artists and workers, bartenders, drag queens, to help them stay afloat."
MORE! is happy that things are opening up and that people are getting ready to go back to work but added that she still has friends who didn't pay rent all of last year.
"There are still people who are struggling," MORE! said. "So I'm super-excited that we're also supporting them."
Women, trans people, gender non-conforming people, non-binary people, queer Black indigenous people of color will be prioritized in the grant giving process, according to MORE!
"That's the family that I support in my life, and want to continue to support," she said. "Our community is diverse, even more so now."
To that end, MORE! created Juanita's List, a housing group on Facebook which now has over 10,000 members. She created the group because she would hear people say that they were losing their housing, while others would be looking for a roommate.
She's also working with Alex U. Inn to hold this year's People's March and Rally: Unite to Fight, to be held June 27 (see the previous article on the march).
Though the city and state are reopening, MORE! said that certain health guidelines would remain in effect during her party. People will be asked to show that they've been vaccinated or that they tested negative for the Coronavirus.
"So I'm confident that I'm creating a safe space for people to be in that have been vaccinated and can be mask free," she said. "But I still have people that are nervous about that, so it's fine to still wear a mask if you need to and want to attend. I have people who are nervous about being around other people because they haven't been around other people. Those are all concerns, but I feel like by the time we get to the 27th things are going to be really open, and we're going to have a big celebration for sure."
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