Drag queen slashed after nighttime show in SF's Castro district

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Friday November 10, 2023
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Drag performer Afrika America was attacked November 6 after performing at the Midnight Sun. Photo: Courtesy Afrika America
Drag performer Afrika America was attacked November 6 after performing at the Midnight Sun. Photo: Courtesy Afrika America

A prominent Castro neighborhood drag performer was attacked late Monday with a knife, but says she is doing fine now.

"Captain cranky pants over here," Afrika America told the Bay Area Reporter. "I'm supposed to be doing other stuff with my life today, this week. That's OK — life goes on, things happen."

A drag ambassador for Drag Out the Vote, which encourages people to register and vote in elections, America told the B.A.R. she had just wrapped up a performance at the Midnight Sun bar at 4067 18th Street and was waiting for a car from a ride-hailing app, at around 11:45 p.m. on November 6.

"I literally live up the street," she said. "As we were walking out, this guy and a gal were walking past a bar and they threw a bottle — but I want to make it clear they were just crazy, they weren't aiming for gay people, but they were mad about something. They threw the bottle at a street light."

While America said they "weren't aiming for gay people," drag performer Nitrix Oxide, who was with America, said that the pair did hurl homophobic slurs at the group.

"A guy and his girlfriend threw a bottle at a lamppost which shattered and they responded with f-slurs," Oxide told the B.A.R. "Afrika and the other guy with us said they'd heard it. We basically told them to go away, knock it off."

America said she told them not to throw bottles, at which point "they started cursing at us and we said 'just go.'"

It was then that, in the words of Oxide, "the girlfriend pulled a knife." America said that right beforehand, the woman repeatedly said, "I'll cut you."

"She pulls out a knife and lunges at one of the guys, and I tried to disarm her," America said, continuing that the two engaged in a physical struggle after that. "I didn't feel the knife cut me."

The two suspects were able to get away.

"This all happened in 30 seconds to a minute," America said. "It was really fast. Then I realized 'Oh shit, I'm bleeding.'"

America was surprised she didn't feel the blade.

"Her knife must've been so sharp I didn't feel it cut me," she said. "Cops came. I did a police report, gave a decent description of what they look like. I ran home."

America later received five stitches on her left forearm at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center on Geary Boulevard.

The San Francisco Police Department could not initially find a report of the incident but did several days after the initial online publication of this report.

"On November 7, 2023 at approximately 12:06 a.m., San Francisco Police Officers were dispatched to the 4000 block of 18th Street on a report of a stabbing," spokesperson Kathryn Winters stated. "Upon arrival, officers met with the victim who had an apparent laceration. The victim had already self-administered first aid and refused further medical attention. The victim told officers that they had become engaged in a verbal altercation with the suspect who had been throwing bottles in the area. In the course of the argument, the suspect produced a knife and lunged at the victim. I [sic] struggle ensued over the knife and the victim suffered a laceration in the course of the struggle. The suspect fled the scene prior to officers' arrival."

"No arrests were made and this remains an open and active investigation," Winters continued.

When told the news of what'd happened, gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman stated, "That's awful."

"Unfortunately, stories like this have become all too common in San Francisco," Mandelman continued. "We have an epidemic of untreated mental illness and substance use disorder. I am encouraged by the movement at the state level to expand the use of conservatorship, but there's still a ton of work to make sure we have appropriate facilities to get very sick people the care they need."

Mandelman has long supported conservatorships, but San Francisco has lagged in using them even after a state law by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) was signed by then-governor Jerry Brown in 2018 that expanded who could be conserved. Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 43 by lesbian state Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) that will modernize state conservatorship laws for the first time in 50 years, his office stated. According to a news release from Newsom's office, the law updates the definition for those eligible for conservatorship to include people who are unable to provide for their personal safety or necessary medical care, in addition to food, clothing, or shelter, due to either severe substance use disorder or serious mental health illnesses.

Oxide, who has been working as a drag performer in San Francisco for six years, and America, also a longtime fixture of the city's queer cultural scene, agreed that working in nightlife often comes with risks.

"It's always been like this," Oxide said. "I just always tell people, whether you're seeing a show or if you're a performer, tell people where you're going and it's good to travel in groups if going to another bar — just always let people know what you're doing and where you're going next."

America said she felt obligated to get involved.

"Everyone's in an avoidance situation — 'avoid the crackheads' — and I do think they were on something," America said. "But you can't be afraid in your own community to support and protect each other.

"Your streets will never be safe if you keep ignoring it," America added. "It'll get worse and worse and worse and then you'll get pushed out and we don't want that, but we also want to be sensitive to people living on the streets. That's why we do have the care teams assigned when you see someone having an issue. That's why there's a lot more compassionate care, but when you have people threatening each other — I'm not trying to be Joan of Arc, but I am a superwoman."

The city's coordinated street response program urges people who see others having medical or mental health emergencies to call 911, and people who want to get help with support for unhoused people, encampments, syringes and hazardous waste to call 311. Street crisis response teams consist of paramedics, a behavioral health specialist, and a peer support specialist.

Anyone with information is asked to contact SFPD at 415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 and begin the message with SFPD at 415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411.

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

Updated, 11/14/23: This article has been updated with comments from SFPD.

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