Drag King Rappers Get Real

  • by Liz Highleyman
  • Sunday March 13, 2016
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Drag kings may not yet be as well known as drag queens, but Alex U. Inn and the Momma's Boyz are doing their part to change that with their new monthly showcase, Kingdom!, which aims to both raise king visibility and raise money for community organizations.

The next Kingdom!, coming up March 10 at Brick and Mortar Music Hall, will be a benefit for the Dyke March. Alex Carmen Morrison, a Bay Area Reporter "Besties" nominee for Best Drag King, said the contest will feature ten drag kings, with a focus on encouraging kings of color and young kings.

"Many of my brother drag king's names have disappeared" due to Facebook's names policy, explained Morrison, who identifies as a woman with a male drag persona and asked to be referred to as "they." "If you didn't know us already, you wouldn't find us, we wouldn't get hired, and that limits our ability to give back to the community."

After Facebook shut down Alex U. Inn's account - along with those of hundreds of other drag kings and queens accused of not using their "real names" - Morrison became an active member of MyNameIs, a coalition fighting back against the policy.

"We were targeted. That's when we got together and said it was bullcrap," Morrison told the Bay Area Reporter . Spearheaded by Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the group has met with Facebook representatives and succeeded in getting some changes implemented.

"We're still fighting," said Morrison. "We're pleased with some of the changes, but there's more to go."

The Momma's Boyz have been serving up old-school hip hop for twelve years, but Morrison has been doing drag for more than twenty and claims to own over 500 vintage Adidas suits and 300 pairs of shoes.

Along with Morrison, the Momma's Boyz include Kaylah Marin - called Mailman because her voice delivers - and Marla Stewart, though several other singers and dancers have performed with them over the years.

Marin has a gospel singing background and has produced her own CDs. Stewart is a lecturer at Clayton College in Atlanta, with an emphasis on gender and sexuality studies, and organizes the Sex Down South conference.

Morrison grew up as a tomboy in Philadelphia, the youngest of 14 kids, and moved to the Bay Area as a teen, first coming across the local king community in the late 1980s at the annual Ach� retreat for black lesbians, which culminated in a drag king contest.

"I watched the beautiful African kings and I didn't know how to put on facial hair, how to do the walk. But I asked and I learned and as a rookie I came in third" in the first drag king contest they entered, Morrison said.

Long-time readers may remember Morrison as a track and field champion who won multiple gold medals at several Gay Games, having been invited on board by founder Tom Waddell in 1982.

More recently, Morrison has been a member of the Dyke March committee and produced its after-party, was a founding member of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, and served on the Pride Board. Morrison has been married to wife Ellen since 2008 and the couple owns a home in Berkeley.

Momma's Boyz started when Morrison was a hip hop instructor at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy.

"The kids were bringing adult images and songs to class, and we wanted to show them a different way," Morrison recalls.

The Momma's Boyz first song was a customized version of the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," which they performed at a drag king contest at the Make-Out Room in 2004. According to Morrison, they are the only drag king group that sings live in their own voices rather than lip-synching.

Since then the Momma's Boyz have performed regularly at the annual San Francisco Drag King contest and numerous other events in the Bay Area. A highlight of the group's career was performing in front of the Coliseum at EuroPride 2011, and in April they will headline the second Austin International Drag Festival.

Kingdom! debuted in January, a benefit at Balan�oire that raised $1000 for the Transgender Law Center. The second event, held at and benefitting the GLBT History Museum in the Castro, introduced a young and diverse crowd to the venue, where Morrison is helping put together a forthcoming drag king history exhibit, believed to be the first ever.

The January show "probably had more kings of color on stage than any event in the Bay Area," Morrison said. Long before the SF Drag King Contest became popular, there were underground drag king shows and contests, but "much of that went away and a lot of kings of color stopped performing.

"We want to make a big splash for drag kings so we can be on equal footing with our drag queen sisters," Morrison concluded. "We would like more solidarity and more diversity. We want to give kings of color a safe place to come back, or to encourage new ones. We want to keep the art of kinging going, and through this be able to give back to the community."

Kingdom! In Concert, a fundraiser for the Dyke March, with DJ Marke B, takes place at Brick & Mortar Music Hall, March 10, 7pm. $5-$20. 1710 Mission St. www.brickandmortarmusic.com