There’s a new crew in town and they’re building a movement: Fresh to Def. “We’re planning a takeover of the city — a black out,” jokes Leroy Newbold who, along with Elisha Lim and Kalmplex, runs the new queer night at the Gladstone’s Melody Room, Fresh to Def.
“It’s a party specifically for two-spirited peoples and queer people of colour,” says Newbold; allies and queer-positive people are welcome, of course.
The weekly Wednesday party has a different theme each night. “We want parties with political themes, we’re building a movement,” says Newbold.
“There’s a lot of parties in the queer community but they’re mainly targeted for white people,” says Kalmplex. As a dark-skinned black person with dreadlocks, Kalmplex has felt uncomfortable in queer spaces that play black music yet don’t welcome black folk. “They play our music and it’s really uncomfortable because either they exoticize us or they blatantly disrespect us,” says Kalmplex.
“We want it to be a safe space for queer people on the fringes of everything,” says Newbold, noting that trans folk, the poor and disabled queers don’t have access to many parties in the village. “Finally, here’s a space where you are a priority, where you are the VIP guest. This is a place where you matter,” says Lim.
Lim credits Gladstone manager Christina Zeidler for helping to get the idea off the ground. “Christina put it in my lap and I ran with it,” says Lim. Then Lim hassled Newbold, emailing the self-proclaimed “Little Baby Fag Boy,” writing “Everything you touch turns to gold. I want you to be involved.”
Noticing how big the project was, Lim and Newbold approached Kalmplex, an experienced local promoter and DJ. “Kamlplex is good at what she does, she’s really good at setting a mood. I love every time she gets on the microphone. So it seemed like a natural thing,” says Lim.
Obsession and hard work has brought success. A tribute to Michael Jackson filled the space to capacity. “There was a demand, a need, a wish for an MJ tribute, so we filled that need,” says Lim. “It was fitting — a person of colour celebrated by the queer community. It was a great dance event.”
Different groups work in conjunction with Fresh to Def: Queers against Israeli Apartheid, Black Queer Youth, Asian Community AIDS Services, Come As You Are, and Good For Her have all supported the new night.
“I think that what makes something work is when it really listens to the people it wants to serve. If you’re a QPOC [queer person of colour] out there and if you have an idea that hasn’t been given an opportunity I want to hear about it. I want Fresh to Def to be an opportunity for people to do things,” says Lim.