Galaei’s DARLA award ceremony returns

By Jeremy Rodriguez

For the first time since 2019, galaei will return with its DARLA award ceremony. The Dec. 16 event — which stands for the David Acosta Revolutionary Leadership Awards, named after galaei’s founder — will take place at Voyeur and will honor 13 community members and one collective. Galaei Executive Director Tyrell Brown said that due to the pandemic and a few leadership changes at galaei over the years, the organization did not have the capacity to produce DARLA. However, Brown said galaei had a “renewed idea about how we wanted to celebrate the community” this year.

Drag performer Icon Ebony Fierce will host the event, which will feature performances by Luna Thee Jawnette, Allyria Everlasting, Harley Honey, Dalyla Mizani Cristal, DDA and Mx OURfest Royale Princex Aimis.

Brown said this year’s awardees include a “good mix” of individuals. This includes galaei volunteers, collaborators and former employees as well as performers, students and other professionals. Brown said they are looking forward to the awardees “walk[ing] away feeling really seen and celebrated for the work that they put in this year.”

“But more than that, I think it’s also celebrating just exactly who they are, separated from their labor,” Brown said. “For queer, trans, Black and Brown people — oftentimes, we’re only seeing it through the lens of what we provide in our labor. And this is also a way of saying to them ‘we do appreciate you for just exactly who you are, and showing up in community outside of what you did to contribute to our organization, or to any other.’”

The awardees for this year’s DARLA include:

  • Madelyn Morrison. Known to many in the community as “Aamina,” Morrison has more than 20 years of experience working with Philadelphians, from community activism to working in HIV/AIDS prevention. Currently, she is the director of The Attic Youth Center’s Bryson Institute.
  • Jaq Masters. The Black nonbinary genderqueer North Philly resident is a visual artist, coordinator, organizer and mobilizer with experience in everything from community outreach to fundraising. Masters is invested in the historical shaping of communal living practices, hoping to center the material needs of their community.
  • Tiffany Uma Mascara. The community activist has served on several community coalition boards, including Bantu Safe Haven, a Black and trans-led nonprofit organization which aims to provide safe spaces for Black trans people. Mascara is also the first winner of Snatcherella 3000 and a Miss Crimson Moon Newcomer 2021.
  • DJ Love. The DJ and producer is known for their CUNTY events. According to their artist statement, “DJ Love aims to give back to the community that has shaped them. With an impeccable taste in sound that ranges from Club and Diasporic beats to Techno sounds, DJ Love creates a spiritual experience that immerses listeners in an undeniably magical vibe.”
  • VinChelle. The drag performer has received numerous accolades, including the Philadelphia Inquirer’s “Best of Philly” 2023. While running Shea Butter Werk Productions, VinChelle hosts and produces shows such as “Black Girl Magic,” a show highlighting local Black entertainers. She is also a co-owner of Big Wig Brunch with Live Nation.
  • Lindo Bio Lindo. The Philadelphia-based DJ collective, which formed in 2022, quickly became a staple of the nightlife scene. The collective centers queer and trans people of color within the rave and club culture. Their monthly parties can be found at venues like The Dolphin Tavern and Franky Bradley’s.
  • R3M Sativa. The Afro Boricua and queer nonbinary Philly-based multidisciplinary artist, DJ, producer and activist got involved with galaei at a young age, developing a passion for youth activism. Nowadays, Sativa is the Real World Learning Coordinator at Big Picture Philadelphia, assisting students in job readiness skills and helping them prepare for life after high school.
  • Benjamin Gamarra. Originally hailing from Lima, Peru, Gamarra has been a community advocate who has assisted neighbors from various walks of life in Philadelphia for more than 15 years. The advocate enjoys serving community members and helping them navigate difficult situations.
  • MeLech LaZer. The New York City native was introduced to the leather community in the late 2000s. Then, in 2018, he found a community with ONYX Northeast. He then moved to Philadelphia and has hosted social events for the leather community while fostering a safe space amongst POC and those who love them.
  • Sydney Rae Chin. The proud third-generation Cantonese American is a chef and pleasure curator “nourishing peoples’ bodies, minds, and souls,” according to galaei’s bio. Chin’s grandparents, who owned acclaimed restaurants in Chinatown between the 1970s and early 2000s, inspired their journey into food.
  • Gabby Rodriguez. The young Latinx multimedia creator has collaborated with organizations such as WHYY, Pa Youth Vote, Billy Penn, You Oughta Know, The Pulse, and Youth Engagement Centers. Rodriguez’s passion lies in crafting documentary films that empower youth and explore Latinx identity. Their work has been honored with the 2022 Mid-Atlantic High School Production Award and the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement Impact Award.
  • Martin Alfaro. PGN’s associate publisher is also the founder and CEO of Alfaro Media Consulting, where he works with media clients across the nation to focus on news, innovation and sustainability. Prior to these roles, he was the first-ever general manager of AL DÍA News. Alfaro’s work has been recognized with numerous awards, including recent recognitions in Del Hispano Magazine as Business Innovation Leader and was also ALPFA Philadelphia’s Inspire award recipient in 2023.
  • Mz. Peaches. The performer has won many awards in the Philadelphia nightlife scene recently placed in the top two in Snatcherella 3000 Allstars. She first hit the scene in 2017 and has put forth drag performances with “a mixture of street wear fashion, urban glam and a touch of alternative punk,” according to galaei’s bio.
  • Cupid Bowe. While Bowe has been a staple in Philadelphia’s nightlife scene for the past five years, the performer made the city their home just this year. According to galaei’s bio, “This Non-Binary, Muscle Diva showcases what it means to be unapologetically black and queer. Spreading black joy, love, and light to every stage they come across!”

Proceeds from DARLA will go toward galaei and the goal is to raise $30,000, Brown said. These funds will go toward the community galaei serves, which is QTBIPOC individuals. However, galaei is also trying to keep costs low for attendees. Brown noted how the sponsors for DARLA — including the “Philly Keep on Loving” initiative from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Woody’s, Voyeur, Guard Closet and Unlimited Orange — allows galaei to keep this event at a low cost for those community members who may not be able to attend otherwise.

“[For] the entire LGBTQ community — but particularly for queer and trans Black and Brown people, going to an event like this is something that isn’t in our wheelhouse,” Brown said. “It makes sure that we’re bringing people in and showing people that they can enjoy themselves. So we want to raise some money, but [we] also want to make sure that we’re taking care of and giving people the opportunity to show up and have a good time. DARLA will be held 6:30-10 p.m. Dec. 16 at Voyeur, 1223 St. James St. Tickets are on a sliding scale of $50-$100 but no one will be turned away due to lack of funds. Visit darla.eventbrite.com to purchase tickets or to donate.

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The honorees for this year’s DARLA include (top row from left to right) Madelyn Morrison, Jaq Masters, Jaq Masters, Tiffany Uma Mascara, DJ Love, VinChelle, (middle row from left to right) Lindo Bio Lindo, R3M Sativa, Benjamin Gamarra, MeLech LaZer, (bottom row from left to right) Sydney Rae Chin, Gabby Rodriguez, Martin Alfaro, Mz. Peaches and Cupid Bowe.
Organizers said the annual event is about ensuring people have a place they feel they belong during the holiday season.
Philadelphia plays host to the largest National Coming Out Day (NCOD) event, known as OurFest