Thee Debauchery Ball is screen now through June 24 at Northwest Film Forum.
Thee Debauchery Ball is screening now through June 24 at Northwest Film Forum. Courtesy of NWFF
Of the many images that have been seared into my brain from the past three weeks of protests over the killing of George Floyd, is one of a float carrying speakers in Detroit, blasting techno. "No justice, no peace, no racist police!" the protestors chant over Bruno Furlan’s “Line Five." Detroit is, famously, the birthplace of techno, which came specifically from the queer Black community in the late '80s.

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Despite the whitewashing of the genre over the years, the foundation of techno was and continues to be extremely political and extremely Black. The float's presence in the city's march calling for justice for Black victims of police brutality underscores that history and the kind of Black joy and freedom associated with it.

David Weatherly's documentary Thee Debauchery Ball—currently screening online via Northwest Film Forum—wasn't made anticipating this moment in Black and American history, but is an interesting document of the impact music has in creating spaces of exploration (spiritual, emotional, sexual) within the Black community.

Set in Chicago and orienting itself around the city's house music scene—another genre of music birthed by Black queers—the documentary illuminates the bi-annual event celebrating BDSM, house, and Blackness, as well as the partygoers, DJs, and hosts associated with it.

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Love—for self, for others—and freedom are infused in the roots of the private ball. In that space, Black people don fetish gear and leather, tie each other up, dance, kiss, be naked, rub on each other, all without the prying eyes of a society that constantly polices and scrutinizes our every move.

"Thee Debauchery Ball, specifically for African-Americans, just means a freedom that we typically don't have in our everyday lives," says one partygoer. The film is a reminder that the dance floor can be a place—or perhaps, state—of Black liberation, too.

Thee Debauchery Ball is screening now through June 24 at Northwest Film Forum. All of the proceeds from these screenings will be donated to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County and Lavender Rights Project's WA Black Trans Task Force. Find out where to get tickets here and watch the trailer below:

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