OTA Weekly Challenges Ballroom Politics

Following the success of the Emmy award-winning show Pose, ballroom culture has found itself in the mainstream once more. Its first introduction to the mainstream is often attributed to Madonna’s “Vogue,” which sparked the vogueing dance craze, and the cult classic documentary “Paris is Burning.” While it first gained popularity during the AIDS epidemic, ballroom in 2019 faces a presidential administration that is notably silent on the issues faced by Black and Latino LGBT people, the same demographic that pioneered the ballroom scene over 40 years ago. O.T.A., short for Open to All, is a weekly mini ball hosted in Brooklyn by Leggoh LaBeija and Tim Lanvin, who hope to set politics aside in order to foster inclusivity in the true spirit of ballroom. Reporter Artan Ljukovic hit Bushwick to find out what ballroom and O.T.A. are all about.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to motherf*cking O.T.A. Clap just a little bit, clap! Clap just a little bit, clap!”

I’m at the 3 Dollar Bill nightclub where the crowd is dressed to the nines, ready to leave it all on the floor tonight. That’s Leggoh Labeija getting the crowd pumped up for a competitive night. O.T.A. opened its doors this past July. Every week, members of houses compete against each other in categories like runway, executive realness and vogue. In attendance tonight are members of the House of LaBeija, the House of Makaveli, the House of Mizrahi and the House of Mugler. The House of Mugler showed out tonight, just listen to the chants.

“Mugler! Mugler! Mugler!”

Back in the 80s, houses were established as chosen families in order to give Black and Latino LGBT youth a sense of belonging. Dai-Dai LaBeija explains their importance.

“Ballroom is a place where Black young, Latino young kids would come back in the 60s and 70s because they had no other place to go. It was a place where you could be an executive, you could be a supermodel, you could be a performer, you could be a dancer for that night, you know?”

Ballroom can easily become an escapists paradise; it’s a means to get out of the real world for a bit. But the competition can get very intense sometimes, leading to tension within the community. While commentating, Leggoh LaBeija took a moment to address the issue.

“One thing we’re not going to do is treat someone of our own, when we already have a world that treats us a certain kind of way. Don’t look for someone to die, then say ‘Oh.’ No, we’re not doing that.”

To him, ballroom should foster friendly competition, harmless shade and positivity. Here’s what said to me.

“Shady stuff is, you know, fine, being mean and evil, you know, I don’t tolerate that. I think that’s what made me different from other commentators at first. I like to consider myself a really good commentator, and that I’m in the House of LaBeija, but I think it’s the fact that people really want to have fun. So when you’re leading the event, as long as you feed off of that want, you’re always going to have a positive vibe, as long as you make people feel seen.”

But being seen is something that the Black and Latino LGBT community struggles with in regards to politics and society in general. So far this year, 21 transgender people were murdered, 18 of whom were Black women. President Trump and politicians countrywide have been criticized for failing to address the issue. LeFrierce LaBeija offered a hopeful outlook on the issue.

“Right now if we stand together and fight, then we all can achieve something. Like if we go and protest, as a whole, against everything that this presidential, the person that is in the seat right now, is throwing at us, we can overcome it – that man. If we stand together, we can overcome it. His time is ticking, it’ll be shorter than Vine vids.”

American politics aside, the political nature of favoritism plays a large role in determining who leaves with trophies and who doesn’t. When founding the House of LaBeija in 1977, this is something that Crystal LaBeija was adamant about fixing. Unfortunately, she died of liver failure in 1982, before realizing her goals. Current house father, Freddie LaBeija, hopes to carry that torch.

“You have individuals that may pick their girlfriend when it comes to the judges, you know. The fairness is being taken out of ballroom. Ballroom was built on exactly what’s going on in ballroom now, which is the negative stuff, the politics. That’s what Crystal fought for not to happen in ballroom, so what we do is we stay together as a family, we go through struggles, um stuff like that.”

But politics are just the underbelly of what goes on in ballroom. Habibi Makaveli, who’s just watching tonight sees OTA to be a safe spaces. He says a person can expect more than just politics and competition.

“They can expect, like, the troublemakers in class to, like, win in this narrative if that makes sense. Like the ones that are getting told that they’re doing the most, like, that’s what makes this so great and fun just because we’re getting praise for being expressive, for being ourselves, yea.”

Reporting from 3 Dollar Bill’s OTA Weekly mini ball series, this is Artan Ljukovic.

Final Podcast Project Pitch

For my final two podcasts, I’d like to explore New York City night life focusing on a more younger crowd (early/mid 20’s.) I would like two have my episode to follow people who are involved in this so I will be interviewing 21 year old Danielle Sanchez, who is a big social butterfly and loves to party. She has hosted a couple of parties at various bars and clubs and will be hosting a Halloween party in Meatpacking. I will also would be interviewing two DJ’s who have created a party that they bring to other places.

Pitch for Final Podcast Project

For my final podcast project, I want to explore the growing community at the Piers in the Brooklyn, New York. With the additions of parks and attractions to the pier, people from all over New York travel to experience it. Reporting on what drew them to the park and how they have watch it evolve over the years could be a great story to tell.

Class Agenda: Wednesday, October 30

Discussion: Principles of Longer-Form Storytelling

Story arc: There should be a beginning, middle, and end to your story. In an episodic format, there are often mini narrative arcs within each episode and longer arcs that unfold over a whole series.

  • Exposition: The introduction of background information, such as setting and backstories of characters
  • Rising Action: Some sort of momentum is engaged. Conflict and motivations come into play.
  • Climax: Turning point for the character(s), as the conflict comes to a head.
  • Falling Action: Immediate fallout from climax.
  • Resolution: Lessons learned, loose ends tied up.

 

Things to keep in mind:

Motivation: What does the character want?

Character development: How does the character change?

Pacing/Structure: Sometimes, stories don’t unfold chronologically. One storytelling device is to begin in the middle of things and use flashbacks to slowly help the exposition and backstory come into focus in an intriguing way.

Music: What is the theme for your podcast? How can you use it judiciously to enhance but not distract from your story?

How are these principles the same/different in journalistic storytelling compared to fiction?

As you’re planning your podcast episodes, it might help to have this to refer to. Here’s a typical structure for an episodic podcast:

Intro theme song.

Welcome from host.

Any announcements (live tapings, upcoming shows, ads/fundraisers, etc.)

Introduce episode/segment.

Play episode/segment.

Final comments from host: Credits, website, please rate and review on iTunes, etc.

Outro theme song.

It’s not required for this class, but if you intend to distribute your podcasts online, you’ll want to consider designing a graphic for your podcast. Something simple that captures the identity of your show, at a minimum size of 1400×1400.

You will also want to check out how to submit a podcast to iTunes.

In-Class Assignment: 

We’re going to resume listening to the first episode of S-Town. While we listen, I want you to take notes. We’re going to deconstruct the episode, essentially, and then talk about it together on Monday.

Storytelling like this sounds effortless when it’s done well, but if you really pay attention, it becomes clear just how much thought and intention goes into every element of a scripted podcast like this. So as we play the episode, mark down time codes of the different scenes and sections of the podcast and describe what is happening in terms of the storytelling elements we have discussed above. Like this:

0:00-0:30 Spotify ad.

0:30: “Chapter One.” Extended metaphor about antique clocks, and clockmakers who fix them. Intriguing music slowly builds. Angle/theme introduced.

“I’m told fixing an old clock can be maddening… you’re constantly wondering if you’ve just spent hours going down a path that will take you nowhere, and all you’ve got are these vague witness marks which might not even mean what you think they mean. So at every moment along the way you’ve got to decide if you’re wasting your time or not. Anyway, I only learned about all this because years ago an antique clock restorer contacted me, John B. Macklemore, and asked me to help him solve a murder.” Exposition: main characters (both Brian and John) and motivation introduced. John wants help solving this murder. Brian wants a good story. This request is the spark that sets into motion everything that follows.

2:15: Music changes abruptly. Becomes much more dramatic. We are teased with clips of John’s phone call saying something about how “something’s happened.” We also hear him reference this “shit town.” This is very important and intentional, timing-wise, because in just a few more seconds, that will be announced as the title of the whole podcast.

2:48: We finally get to the actual title. “From Serial and This American Life, I’m Brian Reed. This is Shit Town.” Dramatic music ends.

3:00-17:59: No music. Now we get to a pretty straightforward narrative where Brian tells us about reading the first email from John in 2012. He sets up the phone call with John and we hear the phone ring. There may be some editing, but for the next fifteen minutes or so it sounds as if the phone call more or less plays out as it unfolded in real time. John tells Brian about the town where he lives, why he thinks someone from an influential family in town is getting away with murder, and about himself. We hear about the maze he maintains on his land, his mother who he takes care of, and about his depression. These details are not directly relevant to the murder storyline but they tell us something about John, who is a complicated character.

17:59: 

Homework: For next class, listen to episodes 2 and 3 and come prepared to discuss them.

Close The Camps

Immigrant treatment and policy has become a major topic throughout the nation with the current administration of the United States. On October 11th the Democratic Society of America worked towards highlighting some issues around immigration by providing information on what’s happening globally regarding immigration and how big corporations are helping ICE. Freeni Aragones spoke with Louis (29 years old) an employee for the DSA immigrant justice working group, and one of the organizers Elisiah (26 years old) to get a better insight.

The Democratic Socialistic of America have been working together throughout the Unites States tackling multiple issues, recently they coordinated a protest at Bryant park to bring more awareness towards the nationwide camps made that hold immigrants and how ICE is putting them there.

DSA chapters are organizing all over the country through a mobilization primarily lead by coalition to close the concentration camps this weekend’s so organizations including lots of DSA chapters are organizing nationwide, that’s important because this is a federal agency we are fighting against. Then the other thing is fighting against ice on the local level, one of the biggest things we have been engaged in is ICE out of the courts campaign.

Yeah, we are trying to stop ICE from detaining immigrants at their court dates, it’s a big problem, they were being arrested going to court and inside. It was something that didn’t pass the way we wanted it to, but we are bringing it back for the next legislative session, and we hope to win. It’s also important to remember the camp are not just at the border, they are everywhere, ICE is in New York city, not just along the southern border. It’s a national mobilization, these mobilizations are happening globally like Elisiah was saying, and it’s just part of a much larger movement, and the DSA is just one organization.

The DSA is dealing with two issues at once and have to find a way to go about addressing both. On one side you have ICE who is imprisoning immigrants in camps separating numerous families, while on the other end you have large companies making substantial profits in aiding ICE towards their goals.

It needs to be two pronged because there is the government’s responsibility, that can be targeted through government actions, federal administrative action, but also through the corporate end, because these corporations have these contracts worth multi-million dollars, we should be doing things like public pressure, boycotts, and worker actions. Salesforce has had workers of salesforce try to get the company to end its contracts. All these things that you can do the end the corporate profiteering, but because we know the economic motivations are as strong as the politic will and we need to end both.

That’s an important point, economic motivations influence a lot of the decision’s companies make globally. They attempt to figure out what a consumer wants and shapes a product to that description. Ads online are ways companies target consumers and try to influence how we spend. However, if people begin to realize how much power they have as a consumer they can shape their own request by putting pressure to a company’s bottom line.

This was a simultaneous action between New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. We are trying to do things more in tandem. A lot of the chapters had been acting more autonomously, we are trying to do things more synchronized now. The idea is just to reach more people outside the organization, if people say for example, they would stop buying things from Amazon, the pressure would be enormous. These contracts are huge but the amount of money they make from the public in general dwarfs it, if we can get even a fractions of Amazons customers or salesforce contracts to either stop utilizing their service or threaten to, it can be hugely impactful.

The other thing is both Amazon and Saleforce , it’s about pointing out how all these companies are implicated and complicate in what ICE is doing, and highlighting that so that they can cut their contract and thus make more it difficult for ice and border patrol to do what they do.

Thank you for listening, from Baruch College to the world this is Freeni Aragones.

Tevin’s Radio Story Pitch

For the final radio story series I would like to do a feature of different hackers that reside in New York City. I think there is a stigma about hacking but I believe this may be because of the narrative that movies, TV-shows and the media often paint. I would like to present the story of a real-life person who identifies as a hacker and why they identify as hackers. I would like to ask them what being a hacker means to them and how has identifying as such hurt of harm their reputation or people’s perception of them in any way. I would also like to learn their philosophy behind what is ethical hacking and unethical hacking. I believe this would be an interesting story for people who would like to learn more about why these people do what they do, who they are and why they do what they do. Hopefully they can also teach listeners a few things about how to stay safe and void of being hacked.

Class Agenda: Monday, Oct. 28

Today in class: Pitch workshop

Important note: I’m changing the requirements of the length of your two episodes from 10-15 minutes to 8-12 minutes. This is because the extension on the last project means you’ll have less time to work on this one.

Upcoming dates:

Script edits on your first episode: Monday, Nov. 11

Episode #1 due: Wednesday, Nov. 20

Podcast Pitch

I was thinking of doing a podcast based on sports conspiracies. This is inspired by a podcast I listened to called “Sports Criminals”. I wanted to get a sense of how people perceive the way sports are constructed and if they are biased. I think this will have an impact on betting odds and other components people think are important to the functioning of sports.