In case you haven’t heard, Papi Juice is a Brooklyn-based dance party and kiki that celebrates queer and trans people of color as well as their allies in an environment in which the only rule is to be yourself. And have fun, of course. Started by Adam R, Mohammed Fayaz, and Oscar Nñ, Papi Juice is making a visible impact on queer nightlife in New York City with music curated to a thematic event and featured artists such as Princess Nokia.
But it’s more than just a chance to vogue the night away. Committed to creating an intentional space for marginalized members of the queer community, Papi Juice is allowing others to be who they are without fear of judgement or isolation. Feeling identified and excited at the same time? Then, get ready because they’re celebrating the last party of this year: this Saturday, October 20, head to Elsewhere in Brooklyn for the night of your life. But before, read this interview, where we speak with the guys behind the queer party collective about the beginning of Papi Juice, its impact on queer and trans people of color, and what it means to be a queer person of color in modern America.
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First things first. Please introduce yourselves to our readers and tell us how you came up with the fabulous name Papi Juice. It sounds so unique and fun that I have to know the story behind it.
Papi Juice is a collective consisting of three members: Adam R, Mohammed Fayaz, and Oscar Nñ. Adam and Oscar are the co-founders and resident DJs, while Mohammed is our illustrator and creative director. The name Papi Juice came up the week before our first party. We were scrambling to come up with a name, and we wanted something that was cheeky and fun but that also alluded to Adam and Oscar’s Caribbean backgrounds. So we were spitballing names and then Oscar said something about including the word ‘papi’, and then Adam said, “Papi Juice!”
All three of you hail from New York City, a city of close to nine million people. How then did it come about that you guys met each other, and what were your initial reactions of each other like?
You know what’s hilarious? We all met because of Tumblr! Even though this might hint at how old we are, we all met in 2011-2012. Adam and Oscar also met because they had a mutual friend but they had been following each other on Tumblr for a while. And then, Oscar and Mohammed met on Tumblr, which led to Oscar inviting him to the first party, which Mohammed instantly fell in love with. A few months later, the Papis asked Mohammed to design the fifth flyer, and he eventually joined the team.
Papi Juice is a Brooklyn-based dance party and kiki celebrating queer and trans people of color and their allies. What was the inspiration behind such a movement, and why did you three feel the need to create this safe space for queer and trans people of color?
First things first, we actually don’t believe in using the term ‘safe space’! For queer or trans people of color, safety is never a guarantee, so we rather talk about our spaces as ‘intentional’ rather than safe. We’ve known this for a while, but this was only further exemplified by the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in 2016.
Anyways, we decided to create this intentional space because we were tired of going out to traditional gay male/queer spaces and feeling like they weren’t for us. We’d all always loved nightlife and when we were little queer babies, these spaces were so exciting. But after a while, we all realized that they weren’t really for us or, at least, they didn’t feel like they were. This feeling also extended to art spaces. Adam and I initially bonded about creating our own art/music space while gallery hopping in Chelsea. We then went to a bar and, after a shot of tequila with our friend (who was the bar manager at the time), we were signed up for a party the week after.
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As an intentional space, people can feel free and be themselves. Are there any memorable stories people from your parties have told you that have stayed with you guys over the years?
One of our favorite things to hear is how so many friends, relationships, and even collectives came together after having met at Papi Juice. There have also been times, like after big social tragedies, that friends have mentioned to us how important the space is to them and how happy they are that they can come and experience it.
Mohammed, your illustrations for Papi Juice are vibrant yet fun but, most importantly, real. Why illustrate flyers that may not be visually appealing to some but more representative of the community as a whole? They are definitely more relatable than any party flyer that I have ever seen.
Mohammed: My constant inspiration for the flyers is the beautiful crowd that comes through. Party flyers in New York often have a noisy, internet aesthetic to them, and I love that our flyers look as colorful and vibrant as the actual event does. If you’ve never been, it’s the perfect introduction as to what to expect, and if you’ve been many times, it can invoke the good vibes of the party. It’s important that our bodies are front and center in natural ways—folks dancing together, touching one another, kissing, flirting, or even rocking solo because it’s like that too sometimes. I don’t have to look far when sitting down to make the next one: it’s all our beautiful skin tones in conversation with fabric, hair textures, accessories, and color that creates the full look.
Adam and Oscar, you both are incredibly talented DJs. Name the top three songs from each of your sets that get the party turnt up and that you would never not play at a Papi Juice party.
Oscar: That’s so hard! Honestly, my set changes almost for every party, so I don’t think I could pick three songs that I never not play. When the party started, I know I’d play at least one Selena track and people would love that. But now, it just depends on the vibe. I remember closing out our last big party in August at 5 am with I Am Blessed by Mr Vegas and that was iconic.
Adam: There’s no guarantee these are on every set I play but it’s pretty likely you will hear one of them. I'm Every Woman by Chaka Khan, Finally by CeCe Peniston, and pretty much anything by Kaytranada.
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Even though there are individuals like Laverne Cox and RuPaul, you don’t see many queer people of color in mainstream media. Why do you think mainstream media is so reluctant to share their stories especially since white, cisgender gay men are gradually becoming more accepted by society?
Because they feel like these stories are not relatable to mainstream society. Even though, with the recent successes of Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, and Moonlight, we know that queerness is not the only story we’re telling, and that crowds are actually able to relate to the complexities of our identities.
What have your experiences been like as queer people of color not only in the gay community but also in American society?
We could write a whole dissertation about this (laughs). But we’re just going to say that our experiences living in New York City are so different from a lot of people in the United States – especially folks living in smaller towns or in the South. In New York, there’s a big community, whereas in smaller places, these communities are just starting to come together. It’s exciting to see that because it shows that there’s a change coming!
What do you think about the current state of the gay community and the hidden racism and transphobia that runs through it? Most people tend to hide these beliefs as “preferences” on apps like Grindr for example.
We’re not sure that in 2018 we need to talk anyone out of their choice of racism, transphobia, or femmephobia. We’ve come to this political climate where folks have an entire world of knowledge and resources available to them – even Teen Vogue will help you work through your racism if you want to. Ultimately, these are not our people, not our allies, not our community (despite what the media will tell you every Pride). We’re uninterested in proving our humanity to anyone.
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Where do you see Papi Juice going in the future beyond that of a party space for queer people of color? And also when is your next party? I’m waiting for my invite as we speak.
Come through! Our next party is actually this Saturday, October 20! It’s our last one of the year, so it’s bound to be a big and happy one. One question for you is, when are we playing a METAL party in Spain? Some of us have never been and we’ve heard that the paella is to die for (smile).
In terms of where we see Papi Juice going, we’re actually just working on it. We’d love to travel to as many different places as possible and have parties there as we meet our global queer familia. There is nothing sweeter than being in a new city and finding your folks, especially under the backdrop of the dance floor.
The latest Papi Juice party of 2018 will take place on Saturday, October 20, at Elsewhere, 599 Johnson Avenue, Brooklyn.
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