The Illinois Humanities Council hosted a conversation about drag, gender and community with the creators of two well-known drag stars at the Empty Bottle in Ukrainian Village on Sept. 3. About 70 people attended the sold-out event.
Daniel Alexander Jones talked about his character Jomama Jones, an R&B soul singer popular for her political commentary. She was inspired by the pop divas of the late 1970s and early ’80s.
During that time, there was a “group of artists who represent a kind of blackness that I don’t see anymore,” Jones says. Jomama styles natural hair and produces political lyrical content. According to Jones, the music of that time “provided nourishment for the community… [it] went away for a while but it is coming back.”
Jones took a hiatus from drag performance in the late-1990s and moved to the Swiss Alps to shepherd goats. After a bad breakup, he fell into a severe depression. He credits Jomama with saving him, and he resumed performances in 2008.
“The ritual practice of taking another’s identity is our human right,” Jones says, and it “dates back before white supremacy.” Jones speaks strongly about agency and encouraged audience members to make their own platform: “Take the stage ’cause it’s yours.”
Justin Honard, creator of the character Alaska Thunderf**k, also participated in the conversation.