The ink of Joe Biden’s signature officializing the Juneteenth holiday had not even dried yet, but that didn’t stop promoters from doing what they do. So immediately, they sprang into action, scrambling at the last minute to somehow capitalize and tie the holiday to speedo-clad weekend pool parties, beach events, and muscle boy fiestas, all in the good name of honoring the emancipation proclamation.
One such promoter, a prominent presence on the Fire Island scene, found himself in hot water this weekend when one of his event flyers began circulating on Facebook to promote a sexy underwear party on June 19th. That promoter, Daniel Nardicio, posted the flier and it looked reasonably innocuous at first until I scanned down further and noticed,
“$20 COVER OR $15 AT THE DOOR WITH PASSWORD “JUNETEENTH” OR IN ANDREW CHRISTIAN UNDIES.”
Ok, Yikes. There’s so much to unpack here. But I’ll start with the obvious. Even if we were to look past the insensitivity of using the days-old name of the first national holiday to commemorate the end of slavery, as a password for an underwear party, I can’t ignore the fact that the flier itself features two white guys. Like yoooo, where da bruthas at?
Seriously, that was the easiest, most low-hanging fruit of things NOT to f*CK up, and yet there it is. No black men on the flier? I would be remiss not to also mention the caption that accompanied the post stated,
“Tonight we celebrate Juneteenth at Dwolrd Underwear Party on Fire Island with Corey Craig and special guest gogo Maine Attraction!”
Celebrate how, exactly? I was confused by the two white guys again. Well, it wasn’t just me who was perplexed as this announcement went over very poorly for many who found the marketing campaign offensive.
And I have to say I winced when I saw it play out on Facebook in real-time before Nardicio took down the post. In the thread that accompanied the post, Nardicio was basically accused of insensitively capitalizing on black suffering by promoting a party to a predominately white, homogenized demographic. In one exchange, Nardicio fired back, “Well would it be better to ignore it and not celebrate it at all?”
That response prompted me to reply, but as I was typing my answer, the post quickly vanished before I could finish; it seems like it got removed by Nardicio, who hopefully understood the severity of this misstep.
Corey Craig, who is African American and a legendary presence himself as a renowned DJ – and whose name appears on the flier, also found himself on the receiving end of some public backlash. Someone took him to task for the situation, however that is a misdirected criticism. Corey is NOT the event promoter. Additionally, Corey has for years been a leading advocate for diversifying Fire Island and ushering in a new generation of LGBTQIA people of color.
As I checked out the social posts for the event on Nardicio’s Facebook wall, it appears that maybe the marketing flier had already been created for the underwear party featuring the two white models. So when Juneteenth became a national hot item, it seems hastily it got added as a quick promotional afterthought to boost interest in the event.
Whatever the reason, Nardicio faced a bit of dragging on social media as this blew up. As I mentioned, he took the post down.
So, look, I have never met Nardicio, but I follow him on Facebook, and though I believe the Juneteenth debacle warrants some criticism, I don’t believe it was done with malice or intent to harm. From what I understand, he is a very good guy who often promotes his events with diversity and inclusion, using a mix of white models and models of color. And also, this underwear event does feature “Maine attraction,” who is a notable queer, black burlesque queen.
I genuinely believe this situation can be a great teachable moment for white people if they are willing to learn that they must be cautious around sensitive narratives like race and slavery— even when well-intended. These complex issues must never be reduced to buzz words or promo codes for the sake of commercialization – or without proper context. It’s no different than cringe-worthy fliers promoting MLK weekends, whereas the event has nothing to do with the plight for equality. For God’s sake, at least give 10% of the event proceeds to a black inequity organization and make it all relative.
I acknowledge too, the matter of race is a mine field these days. It’s especially so for white people in the wake of Black Lives Matter and the global riots around the George Floyd murder. Truthfully, many well-meaning white people, including Nardicio are walking on eggshells not knowing even how or IF they should celebrate Juneteenth with their fellow African Americans. As we see, things can go south pretty quickly when it’s not done thoughtfully.
Personally, rather than drag Nardicio on social media, I would rather share dialogue and answer the question he posed to his Facebook detractor of “would it be better to ignore it and not celebrate it at all?”
I would offer in response, no, please don’t ignore it. We want you and everyone to celebrate Juneteenth with us, but in doing so, just be mindful of what it means for 48,000,000+ African Americans who would take offense to it being reduced to a discount code for entrance into an underwear party full of mostly white people.
So hey, next Juneteenth, let’s do this again …but next time put some sexy chocolate boys on that flier baby!
For those wanting to be part of a more progressive and diverse Fire Island experience, please check out Black and Brown Equity Coalition of Cherry Grove (BABEC)