Installed in Philadelphia’s “gayborhood”, “Finally on 13th”, created by Nile Livingston, is a vibrant mural that celebrates the importance of the Philadelphia Ballroom scene and the lives of the legendary originators that started this local community.
This mural is an attempt at giving legendary Philadelphia Ballroom figures their flowers. Such figures pictured in the mural include Michael Gaston, Tina Cartier, Kerri Mizahri, Renee Karan, Aber Cartier, Kelly Harper, Alvernian Prestigue, Jay Blahnik, Meechie Lanvin, and Jacen Bowman. They are the cultural forbearers who established Philly’s scene with little external fanfare and plenty of local need from a community countering numerous oppressive attacks.
An intensive discovery process was conducted to help inform the direction of the mural’s design. Reaching out to those in the community was a massive aid in creating a visual of Philadelphia Ballroom changemakers that would resonate with folx who experienced the people in their mural design, as well as to inform the future. The knowledge embedded in the mural design comes from the open and vulnerable Ballroom community, especially Jacen Bowman, who delved into his personal archives to reveal the true essence of the Philadelphia Ballroom scene. Additional materials were gathered, such as ballroom programs and invitations from Alvernian, along with photos, vocabulary, and stories from other key figures in Philly Ballroom.
Despite claims of progress in America, it is important to recognize the persistent social ignorance and rejection that led to the creation of alternative social spaces, especially for Black and LGBTQIA communities. People of color often face economic instability, lack access to quality healthcare, and, when visibly different, endure heightened vulnerability, threatening every aspect of their lives. This awareness informs the narrative portrayed in “Finally on 13th” and is a tribute to the significance of everyday moments in our diverse Philadelphia community. We are whole human beings whose capacity for life transgresses joy, humor, pain, and grief.