MasQUEERade Ball gives youth a space to celebrate LGBTQ+ culture

By Justin Anderson, Photojournalist

Queering the Parks, a new youth-run initiative working to create more safe and inclusive public spaces for young members of the LGBTQ+ community, celebrated queer culture at the MasQUEERade Ball in the Austin neighborhood’s Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd.

The Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks event series and Howard Brown Health worked in collaboration with Queering the Parks to make the Sunday, Nov. 17 event happen. The ball was for teens and young adults between the ages of 13 and 24 who wanted to be “seen, heard, and affirmed,” according to the Queering the Parks event page.

Since the beginning of the year, Queering the Parks has also held a BBQ and pool party for LGBTQ+ youth. The MasQUEERade acts as the group’s culmination of the 2019 event series.

“It’s really cool to create spaces for queer people in Chicago to come together,” said Jacob Rosenblum, a volunteer at the ball. “I’m excited to see a lot of people have fun and be their fullest selves all in one space.”

Upon entering the MasQUEERade, participants were welcomed by music from DJ Hijo Pródigo, plenty of food and a building full of teens. Although the ball didn’t officially start until 6 p.m., those who were eager to get ready were able to arrive an hour early to get their hair and makeup done by members of Pivot Point Academy, a Bloomingdale-based beauty school.

Not too long after arriving, guests found themselves crowded in the ballroom for a variety of performances from Ebonni Watford’s deeply personal poem about discovering themself to a show by Chicago-native Darling Shear, who danced across the room while artistically weaving her two giant feather fans into the performance. The celebration continued well into the night, officially ending at 10 p.m.

“It’s really cool that our park district is creating intentional spaces like this,” Rosenblum said. “I think that’s an awesome precedent for lots of park districts.”