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Making a wig and heels political: Black drag queens at the nexus of Black Lives Matter and Pride




Jo Mama’s friends warned her not to protest against police brutality while dressed in drag. If something happened, they argued, people could grab items off of her, or she could become a target.

“So I went in drag on purpose. Kind of in defiance, to be like, ‘You’re going see me,’” the Chicago queen said. “I’m going to be present. You can’t miss me and you’re going to hear my voice.”

With Pride month celebrations halted amid the coronavirus pandemic, Black drag queens are continuing their legacy of protesting inequalities in the U.S. by taking to the streets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, donating to social justice organizations, supporting Black businesses and using their social media platforms to spread messages of support and to share resources. All while wearing glitter-flecked dresses, high heels, wigs and masks. 

Their advocacy comes as protests have unfolded across the nation in recent weeks after the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who was pinned to the ground by officers after being accused of passing a fake $20 bill at a grocery store. Black Lives Matter organizers are calling for local officials to defund police departments and for all Americans to do more to end centuries of systemic racism against Black people in the U.S.

For Bob the Drag Queen, winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 8, the movement is “compounded by a lot of things. Pandemic, people have been living in their homes without income for almost three months. “I can just easily see how that would put someone at their wit’s end.”

Bob, 33, has been directing her more than 1.2 million Instagram followers and 421,000 Twitter followers to resources on how to be an effective ally and help drive legislative change.

At a time when peaceful protesters have been attacked and gassed by police officers and National Guards members, many Black drag queens, who can stand out even in large crowds, understand that they are putting themselves at risk by advocating loudly for change. But the need to fight against systemic racism and discrimination outweighs those risks, they said.

They are building on a storied history of Black drag queens squaring off against violence to demand civil rights. In 1969, bar patrons and neighborhood residents in New York City’s Greenwich Village rioted and protested after police raided the Stonewall Inn. The uprising that unfolded across six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the popular gay bar is heralded as the catalyst for LGBTQ rights in the United States.

And while no one is really sure who threw the first brick, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, pioneering transgender activists and drag performers of color who were at the riots, have been credited for being pivotal figures in the uprising and the fight for LGBTQ rights. After the riots, Johnson and Rivera advocated on behalf of those affected by HIV and AIDS, and LGBTQ homeless youth, founding the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries in New York, a group that provided support to poor young people shunned by their families.

Marsha P. Johnson

Before that, the Council on Religion and the Homosexual –  a joint venture of liberal Protestant clergy, and gay and lesbian activists – held a drag ball at San Francisco’s California Hall on New Year’s Day 1965. Police, who had threatened to arrest anyone dressed in drag, showed up with lights and cameras and repeatedly entered the venue to “make inspections,” but when attorneys at the event challenged officers, they were arrested. The next day, clergy leaders held a press conference decrying police harassment against LGBTQ people, helping to raise awareness for the movement. 

“I’m a big believer that drag at its core is its own kind of punk act of defiance,” said Jo Mama, 34.

After marching in drag in a Black Lives Matter protest, she organized her own march in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood, one of the largest LGBTQ communities in the Midwest, with Black drag speakers. The event “Drag March for Change” is focused on demanding justice for Black victims of police violence and raising awareness for violence against Black trans women. It’s scheduled for Sunday and has almost 7,000 marked as interested on Facebook.

Many LGBTQ leaders have historically overlooked Black LBGTQ people’s unique experiences and role in advancing civil rights in the U.S., said Earl Fowlkes Jr., president and CEO of the Center For Black Equity, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., focused on economic and social equity for Black LGBTQ people. Fowlkes said the Stonewall protests were “a reaction from gender non-comforming individuals who were sick of the racism from the police department, and tired from the racism they were seeing from the LGBTQ community.”

He is relieved many Pride marches this year have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“My fear is that some of the more insensitive leaders from the Pride organizations would still have these marches despite what’s going on and there would be a further rift between the LGBTQ community and the Black community,” Fowlkes added.  

That was the case for Los Angeles Pride, one of the nation’s largest annual Pride celebrations, which announced last week it would hold a “solidarity march” in support of Black Lives Matter-led protests and asked police to staff the event. But the organizers did not reach out to any Black Lives Matter activists before announcing the decision, raising questions about whether the Pride event was putting Black people in danger of police violence and ignoring their needs. 

At protests, it’s important for allies to show support but stay in their lane, said New Jersey drag queen Harmonica Sunbeam. She has been doing virtual events ranging from drag queen Bingo to coordinating Drag Queen Story Hour for North Jersey during lockdown, but last weekend she decided it was time to hit the streets and march in her first Black Lives Matter protest.

Harmonica Sunbeam protesting in support of Black Lives Matter.

There is a tendency for fans of the art of drag to prioritize what white drag queens say and do over their Black counterparts. Black drag queens who participate in the most visible drag show right now, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” said they have been targeted by online bullying and death threats.

“This fight is our fight first and we welcome anyone else to join with us, but always know your place,” Harmonica Sunbeam, 50, said.

That means letting Black people do the groundwork of organizing a protest, she said.

Miss Toto, a Chicago drag queen who has been doing online fundraisers for Black Lives Matter causes, said it’s essential to listen to what “Black drag queens are saying without trying to dismiss it.”

Miz Cracker, a white drag queen currently competing in “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” 5, said allies should use their platform to share what Black queens have to say. Miz Cracker wore full drag to attend a Pride vigil on June 1 honoring Black Lives Matter and protesting the violence against Black trans women. She attended as part of a group of other drag performers and trans activists of color.

“Use your privilege to make sure that Black people are heard. I’m not trying to talk about myself right now, I’m trying to pass on the knowledge of the Black people I admire,” Miz Cracker said.

White allies might inadvertently say or do the wrong thing, but they should be open to constructive criticism, she said.

“One of the hardest things to do is hear someone say ‘you shouldn’t have done that, ‘you shouldn’t have said that.’ And if you can hear that, that’s very important, that’s a huge step toward being an ally and an activist,” Miz Cracker, 36, said.

Marti Gould Cummings, Miz Cracker, Peppermint, Tina Burner and Shakina Nayfack

Miss Toto initially debated whether to attend a protest in drag or not, but ultimately decided that as a first aid and CPR-trained individual, she would be more valuable out of drag in case something terrible happened. In recent weeks, she’s organized online drag shows that focus on raising awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement to her roughly 21,000 Instagram followers and 12,000 Twitter followers.

“It makes them listen suddenly when you put a wig on and some lashes,” said Miss Toto, 27.

She tries to make her shows relevant to what’s going on in the world by “stacking” them with Black performers and having donations funneled toward organizations working on racial inequality, including: The Bail Fund, combating mass incarceration, Contigo Fund, providing funds to organizations helping LGBTQ Latinxs, and the Equal Justice Initiative, working on mass incarceration and excessive punishment.

“That’s another way that I’ve kind of politicized and polarized my drag,” she said.

Many Black drag queens supporting the movement are balancing whether they should go out and protest or risk getting coronavirus. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues taking the lives of LGBTQ Americans, especially those of color, it is leaving a population already vulnerable to health care and employment discrimination suffering from high job losses and a growing rate of positive cases, according to preliminary data collected from multiple LGBTQ advocacy groups.

“Most people at (protests) are wearing masks and being aware of the virus, as well. But in many ways going to this is a statement, you’re aware of the virus but this is more important,” Jo Mama said.

Bob the Drag Queen was worried about spreading the virus, so she provided support for the protest movement by going down to the police precincts to pick up friends from jail instead of marching in the streets.

“I want to go visit my mom when this is all said and done, and my mom has a compromised immune system,” she said.

Many Black drag queens are also encouraging fans to support Black businesses and examining their own behaviors – including their social media presence.

“If you can’t find a single person of color in the first five photos, then you have a problem. That looks like it could be a symptom of racism. You need to examine why that is,” Jo Mama said.

Follow David Oliver and Josh Rivera on Twitter: @doliver8 and @Josh1Rivera.



The Briefing: RVShare raises over $100M, Google disputes charges, and more




Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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RVShare raises over $100M for RV rentals

RVShare, an online marketplace for RV rentals, reportedly raised over $100 million in a financing led by private equity firms KKR and Tritium Partners.

Akron, Ohio-based RVShare has seen sharp growth in demand amid the pandemic, as more would-be travelers seek socially distanced options for hitting the road. Founded in 2013, the company matches RV owners with prospective renters, filtering by location, price and vehicle types.

Previously, RVShare had raised $50 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data, from Tritium Partners. The company is one of several players in the RV rental space, and competes alongside Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV marketplace that has raised $75 million in venture funding.

Funding news

  • BrightFarms closes on $100M: Indoor farming company BrightFarms said it secured more than $100 million in debt and new equity capital to support expansion plans. The Series E round of funding was led by Cox Enterprises, which now owns a majority stake in the company, and includes a follow-on investment from growth equity firm Catalyst Investors.
  • Anyscale inks $40MAnyscale, the Berkeley-based company behind the Ray open source project for building applications, announced $40 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. Existing investor NEA led the round and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital and Foundation Capital. The new funding brings Anyscale’s total funding to more than $60 million.
  • Klar deposits $15M: Mexican fintech Klar closed on $15 million in Series A funding, led by Prosus Ventures, with participation from new investor International Finance Corporation and existing investors Quona Capital, Mouro Capital and Acrew. The round brings total funding raised to approximately $72 million since the company was founded in 2019. The funds are intended to grow Klar’s engineering capabilities in both its Berlin and Mexico hubs.
  • O(1) Labs rakes in $10.9M: O(1) Labs, the team behind the cryptocurrency Mina, announced $10.9 million in a strategic investment round. Co-leading the round are Bixin Ventures and Three Arrows Capital with participation from SNZ, HashKey Capital, Signum Capital, NGC Ventures, Fenbushi Capital and IOSG Ventures.
  • Blustream bags $3M: After-sale customer engagement company Blustream said it raised $3 million in seed funding for product usage data and digital transformation efforts for physical goods companies via the Blustream Product Experience Platform. York IE led the round of funding for the Worcester, Massachusetts-based company with additional support from existing investors.Pillar secures another $1.5M: Pillar, a startup that helps families protect and care for their loved ones, raised $1.5 million in a seed extension to close at $7 million, The round was led by Kleiner Perkins.

Other news

  • Google rejects DOJ antitrust arguments: In the wake of a widely anticipated U.S. Justice Department antitrust suit against Google, the search giant disputed the charges in a statement, maintaining that: “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
  • Facebook said to test Nextdoor rival: Facebook is reportedly testing a service similar to popular neighborhood-focused social Nextdoor. Called Neighborhoods, the feature reportedly suggests local neighborhood groups to join on Facebook.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.


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Syte Sees $30M Series C For Product Discovery




Online shopping has become the norm for most people in 2020, even coaxing traditional retail brands to up their presence to stay competitive. However, now that shoppers can’t see and touch products like they used to, e-commerce discovery has become a crucial element for customer acquisition and retention.

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Enter Syte, an Israel-based company that touts creating the world’s first product discovery platform that utilizes the senses, such as visual, text and voice, and then leverages visual artificial intelligence and next-generation personalization to create individualized and memorable customer experiences, Syte co-founder and CEO Ofer Fryman told Crunchbase News.

To execute on this, the company raised $30 million in Series C funding and an additional $10 million in debt. Viola Ventures led the round and was joined by LG Technology Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures and Kreos Capital, as well as existing investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund.

This brings the company’s total fundraising to $71 million since its inception in 2015. That includes a $21.5 million Series B, also led by Viola, in 2019, according to Crunchbase data.

Fryman intends for the new funding to be put to work on product enhancements and geographic expansion. Syte already has an established customer base in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and will now focus expansion in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, Syte has grown 22 percent quarter over quarter, as well as experienced a 38 percent expansion of its customer base since the beginning of 2020.

“Since we crossed $1 million annual recurring revenue, we have been tripling revenue while also becoming more efficient,” Fryman said. “We can accelerate growth as well as build an amazing technology and solution for a business that needs it right now. We plan to grow further, and even though our SaaS metrics are excellent right now, our goal is to improve them.”

Anshul Agarwal, managing director at LG Technology Ventures, said Syte was an attractive investment due in part to its unique technology.

“They have a deep-learning system and have created a new category, product discovery that will enable online shopping in a way we never had the ability to do before,” Agarwal said. “The product market fit was also unique. We believe in the strong execution by the team and the rapid growth in SaaS. We looked at many different companies, and the SaaS metrics that Syte showed are the strongest we’ve seen in a while.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.


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GenTech Proudly Secures Deal with TruLife Distribution to Drive Growth in SINFIT Digital Sales




Denver, CO, October 21, 2020 – OTC PR WIRE – GenTech Holdings, Inc. (OTC PINK: GTEH) (“GenTech” or the “Company”), an emerging leader in the high-end Premium Coffee (, Hemp Wellness ( and Functional Foods ( marketplaces, along with its SINFIT Nutrition brand (“SINFIT”), is excited to announce that the Company has signed a new marketing, sales, and distribution agreement (the “Agreement”) with TruLife Distribution (“TruLife”) (, a leader in marketing, distribution, compliance, e-commerce, and advisory services in the Functional Foods marketplace. The main focus of the new Agreement will be to accelerate the growth of e-commerce sales of SINFIT products, particularly over the platform.

TruLife provides direct access to sales on Amazon, Walmart, Rakuten, Wish, TopHatter, and other top e-commerce platforms, allowing clients to instantly list, ship, and sell products through any major platform, with an experienced team of experts and a proven track record of success in brand placement and digital sales strategies.

“We have already demonstrated a significant & expansive growth curve since taking control of the SINFIT brand in June,” commented Harold Vaca, VP Domestic Sales of SINFIT. “But the vast majority of that growth has been driven by large purchase orders from major distribution partners, both domestic and international. We are also committed to aggressively pursuing end-market consumer direct purchases through our e-commerce footprint, which will provide additional growth and diversify our cash flow ecosystem, making our overall strategy less dependent upon any one source of demand, while driving further growth in total sales.”

Management notes that e-commerce sales represent a sizeable portion of overall retail sales growth worldwide, with more than $3.5 trillion in online sales accounting for over 14% of total pre-pandemic global retail sales. Since the onset of the global health crisis, that ratio has shifted decisively further in favor of e-commerce sales, which is not likely to entirely revert back upon the advent of a viable and widely accessible vaccine.

Vaca added, “We have seen an epic process of market penetration for e-commerce platforms this year as major online retailers have begun to reach a much wider base of consumers – people who haven’t ever shopped much online, but have been forced to during recent months out of personal health concerns. Many of them will almost certainly continue to make use of e-commerce now that they have tried it out, at least to some extent, making e-commerce an essential sales channel for SINFIT products. TruLife has the network, team, experience, and resources to dramatically augment our e-commerce performance.”

SINFIT branded products registered over $2.2 million in global sales in 2019, and are now approved for sale and available for purchase on the and e-commerce platforms as well as in over 2,500 GNC locations in North America and over 10,000 global physical and e-commerce stores across more than 10 countries around the world.

SINFIT products as well-positioned relative to peers and to the long-term macro tailwind defining the functional foods market, which saw sales top $267 billion in February of this year on a global basis, with sales in the US reaching $63 billion, according to Euromonitor 2020. This trend is part of a larger supportive momentum in the general category, with global sales of organic food and drink topping $105 billion in 2018 (Ecovia 2019). U.S. organic food sales also reached $47.9 billion, up 5.9% in 2018 (OTA 2019). In 2019, 77% of U.S. adults used dietary supplements, an all-time high (CRN 2019). U.S. supplement sales are estimated to have reached $49.3 billion in 2019, up 6.2% (NBJ 2019).

About GenTech Holdings, Inc.:

GenTech Holdings, Inc. is a publicly traded company under the symbol GTEH. The Company launched a high-end Coffee Subscription service in early 2020 called Secret Javas, owns a Functional Food company, SINFIT Nutrition and recently closed its acquisition on Products-Groups’ “Hakuna Supply”.

Forward-Looking Statements
This press release may contain forward-looking statements, including information about management’s view of GenTech, Inc.’s future expectations, plans and prospects. In particular, when used in the preceding discussion, the words “believes,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “anticipates,” or “may,” and similar conditional expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Any statements made in this news release other than those of historical fact, about an action, event or development, are forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, which may cause the results of GenTech, its subsidiaries and concepts to be materially different than those expressed or implied in such statements. Unknown or unpredictable factors also could have material adverse effects on GenTech’s future results. The forward-looking statements included in this press release are made only as of the date hereof. GenTech cannot guarantee future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements. Accordingly, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Finally, GenTech undertakes no obligation to update these statements after the date of this release, except as required by law, and also takes no obligation to update or correct information prepared by third parties that are not paid for by GenTech.

Corporate Contact:


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