Since the early 2000s, Code Pink has hosted dozens of events to provide an opportunity for fellowship to the LGBTQ+ community in Oxford.
Oxford also does not have a designated gay bar, so Code Pink offers that venue of acceptance to students and locals.
Tonight, the group will host Code Pink: The Balls Ball (LGBTQ+ Sports Bar) at Proud Larry’s from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The event invites members of the “LGBTQ+ community and friends to enjoy a full night of dancing, drinking and community bonding” in a sports-themed environment, according to the event listing.
Blake Summers, the director of Code Pink, said that the events are designed to provide a safe platform for DJs, drag queens and dancing, and The Balls Ball will be no different.
“Basically, this theme is a dialogue about how groups shouldn’t have to fear sports and that we are all capable of greatness if we push past social discomforts,” Summers said.
Summers said that Code Pink has grown over the years, and he believes that the events have a bright future.
“The themes continue to get more intricate, the audience is growing, and the Code Pink veterans keep coming back,” Summers said.
One of these Code Pink veterans is Justin Tyler. Tyler, better known by his stage name Ms. Dee Pression, is a local drag entertainer, a member of the LGBTQ+ community and one of the founders of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Northeast Mississippi Community College. He will be performing at The Balls Ball.
“I want to be original with (my performance). I want to do something everyone will enjoy,” Tyler said. “I like to do music that will emotionally connect with people and give them a positive feeling.”
Tyler’s first performance for Code Pink was at the last event, titled “Space Cowboy,” which was an “intergalactic-themed drag show.” He is booked for the next two Code Pink events and hopes to be booked for more in the future.
“The energy, love, warmth and acceptance from Code Pink just inside that room is unreal,” Tyler said. “I walked around the Square, and just the acceptance was different than anywhere else.”
This week’s Code Pink event challenges gender norms in society and promotes equality across the spectra of sexual orientation and gender identification. Wesley Craft and Aevan Gibson, two Oxford residents, have been to multiple Code Pink events and said they are excited to keep coming back for more.
“Code Pink creates a space where I can have fun without feeling othered — which is a pretty rare find in the South,” Craft said.
He said he continues to go back for the music and energy.
“They are places where LGBTQ+ people and allies can feel safe, which to me is the best indicator of a good time,” Gibson said. “Also, who doesn’t love wearing a costume?”
Drag shows and brunches are growing phenomena and take place all across the country. Tyler Nelson, an Oxford resident and frequenter of drag shows, would like to see more happen in Oxford.
“For people that want to dress in drag but don’t feel comfortable in a Southern city, a drag show is the best place to be,” Nelson said.
Summers added that Code Pink aims to continue providing safe spaces and a sense of community by validating the individuality of attendees.
“It is important that Code Pink events maintain its identity and (that) we continue to strengthen and unify everyone that steps a foot into the event,” Summers said.