Nine members of the Pink Bloque, a local group of women activists, hit Taste of Chicago on July 4 to pass out flyers protesting the proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003–aka Patriot Act II–and dance around to Missy Elliott’s “Gossip Folks.” The 15-member collective, whose slogan is “dancing in dissent,” has gained recognition over the last year and a half by using pop music and pink outfits to grab people’s attention and help its political messages go down easier. For an action last September focusing on rape and sexual harassment, for example, the group delivered a choreographed routine to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” outside a row of Wicker Park bars on Milwaukee Avenue. After the performance the women handed out pamphlets on date rape to the men who had gathered to hoot and holler at their moves.
Since then they’ve hosted several dance parties to raise money for their needs–from copier and computer costs to a hot pink sound system that runs off a car battery.
The fund-raiser they’re kicking off this weekend, though, is a little more complex than the others. Pink Bloque member Lauren Cumbia swiped the idea from an activity practiced in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia: musicians sign up to participate in a “rock lotto,” then organizers randomly assemble them into bands, which get a couple of weeks to practice and generate a ten-minute show. “I always thought it was such a fun idea and people would be really excited about it,” she says. She’s been holding on to the notion since she was involved in producing Ladyfest Midwest Chicago in 2001. With the group needing to scare up some dough for a planned tour in August, the time seemed right.
This Sunday the Pink Bloque will host a dance party at the Empty Bottle, where musicians can register for the lotto, indicating what instrument they play and whether they have practice space. Toward the end of the evening the organizers will announce the ad hoc bands. Then, on July 27–again at the Empty Bottle–the groups will strut their stuff. Cumbia hopes they’ll be able to put together ten different bands with five members each. “It’s kind of a risk, depending on how many people will follow through, but that’s part of the fun of it.”
The proceeds from the party will help defray the cost of renting a van to transport eight or nine members to six east-coast cities next month. “We thought it would be a fun way to spread the Pink Bloque message around different towns,” says Cumbia. Each stop will consist of workshops on Pink Bloque tactics followed by street actions protesting the occupation of Iraq and the threat Patriot Act II poses to civil liberties. “All of the people who come will get to be a Pink Bloque member for a little while,” says Cumbia. “Hopefully they’ll take that and start doing something on their own.”
The dance party starts at 9:30 PM on Sunday, July 13, at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western. In addition to the lotto sign-up, there’ll be a bake sale, screenings of videos by local activist groups, and music by DJs Melissa Grubbs, Gwen Gubanich, and Nathan McKee. It’s $5, and you must be 21 or over to attend. For more information E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Nathan Mandell, Daniel Tucker.