Drag queens stage mass walk-out at bar after owner allegedly posts racist comments
Dozens of drag queens at a bar in Atlanta have staged a mass walk-out after its owner allegedly posted racist comments online.
The comments were allegedly posted by Burkhart’s owner Palmer Marsh, and according to reports went back as far as 2015.
In response, 30 drag queens walked out of the Atlanta bar, which represented all of its entertainment staff.
Since the walk-out, the bar has suddenly been taken over and will open under new management.
But drag artists who performed there said they had dealt with racism for a number of years.
“Working here was a losing battle. It was kind of like we were always backed up against a corner,” said Shavonna Brooks a performer at the venue.
Brooks had worked in a number of roles at Burkhart’s as an entertainer and a director.
But she suggested that entertainers had not confronted the alleged racism earlier because they feared for their jobs.
“That why we didn’t do anything immediately,” Brooks told 13maz.
The comments came to light last Friday and Brooks says the entertainment staff felt obliged to make a stand.
“Even though the owner put those words out there, no one sees the owner. Everyone looks at what are the girls going to do. Are they going to leave, are they going to say something?” Brooks adds.
She added that they “started getting backlash” as time went on without them standing up against the alleged racism.
A fellow entertainer, Destiny Brooks, said that Marsh never responded to the allegations, which prompted the drag artists to walk out.
“That was one of the reasons we decided to walk up out of there,” Destiny said.
The entertainers, known as the Brooks Sisters, said they felt pressure and a need to take action but that it had been a difficult decision.
“When we wore the weight of the community on our shoulders this weekend, that didn’t feel good,” Shavonna added.
“This is how we survive, this is how we feed ourselves.”
And now the drag artists say they think the issue represents a wider one linked to LGBT nightlife, and that they want to help save venues in Atlanta from a lack of respect and equality and poor pay and working conditions.
“Queens united, we want to come together to save our gay nightlife and save our city,” Alissah Brooks commented.
She added that the queens who walked out want to work “where we’re appreciated, where we’re respected and not taken for granted.”
Alissah adds that a meeting has been planned which will deal with issues as well as racism, which are faced by entertainers in the city.
But after the controversy, the bar’s manager Doug Youngblood said the number of patrons to the bar had halved.
“We are being boycotted,” he said. “I’m devastated that they left. We miss them,” he added about the entertainers who left.
He also said he had urged Marsh to apologise publicly and that he still thinks he will, and that the alleged comments don’t reflect the views of the rest of the staff at Burkhart’s.
“We have the most diverse club in the city,” he continued.
The community meeting will take place on Saturday, January 26, will address the controversy and how best to move forward.
But Destiny says the meeting is actually about “how we’re going to make the city better.”