Earlier this week, on Sunday, Dec. 4, the Event Space was alive with music and cheers as Tens Across the Board, an event hosted by the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) Committee of the Student Government Association (SGA) in partnership with Queer & Trans People of Color Collective (QTPOCC) was well underway.
Tens Across the Board is an event that honors and celebrates ball culture, a subset of LGBTQ+ culture popular among Black and Latinx people. Ball culture has a lot of similarities to drag culture, featuring gender as the main form of performance and a heavy emphasis on costumes and dance, specifically featuring a form of dance called ‘voguing’ that is characterized by poses performed in rapid succession to music. Ball culture became popularized around the 60s in New York City and gained more traction throughout the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“This event was much needed on this campus, especially for queer and LGBTQ+ students of color. To be in a space led by an MC and judges of color, it created something illuminating and beautiful.”– Amira Jackson ’24
As chair of the DEI&B Committee, Matthew McCray ‘24 has the mindset of creating “events, programs, and activities that truly give all students of Muhlenberg the opportunity to embrace their true pride and be celebrated for it.” With this in mind, he started planning Tens Across the Board, beginning the process by “having conversations with local members of the Vogue community, in order to honor the ballroom culture for what it truly is. The DEIB Committee made sure to create categories that were best suitable and inclusive for Muhlenberg’s community.”
The turnout for the event was incredible with many people showing up and walking for the different categories like Alien Superstar, Catwalk, Spins/Dips, Hands, Hair, Duckwalk, Elegance and many more.
Amira Jackson ‘24, an attendee and participant in the event said, “This event was much needed on this campus, especially for queer and LGBTQ+ students of color. To be in a space led by an MC and judges of color, it created something illuminating and beautiful. Everyone was accepted how they came and there was a wonderful sense of support in the room that night.”
Like McCray’s initial vision, Tens Across the Board was a completely supportive environment, especially for students that are not as familiar with ball culture. The event gave a firsthand perspective into this subculture and an opportunity for people to learn more about it head-on by walking and for many also helped support their self-image and confidence too.
Another member of the DEI&B committee, Kris Jimenez ‘26, talked about this saying, “It was definitely a nerve-wracking experience to get out of your comfort zone and walk in front of so many people but my friends were there to watch me and hype me up so as soon as I got on that floor, I knew it was time to shine and I definitely did!”
Jolie Lanning ‘25, another participant, discussed her experience with Tens Across the Board, “The energy was absolutely amazing. Originally I wasn’t going to walk because I’ve never done anything like it before, but after seeing the first few categories I decided to just go for it. I’m so glad I did because I had so much fun. I felt beautiful, powerful, sexy and just so at home in my body. I really hope they do it again next semester.”
“It’s always lovely having LGBTQIA+ events on campus showcasing our uniqueness and our beauty in so many different ways!”– Gio Merrifield ’23
Enjoyment in the event wasn’t regulated only to participants, people who were just there to watch thoroughly enjoyed the experience as well. Attendee Mustafa Hall ‘23 said, “It’s always a pleasure and privilege to be in spaces where Queerness and Queer joy is celebrated and honored. I loved watching different people I didn’t expect to walk in a category perform. And I also loved seeing how everyone interpreted each specific category. It was an honor to be there and I hope this event becomes a Muhlenberg tradition.”
Co-leader of QTPOCC, Gio Merrifield ‘23 spoke about his experience as a judge during the event, “I was really surprised with the turnout… I really hope that this event happens year after year after year. It’s always lovely having LGBTQIA+ events on campus showcasing our uniqueness and our beauty in so many different ways! I want to thank Matt McCray for inviting myself and Maria Rivera [‘23] as we are co-leaders of QTPOCC to be a part of this event. I feel truly honored.”
McCray saw the overwhelming love and support from the event and commented, “DEI&B Committee is proud to announce that there will be a second Tens Across the Board event next semester, so be on the lookout for dates and categories. DEI&B will continue to create spaces, conversations and environments that are inclusive to all and create active community change and celebration.”