The Life was award-winning composer Cy Coleman’s last Broadway musical. As an Original Cast member, this show was a transformative moment for me personally and professionally. Part of my self imposed research placed on at Hunts Point discovering how these women on the street moved, talked and navigated through the night.
What did I learn? Sex workers, trans or not are simply human. Human beings whose circumstances of survival are less than conventional by society’s standards. I may have discovered Hunts Point as a performer in a Broadway show, but was educated about The Stroll at Sundance.
Directors Zachary Drucker and Kristen Lovell share the definitive history of New York City’s Meatpacking District, told by the transgender women of color who created its history and transgender sex workers who lived, worked, loved, and died there.
The Stroll was where trans women of color, shunned out of the workforce, turned for survival. The filmmakers break down how these women had to deal with “walking while trans” heavy policing, various forms of violence and the mass gentrification ultimately paving a road for politicians to create a less grimy Manhattan populated by the women of The Stroll.
Kristen Lovell pulled her pants down around her ankles while sharing the joy, camaraderie, clarity and force of her community with kid gloves alongside her fellow Women of the Stroll. Simultaneously, paying homage to revered and respected activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson who started a fight that has yet to be completed.
As someone who has been “othered” my entire life as Black and a woman, there is a shorthand between communities that understands the unadulterated hatred from those who see themselves as better or superior – sex worker or not. There is an unspoken grief experienced when the neighborhoods and people on the block that nurtured us are traded in for Rolex stores, restaurants a malls devoid of character and heart..
For those unfamiliar with gentrification, sex workers or how it feels to be targeted by law enforcement simply based on what one looks like they may become possibly become engaged in, The Stroll will shift your heart and ideology on such ignorance.
Here’s to moving forward in a world where all of us are literally seen as living, breathing human beings without judgement or shame. THAT is a world I long to navigate in.