Let's Smash Raises Money to Build Miami's First LGBTQ+ Youth Shelter

Porgie Town, also known as Gigi, lives in a 160-square-foot apartment, where she's launching a candle-making business. That might sound like an incredibly tiny amount of square footage in which to work or live, but it's a step up from her last housing situation.

Alleged slumlord Abraham Vaknin was once both her boss and landlord. After meeting and eventually working with community organizer and videogame events producer Adrian Alberto Madriz, she joined a powerful group of people set to fight Miami's slum owners and gentrification while creating housing for LGBTQ+ youth at a local organization called Struggle for Miami’s Affordable and Sustainable Housing (SMASH). She's now the project's board chair. "She has helped design every aspect of our concepts and is our main liaison for finding other residents willing to work with us," project lead Madriz says of Gigi's role.

The people most affected by slumlords, such as Gigi, are empowered at SMASH to use their experiences in horrible living situations to steer the project's direction. But that commitment to authenticity and accountability places the organization outside the traditional developer box. This proved challenging when raising funds for construction of a transitional housing facility for LGBTQ+ youths. So Madriz did what any creative-minded leader in the party capital of America should do: He took his fundraising experience and collaborated with the big dogs of Miami's gay nightlife scene.

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Five years ago at Gay8 Fest, Madriz and his husband met Sleeper — a local artist and cofounder of the pop-up drag survey Counter Corner as well as founder of Gender Blender, which promotes LGBTQ+ music and talents at Las Rosas. These two projects are joining forces with another group of party people, This Free Life, to present a blowout at Lemon City Day School to raise funds to build this shelter at the humorously titled Let's Smash.

This fundraiser is about more than its impressive lineup of drag queens (see below) and the fact that it's hosted by Hialeah's finest drag duo, Juleisy y Karla. A whopping 40 percent of homeless youth in the United States identifies as LGBTQ+. Let's Smash is about raising cold, hard cash to help a vulnerable segment of an already vulnerable population that needs practical solutions to very dire situations.

Madriz says they are completely committed to developing the housing facility in a successful and sustainable way. The shelter will be designed, built, and managed by the affected community and will include affordable and transitional housing programs mixed with market-rate rentals. "The integrity of the process is critical to making sure that we don't end up gentrifying the neighborhood and becoming slumlords ourselves," he says.

How will they do that? Madriz says they will not sell out to developers or abandon their principles in pursuit of money. "The community is the one driving this conversation, and that's not just lip service. Our board includes people who are single mothers, slum residents, formerly homeless LGBTQ folks, and others who bring only the experience of their trauma to their role. We also have development folks and former politicians and attorneys, but the experience of the slum survivor is the one that we center all of our work around."

With Let's Smash, the collaboration between the cultural and advocacy communities works to support the goals of all involved. Sleeper actually contacted Madriz first about putting on this event. "Counter Corner is really one of those ultrarare spaces where people are free to be their authentic selves without judgment. And the ways they express themselves when unencumbered is always a feast for the soul. I'm very proud that Miami has been able to produce a cultural artifact as rich and unique as Counter Corner and Gender Blender," Madriz says.

"Both Counter Corner and Gender Blender feel strongly about helping our community the best we can," Sleeper explains. "We have pulled in our full support to make a great night happen for a great cause. Miami is growing, and we are here for it. We want to see this city flourish. A part of that is making sure our youth do not end up on the street." Counter Culture continues to host pop-up parties as it searches for the right home for the event, and Gender Blender is doing entertainment for the Arsht Center's Pride Month Community Dance.

Let's Smash will offer live music by the rocking duo the State Of and DJ Zehno. And as far as drag performers, expect to see Meatball (Dragula), Adora, Fantasia Royal Gaga, Miss Toto, Queef Latina, Ded Cooter, Kunst, Le Sissy Noir, King Femme, Opulence Queen, and Jupiter Velvet.

Let's Smash. 8 p.m. Friday, June 29, at Lemon City Day School, 378 NE 56th St., Miami. Tickets cost $20 to $30 via eventbrite.com.

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