¡WEPA! Top Party for 2012


¡WEPA! just celebrated its anniversary – a testament to how great this gathering is.  If dance were my religion, I would subscribe to the movement of house, scouring to find underground temples the way Coptic Christians climb mountains to worship.  Thanks to Joann Jimenez and Antonio Ocasio I know that the last Friday of every month will end in good vibrations, even better than anything The Beach Boys were singing about.  ¡WEPA! preserves the best of what is glorious about the New York underground dance scene.  Someone pass the baby powder!

To read more about the ¡WEPA! experience, click https://famenycmagazine.com/2012/02/10/friday-night-in-el-barrio/.

Photos courtesy of Joann Jimenez and Antonio Ocasio

Simply Put…Thank You

On May 17th, F.A.M.E NYC in conjunction with The Kenkou Group hosted its annual 99 Red Balloons AIDS Walk Fundraiser.  Because of this event, F.A.M.E NYC was able to meet and exceed its pledge to raise $300 for GMHC’s 2012 AIDS Walk.  We were blessed with a beautiful night and when I saw those balloons ascend into the sapphire sky, I became very emotional.  For me, each of those balloons represented someone that I had admired who had passed away from AIDS or are living with it.  The three balloons I released from my hands were for my three brothers and their experiences were the genesis for this event.

Throughout the evening many people asked me how I came up with the concept for 99 Red Balloons.  Part of the idea came from the 1984 new wave song from Nena titled, “99 Luftballons”.   The other part came from the fact that by 1999 I had lost two brothers from AIDS and had another brother living with the illness. In a span of 10 years, my family had been decimated by this epidemic.  AIDS had touched a third of my immediate family.  

Because HIV/AIDS has been a part of our global landscape for so long, people forget how terrifying this disease was when it first began receiving media coverage.  It was the equivalent ofa biblical plague and those who were diagnosed with it were the most fiendish sinners.  People treated those with AIDS and their family like outcasts.  I was 13 when my first brother was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988.  It was my last opportunity I had to give my brother a hug and I couldn’t touch him without wearing gloves, a mask and other medical garb.  A month after he was rushed to the hospital he was gone.  I remember being instructed by my mother on what to say about my brother’s death.  She feared being ostracized by our neighborhood as others had been.  When my second passed away in 1997, I knew I had to join the fight to raise awareness and find a cure.

Although last Thursday’s event was titled 99 Red Balloons, the subtitle should’ve been “With A Little Help from My Friends”.  Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to make this event happen.  First, I must extend a massive thank you to The Kenkou Group for partnering with me.  The Kenkou Group, http://www.thekenkougroup.com, is a concierge health care and advocacy group out of Harlem.  Being from an area where its residents are at high-risk for new AIDS cases, their concern, passion and assistance were invaluable.  They treated this event with the same dignity and care as one of their patients.    Thank you to Joann Jimenez, Creative Director of ¡WEPA!, for your unwavering support.  Thank you Jim Glaub and Serino Coyne and Jessica Porter of Porter Gallery for your wonderful donation, I truly believe the event wouldn’t have gone as well without your assistance.   Thank you Gabe and everyone at Bar 13 for allowing us to have our fundraiser at your venue, you guys are the best!  Thank you DJ Omar Abdallah for a blazing DJ set, you knocked my Pumas off.   Most importantly, thank you to everyone who attended and donated.  You are the reason this fundraiser was a success. 

99 Red Balloons AIDS Walk Fundraiser was the beginning of a bittersweet weekend that culminated with today’s AIDS Walk.  And as the anniversary of my brother’s death fast approaches, I firmly continue to honor my brothers by making sure I do what I can to lend my voice and energy to a cause that affects us all. 

Friday Night in El Barrio

My earliest memories of people gathering together to enjoy good vibes and good music was probably the tenement parties I witnessed as a small child.  Now blotchy memories – more sensations than recollections – my brain paints pictures of water colored visions, a grill cooking hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, the smoke rising as high as the project buildings, hip folks passing joints and sipping on drinks in brown paper bags,  elders talking, people playing cards and dancing.  As I think about those images, what resonates the most is the feeling – a feeling that settled into my tiny soul only to be resurrected at certain times.  That was my first taste of going out – a sip if you will.  As I got older the block parties got replaced by house parties.  Small basement settings replaced the open spaces of the courtyard.  Silhouettes of perspiring bodies outlined by blue and red light bulbs created heat and energy while folks tried not to bump the makeshift DJ booth.

And these reflections are the makings of me and countless others who walk under the beam of the moonlight to enter venues where electric pulses blast out of speakers and open the doors to our souls, where baby powder is sprinkled on the floor to transcend.   These reflections are also the makings of Joann Jimenez and Antonio Ocasio, the life force behind ¡WEPA! a monthly party held at Bar 13, located at 121 University Place.  Both Joann and Antonio are staples on the underground house scene and are New Yorkers from Afro-Latin descent.  With ¡WEPA! they have orchestrated the quintessential homage to their roots.  They are the pied pipers and we are the children of the night happily following them along their musical and visual journey.

The last Friday of every month people of various ages and backgrounds venture to the third floor of Bar 13 and enter into an entire universe to itself – a time capsule of classic and contemporary.  Flags and myriad articles of clothing hang on a line, cigars are rolled for a quick excursion to smoke on the rooftop, live percussionists, artists and visuals are mixed in with the best in Afro-Latin rhythms to create the spiciest soul session fit for consumption today.

Jimi Hendrix asked the question, “Have you ever been experienced?”  Well, I can now say I have, but what would be more appropriate would be to say that I’ve been re-experienced.  I’m an old dinosaur that vividly remembers the golden era of nightclubbing in New York City.  Nothing like the water-downed, table service driven parties of today, the ¡WEPA! experience evokes the spirit of old NYC nightlife with a vengeance.  Under one roof are elders, circle dancers, prancers and people just enjoying the scenery.  The amalgamation of the intimate party vibe and laid back fun from the block injects ¡WEPA!  with a dose of freedom and community, the likes of which I haven’t felt in ages – it is the very essence of home.

Everyone knows the expression, “Thank God it’s Friday!”  Well, I would like to revise that antiquated sentiment and say, “Thank God for final Fridays!”  ¡WEPA! turns every final Friday into a holiday – a blithe fete that culminates the end of each month.  Without at doubt, it’s the best $15 party in the Big Apple (RSVP to muzikbutrfly@gmail.com to receive the reduced price of $10).





But don’t just take my word for it FAMERS take a look for yourself by clicking, www.wepanyc.com or www.youtube.com/wepanyc.

Photos and video courtesy of Joann Jimenez and Antonio Ocasio