*This article originally appeared in GayRVA.
Jafar Flowers is a force to be reckoned with. The 22-year-old musician recently released a new mix as a formal introduction to her DJ career. Titled Sephiroth after a character in Final Fantasy VII, the 17-minute long mix is filled with hot tracks and remixes.
Dialogue from the “Pain’s Cycle of Hatred” speech from Naruto flows with “Kairi’s Letter,” from Kingdom Hearts 2, to open the mix: “Starting a new journey may not be so hard… or maybe it has already begun.”
This couldn’t be truer for Flowers herself.
Flowers produced this mix with music sequencer software Ableton Live — which was a first. Producing a mix could take only a day for Flowers, but she put more time and preparation into this mix. The result is electric, filled with fire tracks that come alive on the dance floor as they work through the people in the crowd. But there are underlying allegories sprinkled throughout that have a grander message. Flowers uses her artistry to make listeners dance and feel.
“I’ve been looking into the origins of house music and dance parties, and a lot of the first DJs used to tell stories on the dance floor with their music with the lyrics and voice samples,” said Flowers.
Without being too revealing, the mix has been a way for Flowers to share vulnerable parts of her life. “It feels like I’m able to give back when I’m DJ’ing, but also release things that are inside of me,” she said. “The mix was sort of a journal to myself and from myself.”
Through the variety of genres featured, including trap samples and old dance club music, Flowers feels like there is something for everyone who listens to the mix.
“I’m sort of uniting different worlds in my mixes because the original dance parties that were popping up like in New York really brought people together regardless of their identity, sexuality or status of capital,” she said.
Bringing together people of different backgrounds is something Flowers has been doing for a while as part of ice cream support group (icsg), a DIY-collective in RVA centered around giving a space to queer and trans people of color.
icsg has solidified itself in the past two years with numerous events, one of the most popular being their ice cream socials which are queer dance parties.
“I didn’t see any dance parties in Richmond based solely on DJs, primarily DJs of color or queer and trans DJs,” Flowers said. “I was like, well, we have multiple people who fit under those umbrellas, so why don’t we see them come and play?”
This mindset helped curate bills for events to come, highlighting many QTPOC as performers.
It was at the second event for icsg that Flowers DJ’ed for the first time and felt something spark inside herself.
“The crowd was made up of our black and brown friends who had come through and packed out my living room, and people were so excited,” said Flowers. “That was a big influence for me to start DJ’ing, because I could see how free everybody was and how much fun everyone was having together.”
One important part of DJ’ing for Flowers is being prepared for anything. “DJ’ing has taught me how powerful improvisation is, and reading the room,” said Flowers after doing a show in Atlanta this past month. “Those are some of the biggest parts of the actual craft.”
Being able to collaborate with other queer DJs of color and see them practice their craft was another influence on Flowers.
“I’d never experienced a space where queerness was not only accepted but expected,” she said. Even though society portrays them as hidden in the shadows and low in numbers, working within the QTPOC community in Richmond Flowers saw how many QTPOC there actually are.
The QTPOC community in Richmond has put down a lasting footprint over the past couple of years, and icsg has been a major part of that. icsg held their last Ice Cream Social at Flora on September 7, at which Flowers performed alongside thablackgodd, Alfred, and Shy Lenox who released his new EP, Audition.
Flora has served as the backdrop for icsg’s queer dance parties for over a year, but icsg is going through some structural changes and is looking for a new space to hold their socials and some new people to join the collective.
While there are various spaces in Richmond for queer folks to get together, there aren’t many places that are centered around QTPOC. icsg has been influential in giving a platform to QTPOC, and Flowers said that QTPOC having property to themselves and giving others access to creative education would be ideal. Flowers took a joking tone in discussing the issue, but her message was very serious.
“Gentrification is a culprit for so many things happening, and the expansion of the campus that shall not be named is taking up physical space and properties and opportunities in Richmond,” she said. “But then there’s this wave of black and other creative queer people of color all coming together, and separately; making their art, making their music, holding their events, and making their voices heard. We’re starting to take up a lot more space, and there’s a lot of momentum behind it.”
At the start of Flowers’ mix, iconic activist Angela Davis’ voice echoes: “You rarely think about the anonymous people who did the work that made it possible for that movement to evolve.”
Richmond is forever changing, but one thing that remains is the eminent creativity of artists like Flowers, who are laying down the groundwork for movements to uplift QTPOC.
*Cover photo by Alyssa Michener
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond