After Trump’s election, Fran Bittakis decided to host a monthly conversation to help alleviate some of the stress.
“I wanted to have a way for ladies to come together and talk about our feelings,” she says.
These gatherings evolved into NXT LVL, the Portland-based collective that’s partying for social justice. Since forming at the end of 2016, the group has hosted four events, with the proceeds from each going to local organizations benefiting marginalized communities. In a city that often fails to represent these communities, NXT LVL’s parties center on POC, queer, and trans performers and staff.
For their fifth event, NXT LVL is joining forces with She Shreds magazine for an all-day celebration of women of color. Proceeds will benefit Brown Girl Rise, an organization dedicated to creating radical sisterhood among young, brown femmes by teaching them how to reclaim their connection to their bodies, communities, land, health, and creativity, and Queer Rock Camp, an annual summer camp empowering LGBTQ youth through musical performance. Attendees are encouraged to bring tampons for Portland Menstrual Society, with donations going to PSU’s Pan-African Commons and La Casa Latina Student Center.
The event will begin with an all-ages rally featuring speakers from organizations dedicated to protecting the rights and wellbeing of women, queer, and trans folks, particularly those of color. They include Kerry Yamaucci from Trans Lifeline (an organization working to end transgender suicide and improve the mental health of trans folks through education, advocacy, and direct service), Zeenia Junkeer and Christel Allen of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, and political candidates Maria Garcia, Ana del Rocío, and Sonja Mckenzie.
The party is guaranteed to be lit, with performances by some of the West Coast’s most enthralling acts, like Fuck U Pay Us. The Los Angeles band is hell-bent on reclaiming punk’s Black origins, with raw, wrenching, and joyous live performances that blend protest with art. FUPU’s live shows embody their music’s principles: to spit in the face of white supremacy, demand reparations for the centuries of suffering Black people have endured, and to uplift and empower women and femmes. Last summer they were violently attacked while on tour in London, leaving drummer Tianna Nicole with a broken nose. FUPU is currently raising money to fund self-defense classes for women of color.
Psychedelic AfroCubana rapper Guayabarepresents Seattle, while Portland’s soul powerhouse Blossom and hazy cumbia three-piece Savila (featuring Fabiola Reyna of She Shreds) round out the live acts, along with DJs Lucha (Luz Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba) and Mami Miami (the Mercury’s own Emilly Prado). As for NXT LVL’s future goals, the collective’s commitment to the solidarity economy extends beyond parties.
“We aren’t always able to raise ridiculous amounts of money, because we actually pay everyone that we collaborate with,” Bittakis says. “I know in some people’s eyes it’s not ideal, but for us it’s more valuable in the sense that we’re creating networks in these communities.
“We are interested in building our own economy—if we want to throw these parties and we’re lacking queer, trans, POC, or WOC security guards, what can we do as NXT LVL to make those jobs more available? We’re looking into sponsoring folks that are interested in those jobs. That way the security at our parties will reflect the community we are serving.”