Kevin Aviance: A Year to Remember

Join the Chant: Hate Kills

Kevin Aviance was born and lived his early years in Richmond, Virginia, in a large, but closely-knit family with seven siblings. From a young age, Aviance was fascinated with the worlds of music and theater. He first began to emerge as a performance artist and club personality while living in Washington, D. C. Soon, however, Aviance drifted into the club circuit that led him first to Miami and eventually to New York City, which many currently consider to represent the center of avant-garde gay musical performance art.

He has appeared in films, including Flawless starring Robert De Niro and the independent film Punks. In addition, he has made guest appearances on such “pop-television” shows as The Tyra Banks Show and America’s Next Top Model. His recorded singles Din Da Da, Rhythm Is My Bitch, Alive, Give It Up and Strut, all reached “Number 1” on Billboard’s Dance Chart.

On June 10, while leaving the Phoenix bar located in New York’s Lower East Side, he was robbed and beaten by a group of men who yelled anti-gay slurs at him. Once Kevin’s identity finally become known to the media, the savage hate-crime attack upon him became the focus of ongoing, intense national media coverage. Tricia Romano described the attack in The Village Voice, “The brutal attack on Aviance—early morning Saturday, June 10, four attackers between 16 and 20 years old broke his jaw and caused numerous head, neck, and knee injuries—shortly after he’d left the Phoenix, an East Village gay bar on 13th and Avenue A, initially seemed so shocking to us New Yorkers. But it shouldn’t have. It happens more frequently than people realize.”

Eventually, four suspects were arrested under New York’s hate-crime law, although there are reports that say there were up to seven men were involved in the attack. On March 21, 2007 all four assailants pleaded guilty and were handed down prison sentences that ranged from 6 to 15 years in plea agreements that included hate crimes embellishments. The four young men, who by then ranged in age from 17 to 21 years old, had faced up to 25 years each for the attack, had they been found guilty in a trial.

Gay Pride Parade: New York City, June 2006

Despite suffering a broken jaw, Aviance insisted on appearing in the New York City Gay Pride Parade later last June. Needless to say, his appearance was greeted with wildly enthusiastic cheers from the huge crowds all along the parade route. In this week’s edition of The Village Voice, Steve Weinstein writes about how during the months after having been beaten senseless in the East Village, Aviance found that his public image had changed overnight, from that of an oversized Black man with an outsized drag persona to that of an invalid stuck in a wheelchair. Not only couldn’t he sing, he could barely talk through jaws that were wired tightly shut. Aviance discovered that had became the new Poster Boy for acts of violence targeting gay men. And, as Weinstein puts it, “It was the hardest gig he’d ever played.”

Join the Chant: Hate Kills

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