Nat. LGBTQ Task Force's Michael Bath Wants You to Party for a Good Cause this Weekend

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 8 MIN.

A partygoer at a previous Winter Party event

EDGE: That's all very important work, and just as important is to express our defiance through partying. So, let's talk a little about the Winter Party Festival's 31st edition. How has the event changed over time?

Michael Bath: It has its roots in activism: The first Winter Party was conceived by four gentlemen who lived here in Miami. This was 1994, and there was going to be a ballot initiative... an anti gay initiative [to ban local policies against anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination]. They decided that we need to organize for this. What better way to raise money than to throw a party? So they planned this one-day party on South Beach. Before it could happen, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the amendment couldn't be on the ballot; the language wasn't right. [Editor's note: The New York Times reported at the time that the Florida Supreme Court "said the proposal violated state law by dealing with more than one subject. It also ruled that the ballot language was misleading. The decision dealt only with the wording of the proposal, not its intent."]

But they throw the party anyway, and they give the money to a local organization. The party was so successful, they decided, "Why not do this every year?" And the parties have gotten bigger. The crowds have gotten bigger. The beach the party is still [going every year]; there really is nothing like the beach party. I can't describe it... to look out on the sea of smiling faces, there's nothing that compares to that.

EDGE: What are revelers going to be looking forward to doing and seeing when they come to the parties you have lined up for this year?

Michael Bath: Well, first of all, great music! I think that if I had to pick one thing people look forward to, it's being able to throw your hands up in the air. There's a quality of dancing shirtless in early March on the beach. That's kind of like "Fuck you!" to winter.

As far as the parties go, this year we're doing our first outdoor nighttime dance party, HEAT. I don't remember the last time we did an outdoor dance party at night. We've chosen a DJ for our Under One Sun party, Derrick Carter, who isn't like a traditional circuit DJ. We're want to evolve this into more of a queer music festival, [and Carter] will appeal to a larger and more diverse audience. We have the Beach Party, with DJs Dan Slater and GSP doing back-to-back spinning, which they've never done before. We're gonna have a much larger stage presence, more of a show atmosphere.

There's a magic with Winter Party that feels like a huge chosen family reunion. If we have a tagline, it's probably there's so many stories of people who have met their partner, met their best friend here.

Nat. LGBTQ Task Force Winter Party team members

EDGE: Has the anti-LGBTQ+ reign of Ron DeSantis made it harder to create these community events? Have people been saying, "Why would I go to Florida?"

Michael Bath: Yes, absolutely. Our executive director, Kierra Johnson, has received calls from folks around the country saying, "Why are you doing this in Florida when all of this is happening? You should go somewhere else." Her response, and the organization's response, is no, we are here for every LGBTQ community member across the country. The fact that the community in Florida is facing greater challenges [means] we're not disappearing. We're actually going to double down. We're not going away. We have some of our people here working to educate people on how they can get people show up at the polls. They can organize in a way to help turn the tide so this anti-gay hatred that's been spewing from Tallahassee, we start to get rid of it.

When you think Winter Party, you think of people dancing on the beach and having a good time. And yes, they're doing that; they are living into what our tagline. It's a great place where they can be free of whatever at home keeps them from being completely free. But then, as they're attending the events, they're also helping us raise money to do the work for freedom, and one of the things I'm also proud of is our committee. Our Winter Party Committee has actually grown a lot of leaders in the LGBTQ community. One of our former co-chairs went on to run Miami Beach Pride for quite a while; another one was the executive director of [South Florida LGBTQ+ community center] Pridelines for 15 years. Winter Party represents a little bit of a microcosm of the Task Force.

This year's Winter Pride Festival runs Feb. 28 – March 5 in Miami Beach. For more information, follow this link.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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