Congratulations to PhD candidate Hannah Skjellum-Salmon for receiving the Maynard Adams Fellowship for the Public Humanities! Their project will be to produce and then screen a short documentary about Durham, North Carolina drag artist collective, the House of Coxx.
Skjellum-Salmon has been a fan of the House of Coxx for a long time, but in June of 2020, they were first inspired to collaborate with the collective on a project that underscored their impact in Durham and the broader Triangle area:
“In 2020, the House of Coxx co-hosted a vigil to commemorate our Black LGBTQ siblings who have been lost to state-sanctioned and interpersonal violence. During this performance, which took place on the steps of the Durham County Courthouse, artists sang, performed in drag, and spoke about the importance of protecting Black LGBTQ lives, specifically Black transgender lives. It was during that vigil that I felt like the artists there, especially those from the House of Coxx, were transforming the space of the courthouse from one of anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ violence into a space that was meant to celebrate Black LGBTQ people.”
This project will produce a short documentary that “explores the history of the House of Coxx’s formation, traces their rise to prominence in the area, and touches on their art and activism in the context of more recent anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ legislation in the state of North Carolina.”
In addition, Skjellum-Salmon also hopes this project will “be a space in which the artists of the House of Coxx can explore how their drag relates to their gender, racial, and sexual identities—as well as why they do the art they do.”
They are also hoping to recruit documentarian TG Nichols, who is a member of the House of Coxx and hopes that this documentary will be screened at an LGBTQ business in Durham so that it can reach the audiences of LGBTQ community members and allies. After the screening, they are planning to hold a talk-back in which drag artists who appear in this documentary can discuss their experiences and answer any other questions that audience members have.
In speaking to what Skjellum-Salmon hopes viewers will take away from this project, they said:
“The House of Coxx is a name known throughout the Southeast; they’re very important to Durham. I want people who may or may not know them to understand the depth of their impact in being the premier, majority-Black drag artist collective in North Carolina, if not the Southeast. I also want those who interact with this project to be able to see how the House of Coxx is part of broader, though marginalized, Black LGBTQ histories in the United States.”