EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Ryan Rudewicz: RudePolaroids




This was my very first Bushwig! I was blown away and so grateful to be there. Everyone looked amazing. What really stood out to me was the community of people Bushwig brought together. You could feel the energy bouncing off the walls. I think my favorite moment was seeing Laurel Charleston. I saw them walk by in that exquisite white and blue look, I HAD to take their polaroid. It wasn’t until after the photo that I had asked their name and realized it was Laurel! I’ve been a HUGE fan of theirs forever so it was really special to meet them.



2021 Roundup

2021 was admittedly one of the slowest years for and not because there was a lack of topics to cover. The future of the website was in limbo. In a time of so much change and uncertainty, many things stood in the way of the project: mental health, finances, and family loss, to name a few. We took a hard look at reality and asked ourselves if it was worth keeping it going.

After a few discussions and much self-reflection, we decided that we can’t just give up. It’s crazy to think that in June 2022, the website will celebrate its three-year anniversary, and in that time, almost 20,000 people have seen the extraordinary and diverse range of work that we’ve been able to showcase together. There are still so many stories yet to be told, so many voices yet to be heard and so much work yet to be seen — we couldn’t let this project go to waste.

One of our most exciting developments is the immediate expansion of our columns. We’ve approached a few talented artists and writers to contribute their work on a regular basis, joining one of our first columns, Movies With Matvey Cherry, which debuted at the end of November.

In the spirit of community, Sidewalkkilla strives to be a collaborative environment, one that connects artists together for inspiration and creative exchange. As such, we are always open to artistic collaborations and photo work to accompany the stories we publish. Please reach out with ideas via the button below and let’s see how we can disrupt the ordinary.

For now, as we close out 2021, we’re revisiting some of the exciting work we published, wishing you the best, and looking ahead with optimism and gratitude.

If you enjoy our work and would like us to go on well into the future, please consider DONATING. Any amount would be greatly appreciated and will ensure that we do our best in continuing to tell creative stories and cover important events.

the articles are arranged in no particular order

The Fight For Democracy In Myanmar

In this in-depth article, artist and drag performer Emi Grate examines Western media’s surprising lack of coverage of the fight for democracy in Myanmar.

Photos for this article were contributed by Nyein Su Wai Kyaw Soe, a local female reporter on the ground in Myanmar.

Movies With Matvey Cherry

Movies With Matvey Cherry is a dynamic artistic collaboration between Matvey, who uses his unique voice to talk about films, and illustrator Paco May, who interprets those films through beautiful illustrations. Most recently, they looked at Paolo Sorrentino’s touching remembrance of youth, The Hand of God.

Getting Personal With Bones Jones

If you’ve seen the latest season of Project Runway on Bravo TV, you are probably familiar with eyelash-wearing, wig-switching, catch-phrase-giving, and an all-around talent Bones Jones. In February of 2021, when the New York Fashion Week was canceled until further notice and designers were equally uncertain about the future of their fashion houses, Bones pulled off a 40-minute fashion presentation in the form of an immersive dance theater within a matter of one week.

Interview and photos by Sidewalkkilla founder Alexey Kim.


Alexey was this year’s official photographer for Bushwig. A month after the event, he took over Bushwig’s Instagram account and featured his work and that of other photographers present at the event. A few of them agreed to publish their work here! See the latest contributions below (and check back for a few more libraries to be added at the beginning of 2022).

View full Bushwig coverage HERE.

Alexander Wang Did What?

At the end of 2020, male model Owen Mooney accused famed fashion designer Alexander Wang of sexual misconduct. Triggered by the flurry of discussions and opinions on the subject, Sidewalkkilla founder Alexey Kim shared his own stories of sexual abuse he was forced to endure during his modeling career.

The article was produced in collaboration with illustrator Paco May.


On March 16, 2021, a 21-year-old white psychopath went into three different spas in the Atlanta area and murdered eight people with a gun. Six of them were Asian women. Hate crimes against Asian Americans are not new by any means, but anti-Asian sentiment rose precipitously after ex-president Donald Trump used a racially charged hashtag (#chinesevirus) and continued using anti-Asian rhetoric throughout the pandemic. Just a month after being acquitted in his second impeachment for inciting the Capitol Hill riot, his nation-dividing orange spirit lived on.

On March 21, New Yorkers took to the streets demanding that anti-Asian hate crimes be stopped and that the Atlanta shootings be officially recognized as hate crimes. What further fueled the protesters’ anger was sheriff spokesperson Jay Baker’s statement that the shootings were based on the shooter’s supposed sex addiction (AKA fetish) and that the shooter was having a “bad day.”

A crowd of speakers and protesters assembled at Union Square, later moving on to Columbus Park in the heart of Chinatown. See what the protesters and an ex NYC mayor hopeful Andrew Yang had to say below. 

Photos and interviews by Sidewalkkilla founder Alexey Kim.

Britney Is Finally Free!

In February of 2021, still under a harrowing 13-year conservatorship at the hands of her father, Britney Spears‘s fight for freedom reached new highs in the public consciousness with an investigatory documentary by The New York Times. Paco May shared his millennial memories of TRL, and how the very generation that loved Spears subsequently helped destroy her.


What would Sidewalkkilla be without the nightlife coverage?

See all of our nightlife libraries HERE.

Unhappy Valentine

Sidewalkkilla’s frequent contributor Matvey Cherry has had a fair share of heartbreaks. For last year’s Valentine’s Day, Matvey divulged three “love” stories that many may continue to find relatable for as long as this oft-torturous holiday exists.

The article was produced in collaboration with designer and creative director Sky Vargas.

Alexey Kim


Felix Santos


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EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Birthday Portrait of Timothée Chalamet


Birthday Portrait of

Timothée Chalamet

by Matvey Cherry

Illustration by Paco May

That a brown-eyed squishy boy

with a sharp, fragile chin

like a porcelain espresso cup

would very soon come at night

to every teenager that languishes from lust,

I guessed almost immediately after watching Hot Summer Nights (2017). The trivial pop drama feels like the classic Aerosmith and Bon Jovi music videos and smells like bubblegum and One by Calvin Klein. Timothée plays Daniel, a clumsy, insecure kid who has just lost his beloved father. Grief blurs his eyes, so that he goes through life like a blind newborn kitten. From scene to scene, his initiation (defloration) lasts, and every viewer of it feels like an old pedophile-fetishist.

In the same year, Call Me By Your Name was released. Not a film, but THE FILM. Outwardly, all decency is observed, but in fact it’s not a movie, but an ode to unclouded joy and the recognition of a voyeur. Luca Guadagnino can’t take his eyes off Chalamet, like the rest of the world that has learned to call this little prince, the child of vice, by his name. He is not your Anglo-Saxon Timothy, he’s Timothée. Only French pronunciation, accent on the last syllable! Like any idol, he needs a mysterious overseas fleur. And, of course, Call Me By Your Name is not about peaches. It doesn’t matter who exactly poured out the juice, who tasted the forbidden fruit. It’s obvious that Timothée’s cheeks are silkier than any gifts of nature. However, Guadagnino, as an experienced aesthete, didn’t fail to place an exotic fruit in a suitable interior — there are lutes, antiquity, brocade, and velvet — the arrangement is composed according to all the laws of the magnificent eloquence of classical painting. Surprisingly, Chalamet didn’t become a gay icon after this film, which is more a Power Point presentation of pre-Raphaelite art. Same-sex love is idealized there, all the sharpness of the dish is muted by sweet dressing. Guadagnino’s film tries to be a manifest, but it’s not. It’s far from the transgressive antics of Alain Guiraudie or the feverish visions of Derek Jarman. Homosexuality of Call Me By Your Name is a candy-bouquet, with Mozart and Brahms, quotes from Rousseau and curtsies to Bronzino. Those gays have descended from the pages of Architectural Digest magazine. Nevertheless, Elio’s tears at the train station or at Christmas in front of a crackling fireplace are real. Finally, Chalamet made us believe that his lips are not only to lick foamy milk or steal kisses. He can bite them until they bleed, having fainted from the blow below the belt.

In the films of Wes Anderson and Denis Villeneuve, Chalamet is again in the image of an irresistible boy. No matter what outfit he is wearing, whether the mantle of an intergalactic aristocrat or a sweater from Haider Ackermann, he is allowed to do everything — to make fun of May 68th or to decide the future of the planet Arrakis.

Matvey Cherry


Paco May


If you enjoy Paco’s work, please consider donating:

Matvey will accept tips through Sidewalkkilla (please mention “For Matvey” in notes):

EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Patrick Arias: “Bushwig is Like a True to Life Family Reunion”




My favorite part about Bushwig is how it feels like a true to life family reunion. Every circle of NY nightlife and beyond come together to dress down and leave it all on the stage and support their friends and lovers. It moves way too fast to document all at once, it’s a total whirlwind of drag and laughs and stunts!

EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Movies With Matvey Cherry: The Hand Of God


Movies With Matvey Cherry:

The Hand of God

Illustration by Paco May

The outstanding director

didn’t betray his style and has,

skillfully and with pleasure,

created a masterpiece again.

He uses references to the classics of Italian neorealism by Fellini, but without turning his film into an imitation of the genius of the past. A chaotic jumble of moments from youth are remembered by the author, passed through the filter of his adult outlook, ironic but touching . Memory acts like a magnifying glass, turning a half-forgotten reality into something grotesque. Every person is obliged to turn around one day, as Orpheus and Lot’s wife did.

The risk is great, because either the past will disappear forever, or the memory carrier will turn into a pillar of salt. A personality is born out of a million insignificant details which leave scars for various reasons. The main character has silence in his cassette player until the end of the movie, because music can’t replace those who are not with us. This is how teen dramas become adult traumas. The Baroness, like the goddess of fate of the Park, lets Fabietto into her super pussy before cutting the umbilical cord that connected the boy with the past. She gives him the most important lesson: look at this life and think about your own. Think about what you like in this life. In this life there is already everything that is needed, everything that death will take away.

Matvey Cherry


Paco May


If you enjoy Paco’s work, please consider donating:

Matvey will accept tips through Sidewalkkilla (please mention “For Matvey” in notes):

EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Bec Steighner Focuses on Details




Bushwig was an amazing event to witness and experience. I really enjoyed watching everyone’s performances. As someone who has danced for many years of my life, a passion that later translated into drag performances, I know how difficult it is to command a crowd. When the performer can do that successfully, magic happens. The moments when the crowd and performer were in sync were my favorites of the weekend.

Bec Steighner


EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Movies With Matvey Cherry: The Velvet Underground


Movies With Matvey Cherry:

The Velvet Underground

Illustration by Paco May

Shots flash by in a confused rhythm:

Winston cigarettes,

a black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoon,

newspapers, late night shows,

Elizabeth Taylor.

Guess what? American mainstream culture of the 60s. But as soon as we get under its skin, the sensuously hypnotic sound of Venus In Furs is bumping. This cyclical melody rhymes with the noise of New York, where everything is not the same as everywhere else. 

Todd Haynes‘ filmography, imbued with a nostalgic melancholy for decades long gone, is proof of his unconditional and devoted love for the exalted and magnetic musical aesthetics of the 20th century. Stories about famous people and significant events abound. The Velvet Underground documentary in fact doesn’t fit into any genre and is perceived rather as a mosaic portrait captured on camera, assembled from video chronicles, archival photographs, interviews and fragments of experimental cinema of those times. At the emotional level, Todd Haynes’ film works with the audience in exactly the same way as the American underground cinema of the last century, in the spirit of Jonas Mekas or Andy Warhol (both, of course, are in the film). Andy was an artist and a producer, a conceptualist with a mission, a celebrated figure of the world of nightlife and fashion journalism. He knew the price of pain, appreciated scars and declared his love for everyone. His red carpets lead to eternity, where he will stay forever. The music of The Velvet Underground mixes an experimental search for how to sound elegant and brutal at the same time. Lou Reed knew what proud despair meant. Later in his life he recorded “Sad Song” for his great Berlin album. It mentions the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots and narrates a story of the suicide of a beloved girl, also providing some incredibly euphoric overtures replete with cascades of arpeggios and a chorus of people endlessly, very lightly repeating “sad song, sad, sad song”. That’s how sadness may have looked when viewed through the lens of the countercultural festivities of the 60s.

EDITORIAL Nightlife Timeline

Matvey Cherry is a Lovely Dark Thing





On August 15, 2021, one of the most enigmatic figures in New York City’s nightlife, Matvey Cherry, brought out an intimate soiree of the city’s movers and shaker for the second installment of Lovely Dark Things at the Triad Theater.

When asked who Matvey Cherry is, he responds:

“A star of our time.”

Matvey’s musical journey is described as multi sensorial experience, because “it’s the fucking 21st century. You have to do everything or nothing at all.

He created Lovely Dark Things when he got tired of performing at 3 Dollar Bill and decided to take full control of his own creative expression and his art:

“So I started my own show, where I was able to invite any artists I want: drag, burlesque, contemporary dancers, etc., to create a truly unique Bohemian experience at a legendary theater, the theater where Lady Gaga started her career, by the way.”

Matvey concludes:

“Follow me and find out what I’m cooking up for the future. I’m always working on something.”

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Alexey Kim


EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Myanmar: All Quiet on The Western Front


All Quiet On

The Western Front:

Examining Western Media’s Surprising Lack in Coverage of The Fight for Democracy in Myanmar.

Mar 24, 2021 (Wed) – this day marks 52 days since the Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw, seized power from the semi-civilian, semi-democratic government in a violent coup d’état. The Tatmadaw claimed that the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won the election with over 82% of the votes, had committed voter fraud. They raided the homes of elected officials before dawn on the day they were supposed to start a new term in Parliament (Feb 1, 2021) in the capital Naypyidaw, and declared a one-year state of emergency. An 8pm to 4am curfew was later implemented in major cities, large gatherings were outlawed, and there have been nationwide internet outages between 1am and 9am for the past 37 nights, while some parts of the country are now under martial law. Since the coup, citizens have poured into the streets in millions in fervent protest for the release of their elected leaders and against the military coup. The Tatmadaw have cracked down on the protests in violent fashion which escalated from the use of water canons, tear gas and rubber bullets, to machine gun fire, arson and destruction of civilian property. Night raids and arrests without warrants have continued in addition to the daytime crackdowns, resulting in the deaths of over 300 civilians – the youngest being 7, and the eldest, 70. Thousands have been displaced due to different forms of persecution, and thousands more remain missing due to arrests and kidnappings – including the elected president, Win Myint, and the leader of the NLD party and state counselor, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Despite brutality from police and soldiers, the people continue to voice their dissent in different and creative ways – by banging pots and pans at 8pm every night for 15 minutes, by forming a temporary government known as the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), by refusing to go to work in the case of government employees in what is called the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), by building barricades in their neighbourhoods and assigning night guards, by starting mutual aid funds for community welfare programmes, and by creating peopleless protests using traditional toys and other inanimate objects. In a stunning turn of events, after 51 days of relentless protests and 51 nights of civil unrest, the country went silent for the first time. And this was accomplished by design: people needed to recharge; state media has been insisting on TV that all is fine; and the crisis within the country goes largely unnoticed by the world due to a lack of in-depth coverage by international media. The people wanted to symbolically express how they are oppressed and silenced, and also highlight the silence and inaction from Western world powers – since they are very often the most vocal when it comes to human rights and democracy. On closer examination of the interests and motivations of media, political powers and businesses from the West and the international community at large, I have found clear reasons why these entities would choose to silently and cautiously observe what the Myanmar people are calling the “Spring Revolution”, instead of actively choosing a side in the struggle or intervening in any capacity. I would like to explore these reasons below from the standpoints of geopolitics, economics and human rights.

People from San Chaung spell out “Spring Revolution” with lit candles, remembering those who passed away and the detained Aung San Suu Kyi on March 2, 2021.


—I will be using “Myanmar” to describe the country and everyone in it as a collective, and “Burmese” to describe the language or the majority ethnic population native to the flatlands of the country – although “Myanmar” and “Burma” are interchangeable linguistically and historically, and the latter is anglicized.

—A lot has happened within Myanmar over the past 70 years and over the past 50 days. My summarization of 20th and 21st Century Myanmar history and the recent happenings may seem oversimplified or reductive, but I have made an earnest effort to include all information that is relevant to the current situation in the country.


This coup and subsequent uprising are not the first. The military regime first came into power in 1962 under General Ne Win. There have been multiple changes in military leadership over the decades and different uprisings opposing various leaders and policies. Every uprising brings hope of change, freedom and progress as well as vicious crackdowns. The 8-8-88 Uprising brought about the 1990 General Election, the results of which were annulled, followed by new military leadership. The Saffron Revolution (2007) brought about the 2008 Constitution, and then came the experiment with a semi-civilian, semi-democratic government for two election terms from 2010 to 2020, which leads us to the present day.

Myanmar had stayed impartial throughout the Cold War despite its adoption of Socialism, under Ne Win, thanks to his policies of isolationism and rejection of Cold War politics, among other things. However, as leadership changed in the Tatmadaw, Myanmar opened its borders to trade with China and started receiving substantial military aid. This was right after the violent suppression of the 88 Uprising, which also coincided with the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests. The two neighbours found camaraderie in the quelling of political dissent and in being shunned by the international community as a consequence. This camaraderie has remained intact over the past 33 years: China remains the biggest trading partner and economic investor in Myanmar. For the Chinese government, the Myanmar military junta is a political and economic entity that unequivocally supports them, and one they can support and trade with conveniently. With similar pro-democracy movements at their doorstep, in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Chinese leadership maintains support for the Myanmar military and its leaders. On Feb 3, China vetoed the UN condemnation of the Myanmar coup at the Security Council. Again on Mar 9, the UN Security Council failed to release a statement condemning the coup, due to opposition from China, Russia, Vietnam and India. So far, the UN has only released statements regarding use of deadly force from the Tatmadaw but no official condemnation of the coup. After some China-financed factories burned down in the crackdown of a protest in an industrial zone outside Yangon on Mar 14, the Chinese Embassy called for the persecution of those responsible without mention of the death of 18 unarmed protestors at the scene.

The situation is similar for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The military junta is all the ASEAN member nations have ever known. Myanmar military rule actually predates the founding of ASEAN in 1967, and Myanmar did not become a member till 1997 under Than Shwe, the country’s third military leader. Over the second half of the 20th Century, Myanmar has become a source of cheap labour due to ethnic minorities fleeing persecution by the Tatmadaw into neighbouring countries. ASEAN has a non-interference policy for internal affairs of member nations, has always worked with different military leaders after coups happen in the region, and are willing to resume such a relationship with Myanmar. In mid-February, Indonesia proposed a plan to hold Myanmar military leaders to their pledge of holding a new general election within one year of the coup – which the Myanmar citizens contested – and Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi proceeded to meet with military-appointed Myanmar foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin on Feb 24 in Bangkok, Thailand. On the very same day, Malaysia deported 1.086 Myanmar immigrants on three Myanmar Navy ships, despite a court order from the Kuala Lumpur High Court and pleas from human rights organizations to halt the deportation. The focus of ASEAN has always been maintaining diplomatic relations among its member nations – since the region has experienced instability over the past several centuries due to internal conflicts and Western Colonialism. And ASEAN, by constitution, is an economic union and not necessarily a champion for human rights.

In the West, the UN is very limited in its powers and capabilities, despite its well-meaning principles, due to veto powers from member nations like China and Russia. (Myanmar has military ties with Russia and North Korea as well.) The Myanmar people have been asking for UN Peacekeeping Troops to be deployed since crackdowns against the protests started, as they have seen in the past how these tend to escalate. The UN remains unable to reach a consensus in condemning the coup thus far. As for the US, the situation in Myanmar seems to present the Biden Administration an opportunity to flex its foreign policy prowess and get on the all-American pro-democracy soapbox. However, the US is in the midst of dealing with the disastrous legacy of the Trump Administration: Trump had actively antagonized China since before taking office; there had been threats of war with Iran and North Korea, as recently as 2020; the Coronavirus Pandemic had been severely exacerbated due to longstanding issues in public health and healthcare; the second Trump impeachment just wrapped; and the Capitol itself had been under seige in early January. In addition, the Biden Administration has already failed and/or faced delays in fulfilling campaign promises of $2,000 stimulus checks, no deportation of immigrants within 100 days of taking office, and the $15 minimum wage. Disapproval and condemnation from Washington of the Tatmadaw and their coup could easily be read as a challenge to and undermining of a sovereign foreign power, albeit an illegitimate one. And sending any US troops into Myanmar would add one more to the long list of wars the US has engaged in and could result in China facing a situation akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis. This would be a threat to world peace at large.

The EU seems to be pretty much in agreement with the US in its approach to the situation in Myanmar. Both entities have released statements condemning the coup and its use of violence against peaceful protestors, and have implemented sanctions targeting military leadership and affiliated entities.

In essence, the East has made up its mind that they are willing to work with the Myanmar military junta again, and they have been vocal about it, even if not explicitly so. The West, however, has yet to decide what their relationship with Myanmar is, especially since China has overwhelming influence not just over Myanmar but also in international politics. To navigate this precarious situation, the CRPH appointed Dr Sasa, an ethnic Chin medical doctor turned politician and philanthropist, as the special envoy to the UN. He has been meeting with local ethnic leaders making sure the country is united under a pro-democracy banner, and meeting with international leaders making a case that a democratic Myanmar will be an asset and ally to the international community – so that the Myanmar people can ask for more drastic intervention measures.

Protester gives three-finger salute to the police at the “22222 Revolution” protest by the Embassy of China in Yangon on February 22, 2021.


Right after the coup happened, on Feb 2, the Myanmar people came up with the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) as a means to protest in a safe manner during an ongoing global pandemic, and as a way to completely stop the Tatmadaw’s State Administrative Council (SAC) from functioning. It is basically a labour strike where government employees don’t go to work, as a refusal to work under a military government, with the chant, “ရုံးမတက်နဲ့၊ ရုန်းထွက်။” – which means, “Don’t go to the office! Break free!” Myanmar is a very poor country where most wage workers make less than US $2 per day and a majority of government employees make less than US$250 per month – a situation that has been worsened by the Coronavirus Pandemic. People took a great economic risk by choosing to abandon whatever means of income they have to protest the coup.

On Feb 23, Mary Callahan, an associate professor of international studies at the University of Washington who has done research on Myanmar, wrote a series of tweets from her now deactivated Twitter account criticizing the CDM. She called the movement “inhumane” for stopping means of income for the majority of the country’s population and implied people will resort to savagery if they don’t get paid by the end of the month. (I called her a Karen in a response, which may or may not have played a role in the disappearance of her Twitter account.) Yet here we are after almost two months of non-stop protests, and the people are still going strong. The Internet is out for 8 hours every day, most bank services aren’t functional, a large portion of government employees from different sectors are out of office, and somehow the people are still well-fed and housed – with the exception of those who have been ousted from their living quarters by armed forces, of course. They continue to march in the streets in the name of democracy and in opposition to the military junta. Since the beginning of the protests, those with financial means have been distributing water and meals for protestors. As the crackdowns turned violent, people have pooled together resources to make protective gear for those marching on the frontlines, to create make-shift defenses for their own neighbourhoods and to cover medical bills. As people are forced out of their homes and families lose their breadwinners to arrests, kidnappings and killings, carts and tables full of produce and groceries have popped up across the country bearing the banner “လိုတာယူ၊ ပိုတာလှူ” – meaning “Take what you need! Donate the excess!

Personally, I find none of this surprising: I’ve always known my people to be kind, generous, resourceful and resilient. Even after living under an oppressive totalitarian dictatorship over the past half century, they still refuse to give in to despair and are committed to taking care of each other. This form of community welfare, however, does not bode well for any capitalists who are looking to invest in Myanmar for cheap labour. The “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” that is synonymous with Western (American) Democracy is accompanied by the unwritten clause that you have to earn your keep, by working 40 hours a week, if not more. The fact that working class people, who are very poor already to begin with, have been able to not only sustain each other without paid work for almost 2 months, but fight ardently for a social and political cause they believe in, while not plunging the entire country into utter chaos, is an inspiration to the proletariat everywhere and a direct threat to the capitalist institution.

Myanmar is a major supplier for fast fashion brands like H&M, Zara and Primark, with its US$4.59 billion garment industry constituting over 30% of the country’s exports. Garment workers have joined the protests since early February, and their union, Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar, has taken steps to ensure the workers can participate in the protests and can return to work without negative consequences. However, those represented by the union remain a minority. On Feb 18, GY Sen, a Primark supplier in Yangon, held up to 1000 of its employees against their will in a factory for several hours, to stop them from participating in protests. Currently, there is an ongoing campaign for Adidas, which runs 6 factories in Myanmar, and Beyoncé, an Adidas partner, to publicly support their almost 20,000 employees and the people of Myanmar.

At this point, Western investors are in a tough position. If they vocally support the Myanmar people and their movement – and should they prevail in this fight for democracy – there is possibility of stronger labour laws and stricter regulations on foreign investors, which will interfere with their ability to outsource cheap labour. They also invite open hostility toward their properties from the armed forces, which would worsen if the Tatmadaw manages to assert dominance over the people. Much like the political powers from whence they came, most of the foreign businesses in Myanmar remain silent regarding the Spring Revolution. As for Eastern investors, just like those from ASEAN members and China, they are biding their time to work with military leaders again, but China-owned businesses don’t necessarily have a bright future in a democratic Myanmar, as people have started boycotting them, as well as products made in China.

Pro-democracy fighter who lost his life from gunshot to the head during Hlaing Tharyar protest is surrounded by mourning family. March 14, 2021.

Human Rights

Myanmar is notorious for its human rights violations. Even under a semi-civilian, semi-democratic government, the Tatmadaw managed to carry out the Rohingya Genocide in 2017. With military officers in charge again, persecutions of ethnic minorities are back in full swing, in addition to the well-documented use of excessive force on protestors, medics, and civilians who are not involved in the upsiring. Nevertheless, without action taken by governments or businesses, any documentation of crimes against humanity won’t even go into history books but will devolve into hushed whispers warning the next generation of what despots are capable of. Nowadays, many governments and businesses will not openly criticize the human rights abuses in foreign nations because they are responsible for similar abuses themselves. Over the past few years, criticisms of human rights violations from one country by another have been rendered essentially ineffective due to the adoption of “whataboutism” in international relations. This tu quoque logical fallacy has been expertly deployed by Russia specifically to deflect any inquiries on its human rights issues by the media, by bringing up unresolved issues in the US and EU – a technique Trump quickly adopted to avoid accountability for actions taken by his administration. And it seems no government or business has the moral authority to chastise the Tatmadaw for its offences.

During summer 2020 in the US, the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum and people took to the streets after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor among many others at the hands of law enforcement. Police exercised extreme brutality toward those who were protesting police brutality, and politicians overwhelmingly backed the police and ignored the demands of the people. Airstrikes in the Middle East have continued from the Obama Administration, through the Trump Administration, to the Biden Administration. And the list goes on for human rights offences the US has committed within its borders and throughout the world. In the East, China continues to put their Uyghur population in internment camps, maintains its domination of Tibet, violently suppresses the uprising in Hong Kong, and regularly threatens to invade democratic Taiwan. In India, the Modi Administration is running a fascist regime that has been redefining citizenship laws to exclude and persecute Muslims. In 2020, Thailand concluded a five-year military rule with the military head, Prayut Chan-o-cha, leaving the military only to become the civilian Prime Minister – the same exact move pulled in Myanmar just a decade earlier by Thein Sein, who went from being an army general to a uniformed Prime Minister, then civilian President. The Thai people’s demands were rejected, and the military and royals have only grown more powerful since. In the Philippines, the Duterte Administration has been carrying out extrajudicial killings in an aggressive war on drugs. Myanmar, over the course of its post-colonial history, has had similar issues to all these aforementioned countries. But none of their governing bodies will hold or are in a position to hold the Myanmar Tatmadaw accountable for the crimes they are guilty of as well.

Although the Myanmar people are unable to rely on governing entities in the international community, they have found friends in similar movements. Myanmar has become the newest member of the Milk Tea Alliance, which consists of Asian netizens in different parts of the world engaged in different pro-democracy/liberation movements for their own people and/or opposing Chinese imperialism. Milk tea has become their symbol, since most tea in South and Southeast Asia contains milk but traditional Chinese tea doesn’t. #MilkTeaAlliance has been widely used on social media by netizens with origins in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, India and Myanmar. Many of the measures to counter brutal crackdowns by armed forces actually come from fellow Alliance members. The pro-democracy movement in Myanmar has also adopted the three-finger salute from the “Hunger Games” franchise – a phenomenon started by protestors in Thailand in 2014 when their military coup happened. It was first used by medical workers, spread very quickly among Myanmar citizens, and has now been seen at the UN.

The positive, I should state, is that despite the reluctance from the international community, including our nextdoor neighbours, the Myanmar people are now willing and ready to resolve issues that have long existed in the country. Since the time of the kings, the Burmese population of the flatlands have exerted dominance over ethnic minorities of the highlands, of which there are over 130 different tribes. We gained Independence from the British thanks to the Panglong Agreement signed by ethnic leaders along with the Burmese. This agreement stipulates that these ethnic groups would have self-determination and self-governance under a federal government after gaining Independence – a promise gone unfulfilled since 1948. On Mar 17, the CRPH released a draft of the new constitution for a federal democracy, which fulfils this promise. The CRPH, thanks to the efforts of Dr Sasa, has been able to galvanize ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), which had been fighting the Tatmadaw since the late 1940s, with the promise of forming an ethnic Federal Army. Buddhist dogma had been the prevailing ideology in the country’s spirituality since its early recorded history in the 11th Century. Amid the protests, due to lives and livelihoods lost as a result of brutal crackdowns, leaders from different religious groups have come together to hold interfaith vigils and prayer circles. When the boycott of China-owned businesses and made-in-China products started, the people were quick to clarify that they are against the CCP and not Chinese immigrants in Myanmar. (For a third-generation Chinese immigrant in Myanmar who has had to hide their Chinese ancestry growing up due to xenophobia, this brings me a lot of joy.) During protests, many have been seen carrying signs apologizing to the Rohingyas for the 2017 genocide. The CRPH has also put forth a plan to take the current military leader, Min Aung Hlaing, to the International Criminal Court for the crimes committed by the Tatmadaw.

Myanmar’s LGBTQIA+ community protests on February 19, 2021.


As things stand, the Myanmar people are on their own. The East has its allegiance pledged to the military leaders, who are easy to please and easy to deal with, unlike a yet-to-form truly democratic populace. The West has yet to make up its mind, and the Myanmar people are quickly learning that foreign powers that so often profess values of democracy and human rights can be hypocrites acting out of self interest. Still there is no choice but to keep reaching out to the international community, out of principle, that perhaps someone would care and take the initiative to intervene in the interest of the Myanmar people. There is, of course, great comfort and encouragement in being part of the Milk Tea Alliance and knowing they are not alone; any victory won by the people in any of the Alliance nations can lead to victories for others.

Given the damage done to them by the Tatmadaw since the first coup in 1962 – including the lives and livelihoods lost during the recent protests – the Myanmar people are coping surprisingly well. Since day one of the coup, the people have come up with strategies and tactics to counter whatever action the new regime might take to keep them oppressed and obedient. Some plans, like the new constitution, had been in the works since before the coup – since the 2008 Constitution was designed to legitimize any potential military coups. In fact, it was the people who made the first offensive move against the new regime by initiating CDM. After almost 2 months, military leadership is still unable to fill administrative positions at the local level due to people’s refusal to cooperate. Naypyidaw is just a bunch of generals calling themselves kings with no peasants to pay tribute to them. They can keep sending soldiers and police officers to shoot citizens and loot their homes and businesses, but that can only last for so long until their subordinates defect or turn against them. The fact that the violence keeps escalating means the generals are desperate, and we have already started seeing defectors.

Currently, it may seem that the Tatmadaw and the Myanmar people are evenly matched in this struggle for control over the country. However, the people clearly outnumber the soldiers and police, and they can’t kill or put everyone in jail – unless Min Aung Hlaing is really committed to becoming the king of ashes. The people don’t have guns or ammunition, but they have control over all the resources in the country, and the means to transport or freeze them. And they have the most important and necessary resource of all: each other. The people of Myanmar are more united now than ever, like never before in history. They had, in the past, come together under leaders they trust, with Aung San Suu Kyi being the most recent example – and her father, the pro-Independence leader Aung San, had been one before her. Over the course of these recent protests, the pro-democracy icon has not even been in the picture at all, and yet the people continue to fight for their own future and for each other. This is a movement with no designated leader, which makes it much harder for the Tatmadaw to stop. The Myanmar people had experienced some freedom and progress over the past 10 years under a semi-civilian government. They want more, they don’t ever want to go back, and they are determined to depose anyone who stands in their way.

Perhaps, a lack of interest for the Myanmar people or inaction regarding their plight from the international community may not be an entirely bad thing. With the ongoing brutality from soldiers and police, many more will fall unfortunately – and I will personally say the international community is complicit in these tragedies, since their inaction is a calculated choice. However, given all that the people have accomplished over the past several weeks, I have absolute faith that they can rebuild whatever has been lost, heal their collective traumas, and come back even stronger. Myanmar may even turn out to be the Milk Tea Alliance member that accomplishes its goals before other members do. As a clear winner emerges toward the end of this struggle, the international community may finally take a side in the interest of their future business prospects in Myanmar, and may even take credit for the people’s victory. In that case, I insist we celebrate it explicitly as the people’s victory: it will be hard earned and deeply appreciated, and the rewards of a new federal democratic union should be their own.

ADDENDUM: Since the writing of this essay, the Tatmadaw has escalated its rule of terror. The youngest recorded casualty is age 5. There have been airstrikes on villages in Karen State. On Mar 27 – once called Revolution Day that commemorates the fight against Japanese fascist forces and now rebranded by the Tatmadaw as Armed Forces Day – 114 lives were lost, including a 40-year-old father of four in Mandalay who was burned alive. The CDM has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and the death toll stands at 573 as of Apr 1.

Emi Grate


EDITORIAL Events Timeline

House°Bones FWSS°21: All The Birds That Couldn’t Fly


House°Bones FWSS°21 :

All The Birds That Couldn’t Fly

“As Black people we’ve always been taught

that we have to work

five times as hard as the next person,”

says Bones Jones, dancer turned designer, event organizer, and founder of the lifestyle brand House°BONES (HoB). Today is supposed to be his day to unwind following the previous night’s grueling yet successful fashion presentation for his one-shot FWSS°21 (Fall Winter Spring Summer) collection. He is in his Harlem apartment, smoking a spliff by the window of a second small bedroom that he has converted into a studio space. This is where he designed and executed 45 pieces for his latest collection 5 Star Nightlife. There is a time limit on our conversation though, because he has to speed off to a photoshoot in Jersey, where he is booked to style someone’s hair. Oh yes, he is a hair stylist as well.

“I can’t pay my rent, but creatively, I feel on top of the world right now,”

he says, staring out towards the uninspiring grey panorama just beyond the window sill. In the time when the New York Fashion Week is cancelled until further notice and designers are shitting themselves about the uncertain future of their fashion houses, Bones pulled off a 40-minute fashion presentation in the form of an immersive dance theater within a matter of one week. The presentation involved 17 performers of different races, shapes and sizes.  

“When I hear that saying about us [Black people] having to work fivefold it blows my mind, because to me our natural state is what’s already sought after so hard. I feel like we just have a way of being that is so universally admired that a lot of other countries, other races and cultures try to emulate it– like braids or locks, big butts or full lips, and all these things are natural physical states of Black people.”

The spliff is still going and Bones adds to his previous statement,

“What I mean is, our actual state of existing is enough, but we’ve been taught that it’s not, that you have to do a bunch of extra shit. And so we get out there and we start thinking that we’re not enough and start doing all these things that other people do, when in reality you are already exactly where you need to be. And that goes for everybody, but specifically Black people have been taught not to believe that in this country.”

Bones’ life mission of challenging the routine is directly channeled through his brand HoB. HoB’s mission is to change the paradigm of luxury and social norms, and everything that Bones does in his everyday life rings true to that mission, whether he is consciously aware of it or not. It’s no secret that fashion is one of the biggest contributors to environmental destruction. Not only is the fashion industry responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, it is also the second largest user of the planet’s water supply. 85% of all clothing produced ends up in a landfill, while washing the $5 polyester shirt that you got at H&M, contributes to the microplastic pollution of our oceans. Questionable labour ethics of the fast fashion industry is an entire conversation of its own. Even though the truly green future of all fashion is considerable ways away, people’s awareness is growing and the niche for ethical and sustainable clothing is slowly but surely expanding (HERE are some sustainable clothing labels worth checking out.)

While Zara, which operates under Inditex, the world’s largest apparel manufacturer, juggles around 20 collections per year, Bones believes that one collection a year is more than enough. Minimalism and versatility are the keys to his fashion code,

“This is the shit you can wear all year around, you can layer it, wear it this way or that, you can do whatever you want. I don’t like when things are ‘supposed’ to be only one way, it just doesn’t make sense.”

He tries to use the entirety of the fabric, even the selvage (the “self-finished” edge of a roll of fabric which keeps it from unraveling and fraying) as the garment’s trimming. This is a big no-no in the fashion industry and this part of the fabric usually gets trashed.

“Unfinished ends are unique to my brand, everything doesn’t have to have a perfect finish.”

The spliff is finally done and Bones is riding the high of last night’s success,

“I feel like even the brands with money couldn’t do what we did yesterday. McQueen was the last person who did something like this. When I am able to physically touch the money that McQueen was touching and be able to rent the venues and get the proper fabrics and not three dollar, five dollar fabrics, you best fucking believe that I’m going to be working in my natural state, but it’s not going to be five times harder.”

Five dollar fabrics, selvage, frayed ends or not, you can’t take away Bones’ self-taught technical ability to construct complex garments like a denim corset-cum-leotard that fit one of the model’s body like a glove, bulge and all.

“I don’t see anyone else doing what I am doing,”

Bones continues,

“Nowadays I am not afraid to say that – before I would be afraid to assert myself, again because we’ve been conditioned that way and not just Black people but people in general, whoever is not in the top one percent. We have been taught not to assert ourselves and where you stand and who you are, it’s always ‘dumb yourself down’ for the higher person in the room. No, fuck you. What makes you higher than me? No one is brave enough to host a fashion show during a pandemic, even in a safe way. If we can go to restaurants and football games, yeah, I am going to do this.”

The “5 Star Dining” showcase was broken up into performance vignettes that had their own narrative. A few models who represented restaurant guests would walk into the “restaurant” which was represented by an awkward wooden table propped up in the middle of the performance space, and then a scene would unravel, whether through a choreographed group routine, a solo dance or a theatrical interaction. Phenomenally, every moving piece was set in its place within one three-hour day of rehearsal. 

Bones makes it explicit that he didn’t choreograph the whole show by himself, but rather gave the talent through lines and possible intention, which they were free to interpret in their own way to create scenarios. There were people who helped with styling and hair, but the models were responsible for their own makeup. It was important for Bones to let the cast build their own narrative. It’s less about the control and more about collaboration. As with the audience, the goal was to give them something to think about.

Two “guests” enter the “restaurant,” their HoB attire is over-the-top lavish– tulle and pearls with a splash of boujee above-it-all attitude,

“That was hinting at this higher society that gets to operate during this time, because if you have money your life is normal. If you got money, you can do what the fuck you want to do, like the fucking Governor or mayor or whoever [Texas senator Ted Cruz]. The bitch ran to the heat while the people are freezing and that’s exactly what the fuck I’m talking about.”

When the above mentioned boujee “guests” settle at the table, one of the models pulls down their mask and smokes a joint lit up by their partner. Then something unspeakable happens… They share the j. *Insert Karen screaming.* The sharing of the joint represents hypocrisy in our society, aka the mask police who would turn around and then do something as unspeakable as sharing a smoke with their friends.

During another vignette, a stunning amazon of a drag queen and her cis-male presenting companion visit the “restaurant”. They sit on opposite sides of the clunky table and then an argument erupts. The cis-man-dude kicks his “chair” (an apple box) and exits the restaurant in fury.

“In this particular scene Viper and Sy were hinting at the trans women as sex workers and their relationships with men in public. This is what’s happening right now, people are going out to dinners, men are finding out that the girls are trans and then things transpire. The men might like it, but when the girls show up and do something different in public, the men might flip the script.”

Throughout the show the models show off the garments’ versatility by constantly changing the way they wear the pieces or exchanging them with each other– one “guest” comes in with a big denim jacket and puts it on another model as an oversized skirt. Bones says that his collection represents one full day in New York,

“Let’s say you are hanging out with your friends during the day and then you want to go to dinner and go out, but you don’t want to go back to the apartment to change your clothes. This collection is very much ‘throw something on and you already have what you need for any occasion.’ The clothes were meant to be able to transition from day to night to dinner to the club to the library if you will. You don’t have to choose, you can have this and that.”

Bones adds,

“What has always interested me is who you are when you are alone and what you might be hiding. How do you feel right now?”

One of the models walks into the room and starts fixing the table. He advances towards a mirror, looks himself over for a moment and makes his way back to the table. Then overhead lights flicker, representing lightning, and then bathe the room in blue. The model turns his back towards the audience, and takes off his jacket. The next thing to come down are the pants, revealing a thong-vest-leotard, ass cheeks fully exposed. He does this a few times, then puts the entire outfit back on and exits the stage.

“I told Stanley, you come into this room and maybe you are a perfectionist so you start fixing the table. When you see the lightning, maybe settle in at home because you’re like, okay, I’m not going anywhere with this really crazy weather outside. So then you start looking at yourself in the mirror and you’re like ‘I like this person but I don’t like who I am at the same time.’ So then he turns around and takes his pants off a little bit, revealing that he has a thong-leotard-vest on. He’s just showing a little crack. So he’s thinking, ‘It’s okay, this feels good, but I want to show my whole ass’ and pulls his pants down all the way to the floor. Then he pulls it all back up, like ‘I have this character that I have to be in real life. I gotta fucking perform every fucking day.’ When we leave our privacy, we have to perform and put on this character who everybody fucking wants us to be, you know, like these are the conversations we have with ourselves. So that’s how we built the show.”

He goes on confidently,

”I say this without any cockiness, but at the same time with all the cockiness, people know where this brand is about to fucking go and it’s like, do you want to be a part of greatness? Because a part of me being great is a part of me feeling that my community is great as well.”

Anyone who knows Bones wouldn’t be surprised that most of his collection was executed in an oceanic palette. But what was surprising to learn is that the reasons behind his connection to the blue hues were as deep as the ocean floor itself,

“I see life as water. You have to surrender to the water, and I feel like it’s exactly where I’ve been because I’ve had to learn how to swim underwater. I wasn’t living in my truth. If you want to navigate this life, you need to learn to not only swim, but also soar above the water. There is a human form on land, there is a human form in water [mermaids] and there’s a human form in air, the Angels. Blue shades are present in the sky as well. Before all this social media craze, let’s say you are in your thirties and you have been making things happen, then Instagram came along and some 16 year old fucks your shit up because they’re doing some dance and it just completely washed away everything you were fighting for, so you now about to learn how to fly. This whole time you’ve just been walking on land and then the wave came and washed you out and if you don’t learn how to swim you’re gonna drown. And that’s the problems with humans– we try to fucking learn how to operate on some shit that we already do. We already walk this Earth. I am not worried about how to walk on this Earth anymore, I now think about how to fly and swim with infinite breath.”

House°BONES would like to thank his team that assisted with this project:

PAs Maurice Ivy, Fletcher Christian

Creative Development Kris Seto, Tislarm Bouie

Lighting Alyssa Dunst

Special Thanks To Dana Wiener and Ayce Graham

Alexey Kim