Sunday Soul – LABEIJA


Pepper Labeija – the legendary mother of the house of Labeija – once described herself as “flawless.” She talked openly and without posture about how ball culture in New York City at the end of the 80’s was a voice of people who were otherwise invisible. Children with nothing, nowhere to go, and a burning voice within them came together in whatever they could put together in order to be beautiful, glamorous, and free for a night. Pepper’s role was not only as the mother of the house – where she would look after her children, hone them, guide them, and love them – but also to be fierce, and free herself.

Pepper was born William Jackson in 1948 and lived a double life for much of his life. In the 1960’s he was caught by his father by chance – he was in drag on the corner with some of his friends and his father was at a stop light and recognized him. His father rushed home in the car and told his mother that her son was becoming a woman. His mother shamed him, and piled up all his clothes – including a mink coat – and burned them. As soon as he was able to, William Jackson left home to come to New York City where he met Crystal Labeija. Crystal was one of the first non white drag queens to compete against white female impersonators and win trophies. Crystal founded the house of Labeija, and took Pepper under her wing, and soon after Pepper ascended to the role of mother where she reigned supreme for more than twenty years with a soft glove.

As I reflect on my own life and its metamorphosis, I feel a deep kinship with the house of Labeija, and even feel some degree of envy for the purpose and focus, the community and support that a house shares. I remember street culture, the feeling of complete isolation, the cold of nowhere to go, and the harsh arms of people who would offer me shelter. Personally, without purpose, I turned to drugs for comfort. I lost my way, I lost my footing, and eventually lost my life. Revived from a bathtub overdose to find myself transformed again into something without edge, something without rules, something without shape. The path from that bathtub is my path today. I have found some community, some reason, some purpose, and thankfully I am filled with gratitude and love as I consider and reflect back. Like Pepper, I wouldn’t change a thing, I have almost no regrets, and I feel an overwhelming sense of prosperity and love for the child I was, the man I have been, the people whom I tried to love, those who loved me back, and for the man I have become.

It is easy to compartmentalize, and consider this portion of my life or that portion of my life – depending on what music I listened to, or what my hair looked like at that time – and say “Oh god…” and write it off as a phase, or a mistake. But there have been no mistakes. Each step of my metamorphosis has been purposeful, intentional, and guided me to where I am today. I have been saved, taught, transformed, held, challenged, and loved as I have wriggled my way out of each cocoon and emerged as a radiantly free man, shining in the light of the present moment.

I challenge each and every one of you to stand up right here and right now, wear something fabulous today, let your face feel the sweet sun, lick your lips, and feel your wings spread wide apart in the breeze. The balls are gone, Pepper is gone, the house of Labeija is gone, but the music – the disco and house music of the late 1980’s – will live forever. Much too soon for some – Oh god, are you really playing that horrible old pop song Sunshine? Ugh – For others it’s been so long that you can’t even imagine a world where we all collided together at a ball, or in a club, or in a warehouse because there was nowhere else to go, and we lived in such desperate times. For you I offer my hand, and invite you to dance with me.

Who will walk today? Who will be feirce? Who will be free? Will it be you?

Here is the track listing for Sunday Soul – Labeija:

1. Sunday Soul – Program ID
2. Got To Give It Up – Marvin Gaye
3. Follow Me – Club Mix – Aly Us
4. Lovedance 2night – Jimmy The Twin Edit – Gary’s Gang
* Pepper Laibeja
5. Bonaire – Al Usher Remix – Dutch Rhythm Combo
6. Baja – Jellybean Dub – Mascara
* Pepper Laibeja
7. Sunday Lover – Sunshine Jones Re Edit – John Walker
* Pepper Laibeja
8. Like an Eagle – The Noddleman Deep Edit – Dennis Parker
* Pepper Laibeja
9. Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now – Jimmy the Twin Edit – FunkSoulSister
* Pepper Laibeja
10. Showtime – Leo’s Deep Disco Re-Edit – Gary’s Gang
11. Sing It Back – Mousse-T Remix – Moloko
12. Street Corner – Ashford and Simpson
13. Tell Me – Fromage Disco Telling You Edit – Groove Theory
14. Me And You – Francis Inferno Orchestra
15. The End – John Carpenter
16. Wanna Be Your Lover – Tim Zawada Edit – Prince
17. Here’s To You – Skyy
18. Tears – instrumental – Satoshi Tomiie – Frankie Knuckles
** release the queen inside of you
19. Deep In Vogue – Malcolm McLaren & The House of McLaren
20. Is It All Over My Face – Loose Joints
21. The Bomb – The Bucketheads
22. Dr Love – Jimmy The Twin Edit – First Choice
23. It Looks Like Love – Club 89 Remix – Montana Orchestra Feat. Goody Goody
24. High Energy – Fromage Mother Edit – The Supremes
25. I Don’t Know If It’s Right – Evelyn Champaign King
26. Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover – Cookie
27. Is It DISCO – osmose edit – Osmose
* Pepper Labeija
28. Supernature – Cerrone
29. Tonite – 12 Inch – Those Guys
30. Move Your Body – Marshall Jefferson
* Pepper Labeija
31. Robotism – Methusalem
32. Sylvester LCD – Mashup
33. Another Man – Barbara Mason
34. Promised Land – Joe Smooth
35. Move Your Body – Xpansions
36. Found Love – MC Double Dee
37. Lonely People – ADC Cum On Edit – Lil louis
38. Where Love Lives – 12″ Classic Mix – Alison Limerick
39. My Life – Beat Dub – 95 North
40. Finally (It’s Happened To Me) – CeCe Peniston
41. Get On Up And Do It Again – Suzy Q
42. I Wanna Give You Devotion – Soul Mix – Nomad
43. Go Easy On Me Girl – Franics Inferno Orchestra
44. Experience – Connie
45. Ava – Lucky Soul
46. Rock It – Herbie Hancock
47. Got To Be Real – Cheryl Lynn
48. Someday – Cece Rogers
49. Future – Bobby Kondors
50. Sunday Soul – Program ID
51. Over The Rainbow – Patti LaBelle
52. Sunday Soul – Program ID

Total Running Time: 04 Hours 05 Minutes 46 Seconds
* Recorded overdubs of Pepper Labeija – the legendary mother of the house of Labeija
** performed live