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Mayor Marti?

by Steve Desroches

“Others have said it before me. If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”

That was said by Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren speaking about the importance of electing more women to the Senate, in particular, and in government in general. Indeed, for the vast majority of the history of the Republic, wealthy, white, straight, Christian cisgender men have dominated our government. But as Democratic New York Congresswoman and 1972 Presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm once said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

As was evident in the 2018 midterm elections, many around the country answered that call, resulting in the most diverse Congress to date, with many state and local elections also reflecting a greater diversity, with record numbers of women, people of color, and LGBTQ citizens holding public office. People are getting involved. One of those people who made a bit of a splash is New York City drag queen Marti Gould Cummings, who was appointed to Community Board 9 by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, representing the neighborhoods of Hamilton Heights, Manhattanville, and Morningside Heights.

While Cummings entertains six nights a week at gay bars like Rise and Therapy, she most recently spent hours in meetings debating whether or not to install new bike racks, which would mean losing several parking spots.

“I took it because I think local politics is the root of democracy,” says Cummings of the appointment. “I believe that change starts very locally and the Community Board is about as local as you can get. The news cycle tends to be about the big stories – what’s going on in D.C. and at the state capital. But local government is all about what’s going on in your backyard. I enjoy it. It’s about all the stuff that affects your day to day life.”

Cummings has long been a favorite in New York’s competitive drag scene, and she became a rising star here in Provincetown when she came to town to co-host Auditions with Kevin Aviance and to perform her solo shows. She’ll be back in town this weekend and again several times throughout the summer at Pilgrim House with her new show Farm Boy, City Girl.

To Cummings drag and politics go together like sequins and sparkle. With an art form that challenges gender norms and speaks truth to power it can’t help it. While she certainly presents fun and fast-moving performances, she uses the platform that comes with drag celebrity to organize and get out the vote.

Cummings is the founder of Hell’s Kitchen Democrats and a board member of the Ali Forney Center, a shelter and community center for homeless LGBT youth. There are an estimated 4,000 homeless LGBT youth in New York, but the Forney Center only has 190 and the Trump administration cut federal funding to the organization “by hundreds of thousands of dollars,” says Cummings, so she turned her efforts as a drag performer to help raise money to continue the vital services they provide to these children.

Cummings is also involved in an important aspect of New York City’s culture and economy that became heavily politicized under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani – nightlife. As mayor from 1994 to 2001, Giuliani targeted nightlife in the city, frequently making it a scapegoat for the city’s problems. Many say the city still hasn’t recovered as Giuliani helped to push the city into extreme gentrification. Mayor Bill de Blasio founded the Office of Nightlife, following the example set by Amsterdam, London, Paris, and Berlin, to create a voice for the people in promoting a safe and robust night culture. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson appointed Cummings to the Nightlife Advisory Council, in part as a liaison to the LGBT community. Cummings is quick to point out that while indeed New York’s nightlife took a big hit under Giuliani, all is not lost, and all is not his fault.

“Giuliani is awful,” says Cummings. “But I wouldn’t say nightlife is dead. Things change and it’s evolving. New York used to have these big clubs, like the Tunnel and Limelight, these huge, massive venues. As the price of real estate rose, it made it hard to keep places like that open. Things changed and got smaller. Now there are so many vacancies all over the city as no one can afford the leases. It’s too bad. It’s hurt nightlife for sure. But we want to work to make it so small businesses can again open; that someone can afford to open a bar or a club. That and people don’t go out like they used to. People use their phones to meet people. So get off your apps and go out with friends!”

Cummings has an indefatigable energy that appears in everything she does, something evident not just in her work in politics in New York, but every time she hits the stage. And while she is political, her shows are not necessarily so. She likens her stage shows to being like “the party scene with Shirley MacLaine in Postcards From Edge.” They are scripted for sure, but she leaves much room for improv, taking in the audience’s energy to add flesh to the bones of the show. This weekend she presents Farm Boy, City Girl at the Pilgrim House, a hilarious tale of how she went from her childhood on a farm in rural Maryland to being one of New York’s most famous drag queens. She’ll be back throughout the summer, including Family Week where she’ll perform afternoon shows for children and then nighttime shows for adults. Cummings demurs when asked if she has plans to run for higher office, saying, “Yes, so stay tuned”, but offers that her immediate goal is to get a summer long run in Provincetown.
“I love Provincetown,” says Cummings. “Whatever god I do believe in lives in Provincetown.”

Marti Gould Cummings presents Farm Boy, City Girl at Pilgrim House, 336 Commercial St., Provincetown, Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m. (the show returns July 31 through August 2 and then again September 12, 13, 20 and 21). Tickets ($30 general/$40 VIP) are available at the box office and online at For more information call 508.487.6424.

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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