JOAN JETT BLAKK
JOAN JETT BLAKK FOR PRESIDENT
Born in Detroit, Terence Smith began to act as a performer and drag queen in 1974. In the mid-1980s Smith was one of the founders of the organization Queer Nation in Chicago, an activist group made up of members from ACT UP to raise consciousness about the AIDS crisis and promote the education of sexual politics. In 1990, he took on the nom de guerre Joan Jett-Blakk and presented his candidacy for mayor of Chicago. That election campaign—a true camp performance in all respects—served to give visibility to political positions and subjectivities that did not find representation in the majority public sphere. In 1992 and 1996 he ran for president in the United States, once again as spokesperson for Queer Nation, and for mayor of San Francisco in 1999.
This was the poster for his presidential campaign in 1992. The portrait, taken by the photograph Mark Geller, imitates the iconic image of Dr. Huey Percy Newton, who together with Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party in 1966, but this time substituting the lance and rifle for a plastic machine gun. The image was accompanied by the slogan “Joan Jett-Blakk for President”, followed by the tag line: “By any means necessary”. A phrase that when proclaimed by Malcolm X had served to legitimize the recourse to violence in defense of the black community when faced with racist aggression. Displaying a humor seemingly frivolous, but never lacking political impact, Joan Jett-Blakk claimed in interviews that she represented the Blakk Pantsuit Party, a parodic play on words alluding to the Black Panther Party.