Your vacation has been approved. You’ve packed a luggage full of fits, toiletries, and a pair of crisp, non-creased Jordans. Your direct flight from JFK was on time and chartered a seamless journey from New York City to the shores of Bavaro, a beach in Punta Cana Dominican Republic. There is only one problem. The money you paid months in advance via the event promoter for an end-of-summer party was never used to book your room. You are now stranded in one of the most sought-after Caribbean destinations with nowhere to sleep. What now?
DRtakeover, an event that was unofficially created in late summer of 2013, was born out of family, community, and love when Inferno Dominican Republic, a premier LGBTQ party for mature-minded men and women of color was unceremoniously canceled at the last minute. The abrupt decision to not have the event go on as planned left partygoers scrambling to rebook rooms or frantically contact credit card companies and banks to advise they have been hoodwinked. To this day, there has been no clear explanation as to why.
I will spare you all the long and well-documented details of what transpired after the Dear John email was sent to attendees August 28, 2013 but In short, a group of courageous men and women took charge of the now defunct Inferno and created a brand new party on the spot.
Some well-known bloggers (at the time) called us boughee, stuck up, and thirsty for spending thousands of dollars for what they viewed a frivolous and trivial event.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2023 and the established DRTAKOEVER event has now commemorated its tenth anniversary. I was an OG guest and have been attending for most of its long run. I typically do an eight-day stay because well, why not? This year, however, due to the death of a loved one, I reduced my time at the Barcelo Palace Hotel to four days. I missed the 1st two days of events beginning on Thursday, September 1st which included a Cosplay event, a party with guests unapologetically sporting their sexy mesh attire, and a damn near-naked booze cruise.
All was not lost, however, upon my arrival on Saturday, I checked into my panoramic ocean view suite, did a full-on Wonder Woman spin into proper pool attire, and met up with my crew who were already a few days into the fun and shenanigans under the Caribbean sun. Despite the stress and rough week I endured leading up to the trip, I remembered back to when I met my beloved band of brothers in 2013. Most of us were strangers to each other. Bonded by a common and what some called a traumatic experience which was salaciously covered by multiple blogs and YouTubers who were not in attendance.
It was a mess and those who were caught in the thick of the chaos became the laughing stock of the black same-gender-loving community for months. Some well-known bloggers (at the time) called us boughee, stuck up, and thirsty for spending thousands of dollars for what they viewed a frivolous and trivial event. Only one blogger put accountability not on the attendees who were impacted but on the event management team where it belonged. In hindsight, I don’t blame some of the criticism. The story was one of the biggest scandals to hit our community at the time. The details were a bucket of red meat thrown into a cage of rabid social media dogs hungry for the blood of tomfoolery.
Another blogger, Wesley Henderson of Aconnectiontv fame, was actually in attendance and documented the entire experience from the initial news of the cancelation of Inferno DR to its on-site evolution into The Takeover. It is the only accurate account of the event and the guests’ experience on record.
Wesley captured the true essence of an event which fostered men and women paying for rooms for people they didn’t know. He interviewed guests who spoke in groups around the pool at the then-host resort Melia Caribe Tropical. They spoke of their individual stories and the friendships that were formed based on such a trauma-bonding experience.
We came together to make sure that those who were there, had a chance to remain on the island and made to feel that they belonged despite what their finances dictated. None of the blogs cared about any of that. It wasn’t newsworthy to know that the smiles on our faces were a testament that we were not who those at home behind a keyboard said we were. The hotel staff treated us like rock stars and although I’m not for certain, a part of me feels as if they were impressed at our ability to turn lemons into hard, white Hennessey-infused lemonade. They gave as much to us as we did to them. The overall reality of that moment was purely magical.
Today, when people hear of the event, there is still a stigma attached to it. Some people who paid to attend Inferno DR, lost money and vowed to never return. Despite it being 10 years later, I found a few sarcastic posts bringing up the old, negative stories that The Takeover community had already deemed irrelevant.
The amount of OG’s who were there during the fiasco has dwindled considerably with this year’s event, but the unique element of family and togetherness remains. It’s the reason why I attended even if my stay was abbreviated. I came back for the one thing that made me support DRTAKEOVER in the first place, the friendships.
Within minutes of greeting my friends by pool, it was if I had been there all week. I blended into the fold and got my entire life during the Saturday night eyes-wide-shut-like party. The Takeover was very much alive. Sipping my drinks and being with friends was proof that we were still here, still partying, and living life to the fullest. We continue to define what it means to be mature men who have earned the right to live authentically and nurture life-long bonds.
When it comes to those who question the relevance of DRtakeover, I would say to them, it’s never been about the parties, the event bracelet, or the over-the-top outfits. The Takeover is about the ability to recognize that any experience in life really has no meaning, we have to give it one. What was lost on August 28, 2013, led the way for what was needed. A gathering of like-minded people whose foundation was built upon adversity, fueled by resilience, and created community.