Updated: Mar 22
Dexter “YoYo” K. Colston Jr. was a prominent drag queen and AIDS activist whose years of advocacy work resulted in bringing overlooked issues in our community to the forefront. On December 29, 2019, they passed away peacefully at home with their best friend Courtney and loved ones by their side, at just 31 years old. Dark Lady proprietor Rande Diantuono said that their name choice of YoYo for their drag persona “ironically described the colorful ups and downs and tangled ways of this very special person’s life, who opened many eyes to a different way of thinking, to help understand a more current dynamic of a diverse and struggling community.”
"They always intentionally created space for queer people of color, folks in wheelchairs, and the trans community."
YoYo/Dexter cohosted Fly Fridays and bartended in drag at the Dark Lady, a queer nightclub located in downtown Providence. The Dark Lady was where YoYo/Dexter found their family, as it provided them both support and a platform to create change as an openly queer person overcoming addiction and living with HIV. We were blessed to witness YoYo/Dexter’s advocacy work for misrepresented groups with Pride, Worlds AIDS Day, and during their reign as Miss Gay RI 2018, to name a few. No matter what the occasion, they always intentionally created space for queer people of color, folks in wheelchairs, and the trans community. They lived and breathed Pride here in Rhode Island, often reminding folks it all started at Stonewall in 1969, with trans women of color, and it was a riot.
A celebration of life was held January 12 at the Dark Lady with speeches, drag performances, and refreshments. The place was packed with a diverse crowd that celebrated YoYo/Dexter’s legacy. When YoYo/Dexter began their battle with cancer a year ago, they knew they needed to be even louder, and remained consistently active in the community.
When I addressed the crowd, I fittingly asked everyone to “Cheer for the ways they made you feel important. Echo their tenacity and adventurous spirit in the way you live your life. Effect real change in the world, just like they did. Find ways to express yourself and your creativity, whether through drag or other avenues. Be brave, loyal, and caring to one another just as they did for us. To thank YoYo/ Dexter for the memories and friendship that they gave you... embark on your own epic journey as they did so many times.”
In November 2019, YoYo/Dexter was honored with the annual Spirit of Pride Award for their commitment and dedication to Rhode Island Pride and the broader LGBTQIA+ community. The RI Pride board of directors also posthumously named YoYo/Dexter as an Honorary Marshall of the Illuminated Night Pride Parade this June 20, 2020. Now it’s our duty to carry the torch to fight for what’s just.
As YoYo/Dexter would say quoting Keith Haring: “Ignorance=Fear. Silence=Death. Fight AIDS. Act Up!”