San Francisco has a global reputation for being on the forefront of queer liberation, but the experiences of Black queer folks in the Bay over time tell a different story.
Even though the Bay Area has no shortage of gay bars, few are actually owned by Black people. Over the years, spaces that catered to the Black queer community have permanently closed their doors, taking with them the sense of belonging and community that they fostered.
For the month of June, we’re dropping a 3-part miniseries on Black queer spaces in the Bay Area: where were they, what happened to them, and how are people who live at the intersection finding and maintaining community today? We’ll explore where Black people have built safe spaces for ourselves—and why these spaces are still necessary today.
When he first moved to San Francisco in 1969, Rodney Barnette noticed that “It wasn’t all rah rah gay capital of the world.” His experiences with racism in the historic gay Castro district inspired him to open the Eagle Creek Saloon, the city’s first Black-owned gay bar, in 1990. Over 30 years later, Barnette speaks with us about why Black-affirming queer spaces are still needed, and what he took away from his experience owning one.
The World’s First Transgender Cultural District
The rich LGBT history of the Tenderloin goes back farther than any bricks thrown at Stonewall, and Transgender Cultural District President and Chief Strategist Aria Sa’id makes it her job to preserve that history; her work in securing tenant protections, workforce development, arts and cultural heritage preservation, and cultural competency for the residents of the historic Tenderloin neighborhood has taken the idea of ‘safe space’ beyond the bars and into our daily lives. Sa’id speaks with us about what makes a space ‘safe’, and the effect that empowering the most vulnerable within a community has on the rest of us.
The Next Generation of Black and Queer Clubs
Nenna Joiner owns Feelmore, a queer-friendly sex toy shop with locations in Berkeley and Oakland. Noticing the lack of Black queer spaces beyond the monthly “RnB nights” at many local clubs, they decided to open the Feelmore Social Club in Downtown Oakland, a bar slated to open in 2022. “This energy that they feel in Feelmore is akin to the energy that they’re going to feel here,” Joiner assures, “We want to be open a long time.” Joiner speaks about re-imagining the Black queer space, and the role of the Black queer dollar in the community.
Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.