Of the spots for LGBTQ+ nightlife in Washington, D.C. such as Bunker, Red Bear Brewing Co., and Trade, none is aimed at servicing Black lesbians living in the area. In fact, only one bar in the DMV, A League of Her Own, is primarily dedicated to the lesbian community as a whole. But, with a dominating crowd that often doesn’t look like us, most Black lesbians living in the D.C. area don’t always feel encouraged to patronize general LGBTQ+ bars. So what are Black lesbians looking to party and socialize left to do in the city? Create our own spaces, by us and for us. But that is no easy feat.
According to The Lesbian Bar Project, during the 80’s, there were roughly 200 lesbian bars open across the United States. While often underground and having short lifespans, new sapphic spaces would quickly be opened in their places. However, historically, even in these large numbers, many of these bars were white-owned and had a predominantly white crowd, leading many lesbians of color to create their own nightlife communities, like hosting house parties and other events.
Unfortunately, over 40 years later, not much has changed. There is not one Black lesbian bar, club, or lounge that exists in D.C. Instead, the Black lesbian community is pushed to host parties or events in predominantly straight or white clubs and compete with the revenue numbers of these more traditional crowds, though research has shown that patrons of lesbian bars, clubs, and parties historically have less money to spend in comparison.
“One of the reasons I started A 2 Zee Events in 2009 was because of the lack of social spaces for Black lesbians. Fast forward 14 years later, and the absence of these dedicated spaces persists,” shares Zekeera Belton, CEO and founder of A 2 Zee Events. “Over the years, I have looked for establishments with ownership and management that respected our dollars and, more importantly, our community. But, there have been venues that I have had to walk away from or simply not conducted business with because their ownership and/or staff did not respect us and were not inclusive – and those things are non-negotiable for me.”
The lack of Black lesbian nightlife spaces is not just a D.C. issue. Across the beltway in Baltimore, Maryland, identical efforts are being made throughout the community. “Uncuffed Events was born out of the need for a safe, inclusive space for both the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color in Baltimore.” said Akosua (Cocoa) Osei, co-founder of Uncuffed Events Baltimore. “We recognized the lack of such spaces and wanted to provide a haven for self-expression, connection, and community building.”
Newer Black lesbian party-promoting groups, like The Frequency Class, have learned to leverage their already established relationships with bar and lounge owners to secure spaces for their events, like their monthly #FrequencyFriday parties that are often held at Mirror Lounge on 9th St and Pure Lounge on U St. Still, even these spaces are not always promised. That is why Cassie Womack and Amber Crowder have been fundraising for Bloom H St., which will be the only predominantly Black queer bar in D.C. when it opens. Formerly of the now-shuttered Wicked Bloom, Womack and Crowder are looking to provide a more stable home for Black lesbian promoters and DJs to host their events. “It is time to revive and reclaim our space for the Black LGBTQ+ community. We understand how critical this is for our safety and ability to make thriving connections. I’m looking forward to serving everyone at the bar!” exclaimed Womack.
Until then, the Black lesbian community in D.C. continues to fight for safe and inclusive spaces.