Why the Banjee Black Gurl’s Brunch is a safe space
By: Terrence Chappell
This past Sunday, June 8, I hosted a brunch at my apartment in Chicago’s Edgewater community. I absolutely love having friends over and entertaining. I grew up watching my mom entertain, so this brunch brought it full circle, of course with the help of a few of her hosting secrets and nick-knacks. However, this brunch was a little different from past things I have hosted at my place. Comically titled A Banjee Black Gurl’s Brunch: BAPs Edition (Chapter 4), the brunch was a social outlet for gay black men to connect and enjoy one another.
The monthly brunch is the brainchild of my friends James Sims, Timothy Gaines, and fellow writer Zach Stafford. The first one was held in February of this year and originally there were no plans to make the brunch a monthly event. But we all enjoyed the brunch and each other so much that we decided to make the brunches monthly, where each friend takes turns hosting one at their home.
June, Pride Month might I add, was my turn to host the brunch. I was happy that everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and left with full stomachs of quiche and champagne. From the Beyonce and Janet Jackson renditions to friends jokingly take pictures next to the watermelon fruit salad and fried chicken – yes I served watermelon and fried chicken at my brunch, it’s delish – to welcoming new friends and just hearing how people were doing in life, this month’s brunch really drove home to me what these brunches are all about; a safe space for gay black men.
Historically, marginalized communities have always had to carve out a safe space to express themselves. Women created safe spaces around Women’s Suffrage, Blacks created safe spaces around the Civil Rights Movement, and Gays created ones around the Gay Rights Movement. So, while a safe space has fluidity among the marginalized communities who need them, the trending trait is that these safe spaces are needed. They’re needed because such communities who create them are often overlooked, mistreated, and shut out the spaces and even resources of the majority. These brunches are those social safe spaces for gay, black men and Sunday really reminded me that they’re still needed.
They’re needed because I still hear stories from my friends who experience discrimination. They’re needed because I’ve been called a nigger in Boystown because I didn’t want to go out on a date with a guy. They’re needed because there are still racial tensions in the LGBT community. More importantly, they’re needed because we say we need them. There’s comradery in being around people who understand, from experience, and share a common struggle. These brunches provide that comradery not typically found in mainstream gay male spaces or scenes.
While I do look forward to the monthly brunches with my friends, the idea behind them are bigger than my friends and me. The idea of maintaining a sense of community among gay, black men fuels these safe spaces we create. Whether that safe space benefits transgender people, lesbians, or any group that has been disenfranchised, these communities and their safe spaces ladder up to LGBT Pride. We can’t fully claim Pride as an LGBT community when groups a part of that community feel left out or unwelcomed.
So, these monthly brunches, these safe spaces are our Pride. Although President Barack Obama recently declared June as LGBT Pride Month, and I love him for it, Pride is a continuum meant to be celebrated and acknowledged every day. My pride in my identity as a gay black man is a part of LGBT pride. My brunch, A Banjee Black Gurl’s Brunch: BAPs Edition (Chapter 4), the brunches before and after mine and really any other safe space are merely ways for us to feel connected under a shared identity. Pride is about connection, and what better way to connect then over mimosas, chicken and waffles, and of course with some Beyonce blasting in the background.
Terrence Chappell serves as the editor-at-large for ChicagoPride.com, the city’s largest LGBT entertainment and news website where he writes Chappell Confidential, a nightlife and society column as well as Chappell on Community, the site’s newest editorial monthly series that profiles the LGBT community’s most innovative leaders. In addition to founding Professional Young Gays Inc. Terrence is also active with other charities around the city.