I lived and worked in Indianapolis after I graduated law school. Having come from Chicago, the lawyers at my former firm expressed concern about my commitment to building a life and long-term career in Indy because it was a much smaller and less diverse city than Chicago. They were right to be concerned.
Before Indy, I lived on the Southside of Chicago in a neighborhood called “Hyde Park.” My neighborhood was known for many things—it was home to the University of Chicago and the Obama’s family home before they moved into the White House. Hyde Park felt real and right for me. It was (and is) historic and culturally diverse. Hyde Park is by no means an idyllic enclave free from the issues that frustrate our social world. It was, however, a place where I always saw Black youth laughing and smiling and where a number of young adult Black lesbians lived and loved. I could text one of my law school friends and we would meet up at the Jamaican jerk spot in the neighborhood or the cafeteria-style Valois cafe boasting photos of President Barack Obama. I could take the 6-bus downtown to the DePaul law library or the red line to a friend’s house in Boys’ Town. I could venture out alone to the bars and clubs where I could laugh and dance with lesbians and queer folks of color.
In Chicago, I had my people, my places, and reliable public transportation.
Despite my best efforts in Indianapolis, I never achieved even a fraction of that joy and comfort. There were two gay clubs, one for the white gays and the other for my Black gays. This segregation was, of course, the unwritten rule. Still, I only went to the Black gay club where I could see people who looked like me.
I desperately needed that connection to Black LGBTQ folks in Indianapolis where I was one of a few Black (let alone gay) lawyers in my firm, apartment building, and social network. After two-and-half years of trying to make Indy work for me, I moved back to Chicago. Within only a few months, I joined the board of directors of Affinity Community Services, a social justice organization serving the needs of the Black LGBTQ community of Chicago with a particular focus on Black women. I was one of eight Black lesbians on the board at that time and I met countless others during my tenure. I was proud to be a part of our community and grateful that I could bring my whole self to Affinity and our community. I attended my first Pride Parade with Affinity. For about three miles, we walked the parade route, whooping and hollering and tossing beads and other Affinity items to the hundreds of thousands of people attending the parade. We smiled for cameras and laughed amongst ourselves. By the end, my voice was raspy and my feet hurt, but I was excited and proud to represent Affinity.
My hope is that no matter the location, each of us has the space to be ourselves and to see ourselves reflected in the people around us.
Happy Pride, y’all.