There’s an old saying about not missing something until it’s gone–be it a person, a thing, or yes—even an event.
This year marks the return of the annual Black lesbian retreat SistahFest—sort of. What I mean by that is while it’s taking place in Malibu at the same familiar campground women from all over the country have come to know and love and being hosted by a lot of the same women who brought us SistahFest in years past, it’s taking place under the name B.L.U.—Black Lesbians United instead of the familiar U.L.O.A.H., United Lesbians of African Heritage.
Now there’s a lot of speculation as what to exactly happened to U.L.O.A.H. over the past several years in terms of its leadership. I’ll admit that I even had my own thoughts as to what happened. At one time, U.L.O.A.H. was one of the largest groups representing Black lesbian women and host of the largest gathering of Black lesbian women with its annual SistahFest retreat. And like with so many of our organizations, be they Black or Black and same-gender loving, one thing leads to another and before you know it, emails are being sent, accusations are being made, and something that you took for granted and thought would always be around is no longer.
What I do know is that living in the metropolis that is Los Angeles, where you would think that by default of the large same-gender loving population that exists here that events and group catered towards Black lesbian women would be a plenty, sadly that is not the case. Outside of clubs, of which I am not knocking because we’ve all been to them and will most likely be up in the club again sometime soon, there isn’t much of an organized Black lesbian community in Los Angeles. Which is odd considering the number of Black lesbians I come across on a daily basis, and yes, I am admitting to profiling people’s sexual orientation because when it’s obvious, it’s obvious.
Now I am the first person to say that while I am gay, that is not all of who I am. I do not need to, or even want to live a life where everything I do and all of the people in my life are centered around my being a lesbian. No thank you. But there are times when I would like to be around other Black lesbian women, however not in a club or at some pre-arranged meeting designed to enlist me in the fight for gay marriage. Because these days in Los Angeles, that’s about all we’ve got.
Hindsight is 20/20, or so they say.
Looking back, I’d say that I was privileged to grow up in a city like Los Angeles where we have clubs like Jewels Catch One and Michelle’s XXX and with organizations like U.L.O.A.H. and a Black pride celebration that during its heyday was the Black gay pride event of the year. Without those events and organizations, I’m not sure where I’d have ever been introduced to so many other Black lesbian women in L.A. That’s to say that they each serve a purpose in our community. For some it’s to find a woman to take home that night, for others it’s to find love, for some just to be in the company of other women that look like them. Whatever the reason, they each play a role in our community and without them there’s a huge void.
So the return of the annual end of summer Black lesbian retreat formerly known as U.L.O.A.H’s SistahFest but now under the auspices of B.L.U. is to me, a good thing, regardless of the ensuing controversy that caused the split in the first place.
Past issues and differences that caused us to see it go away only to return under a new name is of no consequence to me today. All I care about is the fact enough women cared enough about this sacred event to work together to bring it back for a community of old-timers, not so old-timers, and newbies who will get to experience a weekend of commune among Black lesbian women unlike no other. And at the end of the day that’s what’s really important when it comes to these types of events, remembering that there are young men and women coming behind us who have yet to experience a campground full of Black lesbian women or a beach full of Black bodies as far as the eye can see.
As far as Los Angeles being home to more than one Black lesbian organization, L.A. isn’t Mayberry. If it’s one thing Los Angeles isn’t short on it’s a plethora of Black lesbian women, so the more merrier as long as they are contributing to the well being and longevity of our community that’s really all that matters. Oh–and the fact that we are willing to support it with our time and our dollars. Message! Miss me with all of the other bullshit. Los Angeles is lucky because I’ve visited many cities where the only gay club is for everyone, there’s no Black gay nightclub. I’ve been to places where the only gay club is the house on the corner on Friday nights down in the basement and you have to use a code word to even gain entry, where there’s only one pride celebration, and where there are no social groups specifically for African American same-gender loving men and women.
It’s about time we got back to representing in L.A. for ourselves and for those yet to come.
For more information on the B.L.U. Retreat taking place September 18-20, 2009, log onto http://www.blacklesbiansunited.org.
For more information on U.L.O.A.H., visit www.uloah.com.