Joy through storytelling: This is bklyn boihood
Crack Magazine is marking Pride season with a series of specialist mixes and playlists dedicated to LGBTQ+ club nights and promoters. From the iconic parties of bygone eras through to the emerging events breaking through in 2022, we’ll be highlighting the sounds of these parties and the artists that shape them.
bklyn boihood occupy an ever-changing space within Brooklyn’s queer scene. What begun as a visibility project brought to life through yearly calendars has grown into a vital collective that has been centring masculine of centre queer and trans people of colour since starting out in 2009.
There’s a familial quality to the work of bklyn boihood. From parties through to workshops and other wholesome pursuits such as bike rides, retreats and camping trips, the collective are known for curating affirming and celebratory environments and experiences for those already in their network, as well as those seeking one of their own.
Storytelling, support and community-building are all integral to the project – which is home to a revolving array of members as well as co-founder Ryann Holmes – as they seek to create space for ideating and connection (that’s not forgetting a space to escape among a sea of blurred bodies dancing in unison at venues across Brooklyn and beyond). It’s these guiding principles that led to the release of their book Outside the XY: Queer, Black and Brown Masculinity in 2016. Comprised of over 50 personal stories, the anthology looks at just some of the experiences of masculinity for people of colour outside of cisgendered manhood.
As part of our Pride series, we caught up with Holmes to reflect on the project’s past, present and future. Read the interview and get locked into an hour of selections from bklyn boihood regular Elosi below.
What is bklyn boihood and when did it start?
bklyn boihood started in 2009. Originally, we were just group of friends. It was me and one other person at the time and we wanted to create a space for queer and trans Black masculine of centre people to just be – that then got our wheels turning. The first project we ever did was our calendar, which you can see on the website. The idea was to just showcase masc of centre, Black and queer trans folks in a really fly way. So we started that project to launch bklyn boihood and, in order to pay for it, we started a party. So parties weren’t even our main jam at first, but it’s evolved since then.
In what ways has the project evolved?
So we started out by doing house parties. Most of the time, we didn’t have the most stable housing and so we would often use our friends places: different basements in Bed-Stuy, backyards and lofts all around Brooklyn. Sometimes the cops would shut it down if we got too loud because we were definitely just young in the neighbourhood and bringing lots of folks from all over the city. Eventually, we outgrew the biggest loft available from our friends circle and started to venture out into Brooklyn venues. We have been partying in premiere venues in Brooklyn and growing ever since.
We’ve also evolved into doing other types of events like storytelling. We had a bike ride series that we did for years, rock climbing events, park days and bowling nights. Essentially, we’ve done anything that we felt we wanted to do to share space and community.
How did the collective meet and come together?
The collective has changed faces and morphed into a lot of different things over the years. I am the only member who has been a part of it throughout its entirety. Most of us just met on the scene at different events. A few met through this programme called Brown Boi Project that was based out in Oakland, back in 2010, so there have been a lot of different ways. But I will say most of relationships have been fostered really organically, and through sharing space in different queer spaces in Brooklyn. Also, folks have seen bklyn boihood and reached out like, ‘I want to be down, I want to be a part of this’. We’ve slowly built those relationships over time and invited these people into the collective if that’s how things were supposed to manifest.
What kind of environment are you trying to nurture through your nights?
We want to offer queer and trans POC folks spaces that aren’t overrun with white folks. As Brooklyn continues to gentrify, there are less and less spaces for Black people to gather. This is really important, because when Black people gather it’s a somewhat sacred and spiritual experience for us – oftentimes, anyway. It also allows us the relief of not having to be othered and the relief of not having to think about racism in those moments or even contend with any kind of shit like that. So, it’s just really important for Black and POC folks to have their own spaces, since that’s not the way the world is set up. And, you know, that is definitely one of our struggles.
Have you faced any other struggles along the way?
Earlier in the game, our events were received really well. But there were also some challenges in terms of the space feeling safe for everyone – specifically for femme-identifying folks who would sometimes have experiences that made them not feel like they were being taken care of in this space. So, we took that community feedback and created party principles. We started to really take control of shaping the culture of our events: making announcements about consent, intercepting any foul play, having a no-tolerance policy. Like, we were doing all of that early in the game before a lot of people had language used for it nowadays, just based on the feedback that we got. That’s how things have been going over the years. We’ve really tried to pay attention to that feedback loop and create events that make everyone feel like they can access and feel as safe as possible.
"In five years, I see bklyn boihood being more or less OGs in the game, and just really helping to foster space for the younger generations to come up and do a lot of the things that we've done – but even better"
Where do you see bklyn boihood in five years time?
In five years, I see bklyn boihood being more or less OGs in the game, and just really helping to foster space for the younger generations to come up and do a lot of the things that we’ve done – but even better. I see bklyn boihood having our own venue where we can host events, and that we can share with our community so that we can continue creating these experiences where we can all be celebrated and seen, showcase our many talents and just be a creative outlet. And then I can also see a lot of us continuing to focus on raising our families, and just growing older and trying to take care of ourselves – I think this is being prioritised more and more in the collective. And then finally, I see us continuing to connect with our elders and bringing them into our venue space more predominantly. We’ll be doing a lot more intergenerational work and work that involves queer family.
Talk to us about your best party memory – does anything spring to mind?
There are so many! But I remember one particular night at House of Yes. I love having a reveal of a larger space – cramming everybody into the front room, the front bar and the backyard and once those areas are full, setting up a DJ in a larger room, having them play a banger and everybody runs in. So I remember Elosi was playing with us at House of Yes, the moment I just discussed had just happened and a few minutes later they played either mix of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s Before I Let Go and the Beyoncé version, or just the Beyoncé version. When they dropped it, people went crazy. I just remember gazing out into the crowd and seeing the smiles. People had their most serious dance faces on and folks were just having a good time. It’s just one of the best feelings in the world to observe that. So that’s probably one of the coolest memories.
Keep up with bklyn boihood here