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Strut cancels event after getting 'odd' email

by David-Elijah Nahmod

SFAF's Andrew Hattori
SFAF's Andrew Hattori  

An "odd" email received by organizers of a Black Love event at Strut led to it being postponed, and left community members wondering what the message contained.

Black Love, a quarterly performance event at Strut, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's health center in the Castro, was to have taken place July 19.

"Hey everyone, we are not going to be able to do tonight's show," Strut posted on its Facebook page July 19. "Black Love has been canceled, just for tonight though. We are doing Black Love with the same artists on a future date. Please stay tuned for that date, we cannot wait to see you all again at Strut for music, poetry, and comedy by the folks that bring you Black Love. We apologize for any inconvenience."

Bridgemen, a social group for gay, bi, and trans guys run by SFAF, offered a few clues as to what brought the postponement about.

"It was a very hard decision to make," Bridgemen stated on its Facebook page. "Due to some odd emails that made the organizers uncomfortable, we felt it was better to keep the artists safe than to go on with the show. Due to the current political climate and the rise in violent attacks on black, queer, and trans people, the organizers feel we can't take anything too lightly or be too careful."

The Bay Area Reporter asked to see the email, but SFAF declined to share it with the paper. The agency said that one email had been received.

"We will not be releasing the email as we need to treat the communication as confidential, given the nature of our work," said Andrew Hattori, SFAF's senior director of marketing and communications.

Lara Brooks, vice president of programs for SFAF, offered a little more detail into why the July 19 evening was canceled.

"Prior to our last scheduled Black Love event, San Francisco AIDS Foundation received an email from an unknown contact with a question about the event that raised concern," Brooks said. "Although there were no explicit threats made in the email, after consulting with the event's co-hosts, we decided to postpone July's Black Love."

SFAF officials said they did not report the email to police.

Members of the Bay Area African-American LGBTQ community were surprised by the postponement of Black Love.

"We are troubled by today's issues of being made to feel unsafe and unwelcome have spread from bars to community spaces such as Strut," gay African-American activist Shaun Haines said in an interview, referring to discriminatory treatment people of color received at gay bars in the Castro years ago. "This indicates that where we are in this country has not progressed since the civil rights movement. This shows us that the mainstream community needs training. Individuals, businesses, and nonprofits need education on anti-bias, anti-racism and how to become allies in our common efforts to create safer communities free of these oppressive racial issues."

He said that black LGBTs "need to stand our ground together."

Monica Anderson, also known as Kin Folkz, is a queer African-American woman. She feels that the Castro has become "a stronghold for white skin privileged LGBTQ fragility and [people of color] tokenism."

"Other than the handful of black queer and trans artists who are heartily invited in to perform in white-produced, people of color-organized, black niche showcases – for free or minuscule pay – most visibly black people are unwelcome," she added.

Brooks told the B.A.R. that no slight toward the black queer community was intended.

"Through events like Black Love at Strut, we aim to create inclusive, welcoming, and safe spaces in the Castro," said Brooks. "It is disappointing that this event couldn't proceed as planned. It is more important than ever to create space for communities of color to come together and celebrate their resilience and artistry."

Hattori said that the Black Love event has been rescheduled for October 23. The same program is planned.

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