Creating a Safe Place with Music

Exhibit curated by Jen Bueffel (she/her) and Sage Roberts (she/her)

Introduction

Creativity and resilience are skills marginalized communities use to combat prejudice and abuse to create safe spaces for themselves. However, the continuing violent breaches of spaces designed for protection is the key factor in the need for persistence in producing them.

This site focuses on 6 unique spaces involving music beginning from 1907 to present day. There is significant progression through the years, and these marginalized communities did the most they could with what they had. Combined, these varieties of safe spaces offer an array of inclusion for LGTBQIA+ people and POC, shows the creativity and resilience of marginalized people, and proves the continued need for safe spaces for everyone.

We begin by establishing horrific violations of safe spaces, then provide evidence of how marginalized people have created spaces with music and performances, written mediums, and then a radio show. Our final artifact is a significant adaptation to the changing times by providing a safe space online- primarily for the continuation of keeping history published and available for everyone.

 Violence Against Marginalized People

"Norman Lear Set to Star Transex?" In 1976, Norman Lear was making a television show about a transgender woman. Lear interviewed several transgender people to play the lead or be consultants behind the scenes; the trans community considered it to be a major breakthrough. Soon after, it was reported that a transgender consultant had been brutally beaten by the Los Angeles Police Department, who called her "a punk with his dick cut off."

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"Richie Pérez Papers" by Richie Pérez, 1992. From The Latinx Project.

"White Cops Brutalize Puerto Ricans in Police Riot at Orchard Beach." On Labor Day, 1992 in Orchard Beach, New York, a few families were passing out flyers to the large Puerto Rican community attending the last salsa concert of the summer. The flyers said to boycott Budweiser in favor of small, local, Latino owned beer distributors. Despite flyers being common on the boardwalk and most people being there for the music, the police began "vicious, unprovoked beatings and rode horses into the crowds."

These were two attempts made by the LGBTQIA+ and POC communities to create safe spaces for themselves but were destroyed by the very people who are meant to protect and serve the public. These artifacts show us how difficult it is for marginalized communities to create safe spaces for themselves, and how much they are needed.

LGBTQIA+ Safe Spaces

(Queer) I’m Afraid to Come Home in the Dark.png

"I'm Afraid to Come Home in the Dark", by Harry Williams and Egbert van Alstyne, 1907. From Digital Transgender Archive.

"I'm Afraid to Come Home in the Dark'' was originally a song about a man telling his wife that he's afraid to come home at night because of reported robberies in the park. The vaudeville version we found was performed in 1907 by famous Drag King Miss Hetty King. Claimed by a drag king, the song's subtext shifted to men, women, and LGBTQIA+ persons being afraid of violence when walking alone at night.

Please Do My Family A Favor and Love Me.jpeg

"Please Do My Family a Favor and Love Me", by Grant Clarke, Maurice Abrahams, Mildred Haywood, 1914. From Digital Transgender Archive.

"Please Do My Family a Favor and Love Me" was similarly sung in vaudeville by Drag King Mildred Haywood. Based on the artwork and title we can assume the song is about wanting acceptance from a traditional, male-female family unit. This is a common struggle the LGBTQIA+ community has between family and identity.

"Sincapades of 1954" was a musical at Club 82. It was performed three times a night in Downtown Manhattan, and was produced, directed, and starred Drag Queen Kit Russell. The musical had three parts, taking place in Pairs, Pargo-Pargo, and Hades. Each part talking about religion and living in sin.

Each of these performances, and the many more like them, deal with the emotions and struggles felt by many members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Vaudevilles and LGBTQIA+ friendly clubs give safe spaces to like-minded individuals to express themselves through music and performance in a comfortable environment. This music allows them to feel recognized, understood, and accepted by other people, silencing their self-hatred, often instilled in them by society.

Safe Spaces for People of Color  

Onyx was a Black, Lesbian Newsletter published between 1983-2006. Accessible for education and research in the  GLBT Historical Society, Onyx promoted women-supporting businesses, provided mental health sources, and included events and updates on local movements. Onyx provided a safe space for women to connect, share stories, poetry, art, and celebrated women earning Pulitzers, winning elections, and publishing fictional pieces.

Tremenda Diosa Flyer.pdf

"Tremenda Diosa Flyer" by Angelica Mendoza, 2019, CC BY-NC 4.0. From Feminist Community Archive of Washington.

Angelica Mendoza created Tremenda Diosa as a safe space centering on the voices and experiences of young women of color in the PNW. As a queer and xicana woman, Angelica created this as her capstone project in 2019 as a DJ and host on UWave radio to discuss various obstacles women face like family expectations, marginalization, and oppression.

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"Where We Were Safe Poster" by Sebastián Valbuena, 2021. From The Latinx Project.

Where We Were Safe is a 2021 essay in The Latinx Project. It is an ongoing, interactive space for Latinx communities to share stories- providing history of cultural spaces previously destroyed, and/or affected by violent hate crimes from the 1960s through today, including the Pulse nightclub shooting, COVID-19 crisis, and murder of George Floyd. This violence, specifically within the  Salsa Scene, of Blacks and Latinos parallels the realities of today, proving the continued need of safe spaces for POC, including the Latinx community.

These creative uses of space by POC show a desperate and continuing need for safe spaces. For decades, POC have tried many ways just to exist in a space without the fear of prejudice, assault, and even death. This creativity, determination, and resilience should be accepted, celebrated, and documented.

Conclusion

Throughout history, marginalized communities have needed to create safe spaces; these spaces continue to be violently breached. However, through resilience, communities persist and have done so creatively including music. Whether it is a Salsa Club, radio station, online community, or musicals, these safe spaces allow for freedom of expression as well as the basic right of the freedom to exist. To learn more about how you can support any marginalized community, including POC and LGBTQIA+ persons, please refer to the Latinx Project listed above, or LGBT Vision for Action to promote and support the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Archives

Digital Transgender Archive <https://www.digitaltransgenderarchive.net/>

Feminist Community Archive of Washington <https://cdm16786.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16786coll12>

GLBT Historical Society <https://www.glbthistory.org/>

The Latinx Project <https://www.latinxproject.nyu.edu/digitalresources>

Artifact Citations

Douglas, Angela. “Norman Lear Set to Star Transex?” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 7, 2022, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/items/show/84.

“I’m Afraid to Come Home in the Dark.” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 7, 2022, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.lib.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/items/show/115

Russel, Kitt. “Club 82 Presents Sincapades of 1954: 82 Club Revue Drag Show Program (1954).” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 7, 2022, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/items/show/85.

Onyx. “Onyx: Black Lesbian Newsletter, June / July 1983.” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 7, 2022, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/items/show/86.

“Please Do My Family a Favor and Love Me.” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 7, 2022, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/items/show/133.

Pérez, Richie. “Richie Pérez Papers, 1918-2006.” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 7, 2022, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/items/show/117.

Valbuena, Sebastián. “"Where We Were Safe" Poster.” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 7, 2022, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/items/show/118.

“Tremenda Diosa Flyer.” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 7, 2022, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/items/show/113.

Additional References

“Angelica Mendoza Awarded 2019 UW Bothell Chancellor's Medal.” University of Washington Bothell, 15 May 2019, https://www.uwb.edu/ias-news/may-2019/angelica-mendoza.

Barry, Dan. “Realizing It's a Small, Terrifying World after All.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 June 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/21/us/orlando-shooting-america.html. Originated from The Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies

Doyle, JD. “Hetty King - Male Impersonator.” Queer Music Heritage, http://www.queermusicheritage.com/drag-SH-king.html.

Doyle, JD. “Kitt Russell.” Queer Music Heritage, http://queermusicheritage.com/f-russell-kitt.html

Doyle, JD. “Club 82 Programs.” Queer Music Heritage, http://www.queermusicheritage.com/fem-cl82aa.html 

USAID. LGBT Vision for Action Promoting and Supporting the Inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals. N.d. Archives of Sexuality and Gender, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/AIZODG641819345/AHSI?u=wash_main&sid=bookmark-AHSI&xid=c8ad500f&pg=1. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022. Originated from Archives of Sexuality & Gender: Parts I & II

UWave Radio https://uwaveradio.org/

Creating a Safe Place with Music