Evolving as the pandemic endures

The SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) was announced on March 17, just a few days after Phil Hammack gathered a group of community leaders to discuss how the recent closure of bars and clubs was going to impact queer nightlife, and how we could help workers in queer nightlife survive the shutdown financially. We’re so grateful for the generosity of our community for contributing more than a quarter million dollars since then. Individual contributions from community members have helped hundreds of workers in queer nightlife, including the 152 who just received grants as part of our second round of applicants.

So much has changed since then. What felt like a steady trajectory toward recovery and reopening has taken a turn, and the reopening has slowed way down. What we’ve learned about the disease tells us that traditional indoor nightclubs – dark, crowded, and sweaty – are not going to be coming back any time soon. At the same time, our country is going through a social justice reckoning, challenging people of privilege to acknowledge our position and take direct action toward equity for all. Black lives matter. Black trans lives matter.

The steering committee of the QNF recently gathered for a retreat. After months on Zoom, this was our first ever in-person meeting, held outdoors, with masks on. We reflected on ways we could continue to grow and be of service to our community, in light of the current climate. This led us to revise our purpose statement, which now reads:

“The purpose of this fund is to provide resources and opportunities that promote queer nightlife in the SF Bay Area during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing the history of white supremacy and male cisgender privilege in queer communities, we aim to prioritize women, transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and all queer Black, Indigenous, and people of color.” 

Our purpose is evolving on two fronts:

Who we are serving: the QNF will prioritize trans, GNC, enby folks as well as BIPOC. Black and brown artists and trans artists have made immense contributions to dance music and club culture, yet their white and cis counterparts often garner more fame and money. These groups face structural obstacles in our society every day, and we will strive to center them in the work that we do. As part of our commitment to prioritizing activism and education in solidarity with queer and trans people of color, we will continue to engage DJs, hosts, entertainers and collaborations that provide opportunities for all marginalized communities.

What we are providing: in working on the QNF project, we have not only managed to get money in the hands of people who need it, we have built a platform. Thousands of people have tuned in on Twitch or Zoom for our events. This has been an opportunity to showcase talented performers from across the nightlife community. While some artists have chosen to donate their services, paying artists a stipend for their participation in these events has been another way of getting money to workers in queer nightlife who are in need.

We are exploring ways to further develop this platform to serve the community, both to continue as an outlet for artists to perform as well as for our community members to connect with each other socially. We are brainstorming other types of events which can help keep us connected before the clubs open again. In the coming weeks, we plan to host a virtual forum on how we can continue to sustain community during the pandemic. We also plan to diversify our events by organizing educational and professional opportunities for queer nightlife workers displaced by the pandemic. For the moment, we are pausing on another round of grants so we can focus on these new offerings.

We remain firmly committed to the SF Bay Area queer nightlife community. We stand in solidarity with others who are fighting for justice for trans folk and BIPOC. We look forward to actively participating in the work that lies ahead. Let’s move forward together.

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