Our Midwest fundraising/outreach tour is off to a fabulous start...
This post is gonna be in the form of a conversation with the amazing Jess Hauser, who organized one incredible dance party/fundraiser last night at the Temple Bar here in Detroit.
Debbie: Okay, Jess, tell me how you came to choose the location for the fundraiser and why you picked a dance party.
Jess: When I had the opportunity to help plan a Detroit Bitch event, I immediately thought of the Temple Bar because it's true to the energy and vibe of the city. I'd been intrigued by the bar since I moved to Detroit five years ago, but it took me a while to check it out. It's located in the heart of the Cass Corridor, and is considered one of the "seedier" areas of the city. I used to work in the (now defunct) food co-op garden which is right around the corner, so I felt just as comfortable and safe in that part of town as I did in any other neighborhood, but I'd never taken it upon myself to find out what the bar was all about.
Several months ago, a karaoke junkie friend invited me to go up to the bar for a drink, and I was excited to finally go. After I got "buzzed in" (for safety reasons, you have to get buzzed in through bullet proof doors), I felt like I literally walked into a little piece of heaven. George, the owner, and the regulars were as sweet as could be to the pretty obvious first timer I was (everyone seems to know everyone). I was happy to learn that George grew up at the bar (he took it over from his dad), has been part of the community for longer than I've been alive, and continues to help with the neighborhood housing project for low income folks. I quickly fell in love with the bar, George, the regulars, and the bar cat, Darla. Since my first visit, I've gone back almost every week and continue to have incredible experiences every time I go.
I thought a dance party would be a perfect way to grab people's attention, and since my friends Kenny and Bridget recently started spinning records there, it seemed perfect.
Debbie: Last night's event reaffirmed my decision to start this new fundraising/outreach project in Detroit. The neighborhood, the bar, the people, everything was a constant reminder of the incredible spirit of this city – the resilience, the history of creative resistance and struggle, the commitment of people to grassroots organizing. I don't mean to gloss over the poverty and desolation of the city, which is glaringly apparent, but to point out to people who've never been here that it's a beautiful city with incredible energy, and it's full of some of the most amazing people I've ever met, people fighting for real social change (look here and here, and here, for example). When I first came into the bar, I met George, the owner, who greeted me with total enthusiasm and support of our work. We had a great talk about how so many queer publications are little more than spaces to sell liquor and dish about gay celebrities rather than spaces to actually engage with the struggles still facing queer communities. I looked up and saw the marquee, which I was told is rarely used but was turned on for our event. I wish I could've captured it on video, but it said something like, "The Temple Bar thanks you for coming to the fundraiser/dance party, and the management and patrons wish Bitch Magazine continued success!"
It was really sweet. At the end of the night, George told me that 91 people came (they counted)! I met so many incredible people, and caught up with old friends and political allies. From a local's perspective, how do you think the night went?
Jess: I couldn't be happier. It's impossible to be sure that any event will have a good turnout, especially in this city, and at a place that's not frequented by people who actually knew about the event. I was taking a risk having the event at the Temple Bar but knew that if word got out, the outcome would be great. I was also worried about calling the event a dance party because I knew it was quite possible that people wouldn't dance. The music was great, the dance moves were out of hand, the turnout was even better than expected, and the energy of the bar stayed true to its self while the regulars seemed to enjoy the special event.
Debbie: I just want to give a huge thank you to Jess, who blew my mind by organizing such a fantastic and inspiring event. And of course to George and everyone at the Temple Bar, to DJ Disapproval and DJ Bouget, to Lindsey Snoes, and to everyone who came – especially you freaky dancin' fools. I have such respect and love for this city and feel so honored to be part of the community, even if it's only for a few days.
Tomorrow is the kickoff Feminism In/Action discussion – from 2 to 4 at the TrumbullPlex, for all y'all in Detroit. Please come!