Black & Brown Babes Collective
In 2016, amidst the racially divided landscape of North Side Chicago, the Black and Brown Babes Collective emerged as a beacon of unity and empowerment. Founded by Rae Siciliano and Rosalyn Westerfield, two Black feminist queers, the collective redefined the essence of communal gatherings, transforming into a symbol of solidarity, healing, and empowerment for Black and Brown Chicagoans.
The creation of Black and Brown Babes was a response to need: a safe haven for people of color, especially the LGBTQIA+ community, to openly confront and reflect on the complexities of their experiences in a segregated city and nation. This longing for community was further intensified against the backdrop of relentless Black trauma, creating a pervasive sense of exhaustion and grief. The collective strived to become a space of resilience where members can find strength, empathy, and joy.
The collective's monthly brunches moved all over Chicago. Different members offered their spaces and the community gathered in small apartments in Logan Square, co-op houses in Little Village, and warehouses in Pilsen. These gatherings, attracting up to 300 monthly attendees, with an online community surpassing 3,000 members, prioritized creating 'third spaces’ that fostered open dialogues and meaningful connections, ensuring inclusive spaces without monetization. Carpool arrangements and shared potluck meals were a testament to the community's spirit, as were the online interactions where members promoted their art, music, and services, fostering economic solidarity.
The Black and Brown Babes Collective's initiatives extended far beyond their signature brunches, embodying a deep commitment to addressing the community's intersecting needs. The monthly dance series “Incantations” at the Stony Island Arts Bank provided an intergenerational space celebrating Chicago house music. At the same time, collaborations like "The First Course" with AMFM tackled critical issues such as food deserts. Their political engagement, demonstrated in fundraising for Swingleft.com following the 2016 elections and partnering with local Black therapists to provide free mental health services for Black protesters in 2020, was in response to conversations at the monthly brunches.
Black and Brown Babes has become more than a collective; it is a movement symbolizing the resilience, complexity, and beauty of Black and Brown communities in Chicago. It is a powerful reminder of the value of Black and Brown lives, challenging societal prejudices and nurturing self-love and healing. The collective's success in Chicago inspired the formation of sister chapters in cities like Portland and NewYork City, highlighting the widespread need for spaces prioritizing radical self-care for Black and Brown folx.
Black and Brown Babes is not just a space for gathering; it is a testament to the power of unity and collective empowerment.
"We are some of our most powerful reminders that our lives do matter, do hold value, worth, complexity and beauty. We have incredible power to heal and love ourselves even when society refuses to."