Tea, Pride, and Me by Kristen R. Walker

I identify as a queer femme most days, a swaggy papi somedays and a magical being always. My personal and therefore political thoughts and practices fall outside of mainstream cis-het implementation and ideaology. I’m excited to create life and a future with somebody’s black, revolutionary,nonbinary, femme offspring, and y’all the future is bright AF! My future is also a part of the radical queer legacy of folks who fought for their dignity and mine by intentionally taking up space at bars, bookshelves and beyond, many thanks to Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Audre Lorde, and the queer folk who dared to be themselves, so that I could live fully in my truth. I can really imagine a safe world for my partner and our children to survive in thanks to my queer elders and I envision a society where all my black queer family can fellowship and take up ALL the space to build and strengthen our community.

I think tea cafes could be a radical change for queer black and brown communities. Imagine a gathering place to spill the tea, while drinking tea, an affirming place specifically created for black qtpoc & lgbtqiaa+ identities and the non static thinkers who can appreciate the beauty and value of such a space. “The Tea” is  a black, queer colloquial saying that refers to the act of conversing with friends and neighbors about the latest gossip, news and community talk. According to Urban Dictionary, “the tea” is a bonding tool and I am inclined to believe that providing a place to spill “the tea” while drinking tea will unite folks and further garner support of the cafe as a meeting space for friends, neighbors and the community at large.

My first memory of drinking tea was Bigelow Orange Spice Tea, sweetened, with Girl Scout cookies at a hotel room with my mom in Niagara, Falls, ON, I was maybe 9 or 10 years old, you know, that age when you are still curious about the world and yet know all about everything? I am from Rochester, NY,  and I live about an hour and a half from the Canadian border. Growing up it was common for my family to vacation across the very close Canadian border on school breaks and holidays. This was the 90’s when you only needed a birth certificate to cross the border and my parents afforded my sister and I in particular, with opportunities to travel. As I reflect on my life on the cusp of turning 30, I am ever grateful to my parents, my mother especially for intentionally making culture a way of life in the unique ways that she did. This particular memory of drinking the orangey sweet tea, in a hotel, in another country made me feel  grown up and cultured, Yes, I been bad & boujee. Drinking tea has been a part of my life ever since.

My tea drinking has matured as I have come more into myself and transformed from a mere preference over coffee to an actual ritual where I can pause and check in with myself or connect with others. I no longer drink sweetened hot tea, and my tea selections have also been upgraded,thanks Shanae! I use tea as a balm from the bullshit of the world, to get through the work day and to connect with people. Some questions I can ask when talking to folks are: “Do you drink tea? What’s your favorite tea? Is there a place we can get tea?” I find it effective in a way to get to know folks in a sober place and with the benefits of drinking tea, I think it shows you care, but I'm clearly a biased tea drinker.

With the ideologies of ignorance being violent AF for queer black folk the urgency for the creation and support of such spaces is imperative. It’s past time for us as a community to be subjugated to either: not having a space or have use/rent spaces in relation to folks who are kinda transphobic or homophobic, kinda capitalist or kinda problematic. I’m not an advocate of integration now or historically. Black folk need local gathering places outside of the current model for 3rd spaces, places other than work and home, like a tea shop in the hood or a garden to do trap yoga. Conversely , $t@rbucks, not in a hood near you, that is, unless there’s a white woman jogging at noon and there’s a university expanding where ya granny house used to be.

We need our own spaces that exist at the intersections of queerness and blackness. Cuz y’all I’m sick of going to the “gay spaces” that are just with a rainbow flagged replications of “straight” white america, that is to say sans black and brown representation,programming and hella oppressive. 2019 being 50 yrs post Stonewall, I’m unsure if the inclusion and visibility Marsha and Sylvia and others were fighting for in 1969 has come to a complete fruition in these first 50 years.

But this tea though...

BIOKristen R. Walker: she/they/that bitch. Serving looks since ‘89, Your fav virgo, armed with hood cred a degree in African and African American Studies and English she uplifts queer black folk in Rochester, NY as the Co-Founder of Flower City Noire Collective. Her passion for creating affirming queer, sex+ black joy spaces feeds their spirit. Always online on FB: Kristen Walker and IG: @kristhekweerdo and like/follow Flower City Noire Collective @FCNC585 on Facebook & Instagram! 

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