I was solo as I entered Heaven, an after hour gay dance spot on the northeast side of Detroit, MI. A rare find in a city that didn’t offer much to the black gay, and trans populations. Totally closeted I hadn’t approached anyone about where Black lesbians hung out.
Heaven was a cultural gem that stayed under the radar.
Folk don’t give too much of a fuck about Black gay folks today. In the late 70s they sure weren’t dealing with the “funny faggot” issue. The Black power era was not inclusive of all its brothers, and embraced even fewer sisters. By 1992, Heaven was a staple for Detroit Black queers, who enjoyed the sanctuary of a “for us” space.
Seeking Safe Space
I was quietly bi-curious and Heaven was a place for me to check things out. Anonymously. I always went alone, with the exception of a couple of times, when I left a straight house party in search of more music with a str8 friend, who was used to queer crowds. Her dude was a house dee jay. I doubt if any other of my str8 crew would have accompanied me. I felt like a spy on a queer ass mission.
I Needed Heaven
The music was an aphrodisiac, House does something to me. It’s spiritual. I get high off the rhythm; I ride that bitch, no alcohol needed. Back when Heaven was open, I was still drinking, especially if I was partying. The fact that I’m an alcoholic hadn’t quite kicked in yet. With thirteen years of sobriety I look back on that time and see a lot of places where I was overly confident and sometimes just plain foolish.
This night though, I was full. Not drunk, but still floating from the music and the long island iced tea I’d had earlier. For five dollars you could dance at Heaven from two am till five thirty. Sometimes, the music played longer and daylight was on the horizon when patrons exited the club. I’d decided before heading out that evening that I was going to ask someone to dance. I didn’t’ know the protocol.
No Facebook Live To Capture The Vibe
As I walked in the walls were sweating from the energy in the room. Queens walked around dressed in miniskirts and six-inch stilettos. Others opted for platforms. Faces beat, in all that heat. There was a party going on! The music was hyped and folk were taking up every inch of space.
As usual there were not many women in the house. By women, I mean lesbians. There were a few but mostly the crowd was gay and trans. This was their spot and I was grateful to be allowed to enter such a sacred space.
I Watched With My Heart
As I took in my surroundings a young male couple hugged in front of me. I guessed them to be in their late teens. They were all over each other, as if the days between meeting at Heaven had depleted them, and this was their opportunity to breathe again. They kissed, as the shorter one pulled the taller one back into him as he leaned into the wall. I watched them feeling all kinds of things. I noted to myself that there was nothing wrong with feeling that way about another human being. Their passion was intense. I’d heard of people fucking through songs on the low. They weren’t that deep but they were close. He turned his man around and made him claw the wall he’d so eagerly backed into. I was digging it.
I looked up and saw “her”. A couple of inches shorter than me, me she stood about 5’2” and had curly hair. Somebody with Indian blood was close in her family line. Deep dimples dotted her chocolate skin as she smiled chatting with the woman next to her. She was working her jeans and her Guess fitted tee, very nicely. I didn’t know if they were a couple but I was feeling the music and decided, that I was going to make my move soon. Generally you don’t ask someone to dance at a House spot. Everyone is on their own thing. Dancing alone, partnered, and in groups. But I didn’t know the etiquette rules for bi curious folk.
There was a lot of good feeling going on. Drag Queens on platforms dancing sexy above everyone on the dance floor. The fog machines were pumping as people danced under the many strobe lights.
Heaven Made Me Feel Free
You could literally feel the stress of living black and queer in a pro-hetero, homophobic, community falling off through the hypnotic music. It helped folk deal the constant racism and oppression of a straight thinking community. Layers of bullshit were removed at Heaven on a weekly basis. It was a spot where black queers found acceptance and nothing but love.
Thank you, Ken Collier
DJ Ken Collier brought his musical gifts opening the door for many Detroit House deejays. He inspired and groomed Detroit mix masters both women and men who have made huge names for themselves, with thirty plus years on the tables. Detroit’s “Godfather of House” Collier defined entrepreneurship in the arts for an underground movement that pushed through to become a genre staple for across the world. Respected until his passing in 1995 for bringing some peace and good time to people who deserved a break, even if, it was only once or twice a week.
Understanding this, I over stood the passion of the two young men slobbing each other down, and feeling each other up as if their lives depended on it. It did. As for me, I got that dance and Dimple’s phone number.
Copyright 2017 by C Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.