Crown Heights was once home to the city’s first black-owned gay club – the Starlite Lounge at 1084 Bergen Street, on the corner of Nostrand Avenue. Filmmaker Kate Kunath set out to chronicle the bar’s 50-year legacy in “We Came to Sweat,” which premiered last year and will screen tomorrow at the Queens World Film Festival in Jackson Heights. She told Vice the film began as an effort to save the bar, “the oldest black-owned, non-discriminating club,” which was sold in 2009 and finally shuttered for good in 2010. The whole interview is worth reading, but one quote in particular caught our eye:
“There was this unspoken common ground of the patrons, which was their willingness to say ‘f*ck the establishment!’ — whether that was over politics, religion, sexual shame, or social norms. And the energy of that was intoxicating. But what I took away from the plight is that nothing is permanent, progress is not a straight line and losing space is losing ground in the bigger picture.”
“We Came to Sweat” is screening tomorrow at 10 pm at P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, Queens. Tickets are $12 or $9 for seniors and students, and available here. Pictured is the building in 2006, before the bar closed. It still stands, but a deli and dollar store have moved into the Starlite’s old space.
“We Came to Sweat” Tells the Story of New York City’s First Black-Owned Gay Club [Vice]
Starlite Coverage [Brownstoner]
Photo by Gregg Snodgrass for PropertyShark