Meet The Women Behind Chicago’s Black Femme & Queer Community Party Scene
By Parker Diakite
The month of June means it’s an especially busy time for Rae Chardonnay and Nick Alder, co-founders of Party Noire.
Voted as “One of Chicago’s Most Inclusive Dance Parties” by Time Out Chicago, Party Noire serves as an inclusive cultural hub that celebrates black femmes, queer women of color, and black womanhood along the gender spectrum through parties, events, and activism.
As Chicago’s premier organization for young, black queer women of color, the duo is constantly planning activities to celebrate the queer culture that expands beyond Pride Month, including brunches, community bike rides, and day parties.
The stars aligned perfectly, and Travel Noire was able to catch up with Chardonnay and Alder to discuss the importance of their organization, whose mission is to “love, uplift, and make space for all black joy.”
Travel Noire: What inspired Party Noire?
Party Noire: Primarily I think what inspired us was the lack of spaces. We didn’t have a space that we wanted to socialize in. So, we got together, sat down and just really hashed it out to start brainstorming and developing ideas to start the party.
TN: Take us back to the first event. What was that like?
Party Noire: The first event was Labor Day weekend of 2015. We had no idea of what the turnout would be because it was the first time. There were roughly 200 people to come through the door and it was just beautiful.
Our intention was to throw a four or five-hour party during the day and go home and plan for another one in a different location and time.
About three hours into the party, the management and bar team at the venue asked us if we wanted to stay one more hour. Then that one hour turned into three more hours. It was just a very long but beautiful daytime celebration of blackness along with the beauty and complexities of being black.
TN: Is Party Noire also for people who don’t necessarily identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?
Party Noire: Absolutely. I think that the idea of an intersectionally safe space for black and queer women, specifically, is what is most important to us. So, that’s not making the space exclusive for black and queer women, but just identifying it as a place where those people are centered.
But we do invite all of our friends who identify across spectrums and identities. Many of them are black, straight males, some of them are “you fill in the blank of whatever I didn’t want to place there.” The only requirement is that you just come in this space with the intention of making this space centered and safe for black queer women.
TN: And you do more than parties and events. There’s also a philanthropy component correct?
Party Noire: Yes, last year we started the Femme Noire Grant. In the month of June, we will be awarding two $500 grants to creatives in social life or the creative arts. So, they can be DJs, people who throw events, anything of the sort, in order to help them catalyze their practice. It’s unrestricted, they can use the grant for anything at all.
TN: You have grown tremendously since you started. What’s your reaction to the community’s support?
Party Noire: It’s quite overwhelming. We’re grateful every day for the community that we fostered within this idea of a party. There’s just more space and opportunity to grow and get people in tune with our mission.
Find out more about Party Noire and a list of events on their website.