Author and University of Washington Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Assistant Professor Kemi Adeyemi is out with a new book, Feels Right: Black Queer Women and the Politics of Partying in Chicago. The book, set to be released Sept. 30, follows Adeyemi's 2021 debut co-edited book, Queer Nightlife.
"I lived in Chicago from 2008 to 2016, [and] I got my doctoral and master's degrees in performance studies at Northwestern University," said Adeyemi. "I think that is important and really influences how I do my work, conduct research and think about my writing. It influences all aspects of my critical thinking and my investment in using the body as a primary site of analysis."
Adeyemi told Windy City Times she wanted to write this book to "document the kinds of partying that I was involved in, and that were parts of my life in the city that were underrepresented in the academy [i.e. colleges and universities]. I wanted to put some words to the kinds of experiences I was having. And then hopefully it serves as a launching point for other people to stage these conversations about nightlife in their own cities and towns."
Much of the writing on LGBTQ+ life in Chicago is situated in Northalsted (previously called Boystown), Adeyemi added, because that neighborhood is an anchor for the community. While Adeyemi was living in Chicago, she said Northalsted was not accommodating to her during the nighttime hours when she was looking to be among fellow LGBTQ+ people, and especially Black queer women. This revelation and finding out about the existence of nightlife spaces for Black queer women in other Chicago neighborhoods became the driving forces for her write this book.
When asked to describe her book to those with no knowledge of the topic and/or Chicago's LGBTQ+ nighttime scene, Adeyemi said, "I think the dance floor is an important site where people practice and negotiate their relationship to Chicago. What does it mean to be a part of the city, to be a Black queer person in the city, to be a part of the city's nightlife community?"
The book focuses on the free Slo 'Mo: Slow Jams for Homos and Their Fans monthly party's journey from The Whistler bar and, later, The Slippery Slope bar in Logan Square and then SoHo House in the West Loop and finally back to The Whistler; Party Noire, which took place about four times a year (with a fee for entry) at the Promontory in Hyde Park near University of Chicago; and the free E N E R G Y: A Party for Women + Their Buddies every Sunday at the Black-owned venue Tantrum in the South Loop.
Adeyemi weaved in the changes that were happening in the neighborhoods where the parties were taking place over those eight years. She said there were additional parties happening in other Chicago neighborhoods outside of Northalsted that she attended, however, she decided to feature these parties because of the specific cliental who came to those venues.
"They helped me stage a conversation about the relationships between nightlife, Black life, Black nightlife and the urban development in the neighborhoods in question," said Adeyemi.
In the chapter about the E N E R G Y party, Adeyemi focused more heavily on neoliberal capitalism and generational wealth, and the ways they affect Black queer spaces.
"The E N E R G Y chapter was speaking most directly, hopefully toward the academy, toward how colleges and universities read, interpret and assign writing about Black people," said Adeyemi. "I wanted to take a moment to have a conversation with my colleagues, peers and students. What are we doing? Why do we do this? Why and when do we turn toward Black people? What do we hope to get from studying them? What do we hope to get out of them?
"Sometimes that relationship can be extractivewe just take and then we run and then we do something else with their stories. How can we reconfigure our expectations for the people that give us their stories so that we can do our work? Can we make that encounter feel more ethical? What are my expectations for these people, who have given over their lives so that I can write this specific book?"
In terms of Adeyemi's research process, she told Windy City Times that she was already going to these parties for fun. When it came time to focus on the book, Adeyemi started to interview other partygoers, DJs and party organizers, adding that the data in the book came from her own observations of the parties, those interviews and reading other works.
Adeyemi also paid attention to local Chicago news, follow the parties social media accounts to see how they were marketing and advertising themselves and go to the bars that the parties were hosted on nights when they did not take place.
"I would take notes while I was at the parties as well as after the parties," said Adeyemi. "Then I would write out these notes along with my photo and video footage to jog my memory. I used that data to help me be in conversation with the people I was interviewing. Then I re-read those interviews to draw out the quotes for the book."
While interviewing the party organizers, DJs and attendees Adeyemi said she was surprised with "how unsatisfied people are across the board" about going out at night and partying yet people are still attending these events hoping things will be different, that they will have fun and be a part of a community.
In terms of Adeyemi's biggest takeaway from writing this book, she told Windy City Times that people are "eager to feel like they are part of something, have a say in how their night lives take place, a say in how the city of Chicago takes place and how they are treated in the city. People want a sense of ownership and impact over the environments that they are in, a say over how they are governed, for lack of a better word, so that they can have some sense of control over their own bodies and feelings in any space that they are moving through."
Adeyemi also called on everyone who inhabits these nightlife spaces to "tip your bartender, party organizer and DJ. Acknowledge the very hard work that they do to make us feel good because sometimes they are underappreciated. Give some love to the people that help you have your own nightlife."