Exhibit: Salsa Soul Sisters

Ongoing—Through November 9
Location: Exhibit Area, first floor, Brooklyn College Library

Curated by Shawn(ta) Smith and Matthew Harrick

Salsa Soul Sisters: Honoring Lesbians of Color at the Lesbian Herstory Archives is a celebration showcasing a recent donation of Salsa Soul Sisters: Third World Women archival materials to the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA). Members Cassandra Grant, Imani Rashid, Nancy Valentine, and Brahma Curry were responsible for this generous donation made in November 2016. It includes photographs, monthly newsletters, event flyers, discussion schedules, meeting minutes, financial papers, correspondence, pamphlets, and other materials documenting years of activism. It greatly expands the existing holdings of LHA, the most comprehensive archive of lesbian materials in the world.

Salsa Soul Sisters: Third World Women Inc., the first organization dedicated to lesbians of color in the country, was founded by Reverend Delores Jackson in 1974 and incorporated in 1976 in New York City. The group consisted primarily of African American lesbians and was inclusive of Latinas, Asian American, and indigenous women, who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or same-gender-loving. The intention of Salsa Soul Sisters was to create a safe space and supportive community, an alternative to the bars. Through weekly meetings, members explored and spoke their truths. Other events included retreats, annual dances, holiday celebrations, and participation in Pride Marches. The result was the creation of a revolutionary political and creative lesbian of color community.

Drawing on the inspiration and freedom of this radical work, Salsa Soul women expressed themselves in ways that had not been thought possible. Feeling powerfully supported within community, women studied and mastered African drumming and dancing. Poets, visual artists, writers and singers blossomed in this environment. Many were political and educational activists, nontraditional workers, and entrepreneurs. Cassandra Grant remembers, “We were a village taking care of itself.” She continues, “Salsa Soul was a catalyst for an emerging community that addressed the question, how do we live a better life.” Under the leadership of Candice Boyce, Salsa Soul Sisters changed its name to African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change (AALUSC). The work and movement continues to this day.

The documents in this exhibit trace this rich herstory from its beginnings. Flyers announce weekly political meetings, group retreats, and the annual fall dances. The Salsa Soul Gayzette publishes a monthly calendar of events, as well as poetry, artwork, essays on political positions, and short stories. Photographs remember the ancestors and those who were instrumental in continuing the work of this supportive and loving community.

The contributions of many to Salsa Soul Sisters are commemorated in this exhibit. The Lesbian Herstory Archives invites all who view this exhibit to contribute their memories and materials, so that a complete record of the lesbians of color whose courage continues to illuminate our lives and possibilities, is available to future generations.

*Third World Women, used during the 1970s to indicate both comradeship with Africa, Latin America, and Asia, and to point to the state of oppression in many communities of color within the United States.

Brooklyn. All in.