Gay Men Of Color Form Sex Clubs to Meet the Needs of Their Community
By Jim Merrett
The Advocate, April 15, 1992
LIDELL JACKSON knows first-hand the frustration of cruising gay sex clubs as an African-American male. "It drove me crazy," recalls Jackson, a tight-bodied Broadway dancer who was featured in the movies Fame and All That Jazz. "I’d go into a club where there would be 100 white men and three men of color. And the three of us would get together and socialize and find a sanctum from this sea of white." While he is not accusing mostly white sex clubs of discrimination, Jackson says he and his friends have all felt the sting of racism in these establishments at one time or another. "If you walked up to someone, you were pushed away," recalls Kobi, a computer operator and friend of Jackson’s. "No one would bother to deal with you." Jackson concurs: "Racism is alive and well in the gay community."Instead of putting up with minority status, Jackson and Kobi decided to form Jacks Of Color, a New York jack-off and safer-sex club for Blacks, Asians, Latinos and other nonwhites.
On a recent Saturday night, a culturally-mixed crowd of 60 gathered at the club’s space on 14th Street in Greenwich Village, dropped their clothing into big green garbage bags, and started heating up a sex room with walls fashioned out of hanging sheets of plastic. Although there were white men prowling around, they were a definite minority. The father of this kind of sex club is Alan Bell, the publisher of BLK, a Los Angeles-based publication for African-American gays and lesbians. In 1986 Bell founded the longest-running all-Black gay sex party in America, Black Jacks, in Los Angeles. After six years the club is still meeting in Southern California, still emphasizing a mixture of talk and hot sex, and still all Black. "So far there hasn’t been any great cry to integrate," Bell says.
Unlike Jacks Of Color, Black Jacks invites only African-American men to meetings. "We’re essentially talking about a club that discriminates racially," Bell acknowledges, quickly adding that "when minorities get together it’s different than when whites get together. It makes sense to have women-only bars, Black colleges and gay magazines. Before Black Jacks there was no place for Black men who were into having safe sex with each other in a group setting." So far, Black Jacks has spawned only one clone – in Chicago. Author Max Smith brought the Black Jacks home to the Windy City after visiting the Los Angeles club in 1988. "The idea [of a Black-on-Black sex club] was really hot to me," Smith recalls. With 20 members at its peak, Chicago Black Jacks came to a happy end in 1990, when a majority of the members paired off and formed relationships. "But," Smith laughs, "people still call me up and say, ‘We should do that again’." It’s 11 pm on a cold Friday night in New York, and the 21st monthly Jacks Of Color party is in full swing. Kobi is playing doorman, his buffed torso popping out of a black leather harness, his tongue sharpened for the role of fashion policeman. "We don’t want you walking around in your street clothes," he shouts at a recent arrival. "Strip down to your shorts!" Kobi’s stern tone also warns white men who stumble in on the wrong nights that "this is a private party" – a duty not entirely unpleasant because, he says, there’s a unique tone at parties for men of color.
"There’s definitely more of a bonding here," he notes. "People say hello or smile at you, and even with the sex play, things can go more into a group thing. Whites don’t seem to have that." In the sex room, about 15 guys are indeed getting into a "group thing." Bilingual safer-sex posters featuring Black men and Latinos line the walls, a pile of condoms is available nearby, but there are no sex police. "We’re all grown-ups," Jackson explains as he distributes free cups of juice and soda to men wearing nothing more than their running shoes. "We know what we’re doing." The main objective of Jacks Of Color is to showcase Manhattan’s male melting pot and to provide a safe meeting place for men of color. For Jackson, keeping the club mostly nonwhite is essential to the group’s success. "I didn’t form Jacks Of Color so I could have 20 or 35 men a month pawing my body," he laughs. "It has all to do with creating an environment where men of color can really let their fantasies run wild!".