Richmond’s Community Spaces
Read More: Gayborhood
The announcement earlier this year about the impending sale and potential relocation of the Gay Community Center of Richmond highlights an integral part in a gayborhood’s definition, development, and community. Public gathering spaces like community centers are an integral part of creating a community. There are a variety of other spaces like parks, plazas, streets, Monument’s grass median, etc that provide space for public gatherings.
Architect Teddy Cruz proposes that “rather than measure density by the number of dwellings or residents per square block, we measure it by the number of interactions—the more the better.” Community centers are an integral part of interactions as they are an indoor space for the community to gather, socialize, plan, party, argue, exhibit art, educate, etc. These community spaces are accessible to anyone and (typically) outside of capitalist driven programs like stores, restaurants, cafes, etc.
Having a queer-themed community center inside Richmond’s gayborhood would be a fundamental component, as it becomes a space for gathering, organizing, politicizing, and interaction. Hopefully, the Board of the GCCR will study their proposed move so that is will benefit the city’s LGBT community.
The city of Richmond has a history of proposed, successful, and failed queer spaces. One ongoing success is the Flying Brick in the Organ Hill neighborhood. The Flying Brick prides itself as a lending library and community space with a radically inclusive vision. Its library presents a far-reaching collection of queer work and presents an opportunity for the LGBT community to educate itself.
Another anarchist queer space includes the Wingnut Collective . They host a variety of social events, workshops, programs and campaigns across the city. ROSMY is another non-profit center that provides programing space for education, socializing, and events. ROSMY’s work is important because a community needs to nurture its future.
There have been a series of failed queer community spaces like the Richmond Queer Space Project. However, the RQSP might not be listed as a typical failure because it did serve its purpose. It created space, activities, and energy around and for queer liberation. Does permanence equate to success?
Other centers of public gathering are parks, community gardens, plazas, and other outdoor spaces. The spaces become centers of protest, relaxation, meditation, sports, play,love, or political organizing. The outdoor spaces encourage connection and relationships with the environment.
An outdoor space for a gayborhood would be essential as it can become a community’s focal point like the fountain in DC’s Dupont Circle.
As Richmond’s queer community develops, it will need to decide how it will handle its public spaces. We must ensure that our streets, sidewalks, and parks remain open and free unlike the fake city-scapes of Short Pump.
The Gay Community Center of Richmond’s future placement and reorganization presents new opportunities, futures, and space for our community. We must remain engaged with their ongoing discussions and focus groups.
We also must remain vigilant and use our current public venues like Monroe Park. Occupy Richmond’s utilization of our parks and their eviction presents an important spring board for dialogue. Our public spaces must remain free as they are places for politics, life, love, socialize, and whatever you imagine; Rebecca Solnit once states that “The magic of the street is the mingling of the errand and the epiphany.” How will we create our own magical spaces?
For more info about gayborhood research in Richmond, visit RVA Queerlandia on Tumblr.
Jon Henry comes from the small town of Washington, Virginia. Xe finished xes degree at the University of Richmond and was named GayRVA.com's Out.Spoken. Richmonder of the Year for 2011. When not in class, xe is either in the studio or rabble rousing with other queer activists. Follow xem on Twitter.
It’s that season again, gays. Pride season. Otherwise known as a couple months of having the embers of my insecurity stoked, fanned and turned into a roaring flame. I’ve noticed this…’trend’ every time Pride season comes around. I get incredibly depressed. Like stay in bed all day, don’t eat, don’t drink anything, straight up depressed [...]June 12, 2014
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