It’s not unusual for me to fan girl a local DJ on Instagram. But in the case of DJ Rah D, I then went on to meet and befriend her at the inaugural Pride Rollout hosted by Cincinnati Rollergirls & Cincinnati Skate Collective. I also met her wife and realized that I already follow her wife’s business on Instagram, too. We all laughed at how very Cincinnati this meeting was, the city with a small-town feel. From there, I followed her to the underground speakeasy setting of Ghost Baby to watch her spin and learn more about her fabulous venture, The Black Pearl Experience.
Here to tell us more about Black Pearl Experience are founders Latoya and Rah D.
What is the Black Pearl Experience?
Named after the legendary Josephine Baker, we created the Black Pearl Experience to curate spaces that bring 100% unapologetic celebration of joy, art, and music to the Black and Brown LGBTQ+ community.
There are only 27 lesbian bars in the United States.* There are 0 venues in Cincinnati that centers Black Queer Women/Women who identify as Women/Non-Binary Community. We deserve to have spaces that celebrate our diversity and foster our community. We are Black queer women creating spaces for us, by us.
How did it all start?
We are both transplants of Cincinnati, Ohio. Rah D is from Detroit and moved here about 12 years ago and Latoya moved from Washington D.C. to Cincinnati almost 3 years ago.
For Latoya, living in D.C. meant having a sense of belonging. She had access to a vibrant community of Black queer women whether it was a day party, brunch, or professional groups, Black queer people have space and community everywhere you look.
Moving to Cincinnati, Latoya noticed a lack of Black queer spaces, specifically for Black queer women, where we can build community, let our hair down, and be our authentic selves. She felt like it was important to recreate the atmosphere that made her feel safe, welcomed, and where she can meet others that look like her.
For Rah D, she noticed quickly after moving to Cincinnati that the same spaces were nonexistent. She grew up in a city that celebrated Black Gay Pride, has a plethora of gay bars, and even includes a Black Gay Park! For her, moving to Cincinnati was a complete culture shock.
We decided to be the solution and help create the community we desired and fix the need for Black Queer events in the city. We founded The Black Pearl Experience in July 2021.
The Black Pearl was named in honor of Josephine Baker. Remembered for her unbothered, infectious, and unapologetic force to be reckoned with – Josephine Baker, also known as The Black Pearl, was and still is an influential Black queer woman. In the words of Rah D – “I love her infectious spirit and how free she seemed to be”. That’s exactly how we envision the Black LGBTQ+ community to feel at all our events.
The Black Pearl Experience is more than just a party. It’s a curated experience with the intent to celebrate us and people like us. We are Black queer women looking to bring unapologetic celebration, joy, art, and music to our community.
What have been your proudest achievements thus far?
Definitely all of the new relationships, friendships, and everything in between that we’ve made and other Pearls have made within our community. So many connections have been built – one of the coolest moments was hearing “Heyyy Black Pearl!!” out loud when greeting another Pearl that they met from the events. Rather than just throwing parties and having fun, we truly built a community centered around love, joy, laughter, and positivity.
Share with us some feedback that you have received from other Black Pearls.
“There is space for everyone, literally. I’ve met so many faces and people from different walks of life that all have been welcomed to spaces curated by Black Pearl Experience. I love that they even welcome people from the neighborhood to come and enjoy the experience!” -Prevail T.
“Being in a space that’s truly us, by us. This is what Cincinnati desperately needed. Growing up in a city like Cincinnati, you often can be the only in most spaces you enter on a day-to-day basis. I’ve gained a community and lifelong friends because of Black Pearl.” -Loren M.
“You’ve built a loving intentional community that is so needed in this city. I will forever be thankful for the warm welcome I’ve received from y’all. Being included in this space is a privilege I do not take for granted. -Murry S.
What fabulous events you have lined up this year? What will be new?
This year we’re doing something a bit different. We have established a residency with the amazing allies at Queen City Radio, where we will host our usual free dance and mingle Sunday Funday events every 2nd Sunday of the month.
But that’s not all! In between our Sunday Fundays, we’ll be hosting curated experiences for a totally different vibe. These Experiences range from our Art & Soul Experience, powered by Maker’s Mark, to teaming up with Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio for Happy Hour, to one of our Pearls favorites: Camping overnight under the stars! More to come with the Experiences so keep an eye out!
Where do you see this experience expanding in the future? (Please say travel events!)
We definitely have goals for expanding in the future. We hope for more partnership opportunities with community organizations, non-profits, and corporations to continue to provide unique events for our Pearls. Currently, we have Pearls coming from major midwest cities, such as, Columbus, Cleveland, Louisville, Indianapolis, Dayton, and many others. We’d love to continue to build on those networks and continue to support the other Pearls in different locations.
How can people connect and learn more about your events?
You can find the most up to date information on our Instagram: instagram.com/blackpearlexperience
Facebook: The Black Pearl Experience
Reach out for any questions. We actively check our messages and reply to every single comment!