Create Space is about the right to space, mental and physical, with no exceptions. This right to space is essential to the struggle of LGBTQ+ communities, and to how Brooklyn Brewery can responsibly be a part of their fight for equal rights. We have been a proud partner of The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative (SIGBI) since 2017. Our story began when they asked us to create a beer for The Stonewall Inn. Over the years we have built a partnership that means not only are we able to provide a sustained source of income to SIGBI through our Stonewall Inn IPA, but we also show up in whatever way they need.
When SIGBI first approached us, we were inspired by their passion and spirit in the fight. Since learning more about LGBTQ+ inequality, we are determined to support their efforts. SIGBI exists to support LGBTQ+ communities in their fight by funding grassroots activists and their work. They want the world to know the story of The Stonewall Inn Uprising, because that same fight for space and acceptance is still happening all over the world.
In 1969, the year of the uprising, The Stonewall Inn offered relative safety to LGBTQ+ people, though the bar could be raided by police at any moment and the threat of violence hung over them. It was at least a space where queer people could gather and not have to hide who they were; a home where they felt a sense of acceptance and nurturance. The resulting riots were a reclaiming of space – not just of The Stonewall Inn but of public space. As the revolutionaries returned night after night, they were fighting for their right to exist on the streets. Existence is resistance.
Today, while there have been some gains for LGBTQ+ rights, queer activists around the globe are still fighting – for the right to come out without fear, for the right to be in public spaces without violence. Space can be physical, mental, political, conversational, virtual, and more. This is also not just about LGBTQ+ people being welcomed into mainstream, heteronormative and cisnormative spaces, but about respecting queer people’s right to create their own space, on their own terms.
We are acutely aware that there is cynicism about the role of brands and corporations in social justice movements. Many people in LGBTQ+ communities are tired of organizations using rainbow branding to sell merchandise, favoring mainstream Pride sponsorship over grassroots initiatives, and turning up for the party with no real understanding of the issues affecting communities day-to-day or offering of sustained support year-round.
We felt that to be truly supportive of LGBTQ+ communities, it was crucial to start by listening to the voices of those communities. And so, for the past year we have quietly been laying the foundations of our campaign. We asked LGBTQ+ activists to share their views on corporate engagement in their communities and tell us honestly what they want to see from businesses – if anything! We are grateful to the many people who contributed their thoughts and opinions so generously and honestly. The activists we spoke to were clear: they don’t need corporations to sweep in and rescue them. They are already doing the hard work fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. But they do want to see more companies being better employers of and allies to queer people.
We landed on #CreateSpace because we wanted to use our power and our privilege to create space for LGBTQ+ activists – decentering our voice and amplifying theirs, and channeling funding and resources where most needed. The campaign starts with the stories of five incredible activists who are in their own way fighting for space for their communities. Amir Ashour is working to offer safe housing to LGBTQ+ Iraqis who are fleeing violence. It was so unsafe to be a visible queer activist in his country that Amir himself had to leave his home. Dom Holmes is providing community spaces that not only support LGBTQ+ people, but that educate and inform local communities on the issues queer people face. Kayla Gore has spent years providing safe shelter to transgender and gender nonconforming people, and is now building permanent tiny homes for trans women of color who are at risk of homelessness. Lua Stabile has been providing emergency food and financial support to trans people during the pandemic. And Vincy Chan is building a network and support system for local trans and non-binary people.
Through #CreateSpace, we are committed to supporting the work of these activists and creating space where they can tell their stories. In addition, we are creating employment opportunities for queer people and activists through this campaign. We have implemented a program of education for Brooklyn Brewery employees and partners, which centers the voices of grassroots activists. We are committed to building relationships with activists at a local level, listening to the needs of communities and offering support where we are able. Every time we organize a space, we hold ourselves accountable for the safety of that space. And we are challenging our partners to do the same. To find out more about that, click here.
We are very early in this journey. We know we won’t always get it right and we are open to being challenged when we don’t. But we are committed to centering LGBTQ+ activists with every step forward. Kayla Gore writes, ‘We need Allies to become accomplices and take our stories into spaces where we have been forbidden to go.’ We are ready to become accomplices and create space for Kayla’s story and those of her fellow activists wherever they need to tell it.