Chicago women open lesbian-centered bar in city’s gayborhood; named after Alice Walker poem
In May, Black lesbian pals Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle opened Nobody's Darling, named from an Alice Walker poem.
After several questionable racially-rooted incidents in Chicago’s gayborhood, Boystown, two Black women opened a new women-centered lesbian bar in nearby Andersonville.
Angela Barnes, 52, and her friend, Renauda Riddle, 41, opened Nobody’s Darling in May of 2021, selecting its name from two opening lines in “Be Nobody’s Darling,” a poem by Alice Walker, in which she urges: “Be nobody’s darling; Be an outcast.”
“We’re a community-based bar. We’re providing a space for connection and support,” Riddle said in a recent Washington Post profile.
“We have a space where our only expectations are respect, relaxation and refreshment. It’s safe, and it’s resonating,” Barnes said. “There’s nothing aggressive about it. You have women in their 60s next to gay guys in their 20s or lesbians in their 40s. And then they start talking with each other.”
The profile recounted several incidents in Boystown, including one in which the owner of Progress Bar tried to ban rap music, a plan that, according to the Chicago Reader, was rooted in a desire to deter Black gay patrons. Several other businesses have been accused of underpaying Black and Latino workers and showing favoritism to white, male employees with athletic body types.
The racial tensions in The Windy City are notably contrasted with the fact that Chicago voters chose their first Black lesbian mayor, Lori Lightfoot, in a 2019 landslide election.
Patrons of Nobody’s Darling say its woman-centered environment is more welcoming than gay bars.
“You go to a gay bar, and you feel like an invader, invading their misogyny,” Rebecca Angevine, a regular patron, told The Post. “They’ll body check you on the dance floor. You’re waiting forever for a drink. They bully lesbians. It’s so disheartening to expect allies and get that treatment from them.”
Across America, the lesbian bar market is vastly underserved, with only 21 existing in the entire country.
One Nobody’s Darling patron, Rosa Roberts, a 75-year-old retired Black lesbian, said that there, she feels “finally free.”
And although the venue is indeed a women’s world, its arms are also open for men, who have described Nobody’s Darling as “conscientious, warm and welcoming.”