In this unrelenting year of Black pain and loss, we’ve been thinking a lot about Black joy. Where can Black people be safe? Where can we be free? Where can we be celebrated?
Since 2018, we’ve been documenting exactly these types of Black spaces through our digital publication and Instagram account, Black-Owned Brooklyn. We’ve covered cultural contributions such as the Crown Heights Panamanian Day Parade, the largest celebration of Panamanian independence and folklore outside the Central American nation; the Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant, who have organized for decades to boost Black home ownership (and stop developers from pushing Black families out of historic brownstones); and Brooklyn Recess, a group dedicated to reviving the Black Girl Magic of double-dutch across Brooklyn. Today we’re releasing our first short film, Soul Summit: Doin’ It in the Park, which tells the story of Soul Summit — Fort Greene Park’s legendary house music party.
Founded in 2002 by DJs Sadiq Bellamy, Tabu and Jeff Mendoza, every summer this free, open-air event unites thousands of people under the spell of house grooves and club classics. (Due to COVID, however, Soul Summit didn’t happen this year for the first time.) From humble beginnings the party has ascended to become a global destination for house heads; a safe haven for Black queer expression; and an enduring, authentic Black space in gentrified Brooklyn.
Through archival footage spanning nearly 20 years, in addition to interviews with Sadiq and longtime attendees, the nine-minute film illuminates Soul Summit’s rise — but also how it is disappearing. While the event once took place every summer Sunday, as Fort Greene has become more white and affluent (a harbinger of noise complaints and strict regulation of the park), it has decreased to just twice a year. Yet as dancer Brian Polite puts it, Soul Summit remains as “the last large pushback against the change that gentrification has wrought.”
If you’ve ever been to Soul Summit, then you know. It’s special. There’s nothing quite like it. In these distressing times, we hope this film gives you a much-needed respite to a joyful space where all Black people can be affirmed and, simply, just be.
Watch the film above.