UNIQ, the Bay Area’s newest queer party, was founded by Jenna Simon (of SF LA Queer Nightlife) and Leah Jackson (DJ Ms. Jackson). Every second Saturday at The Port Bar, UNIQ features queer performers, DJs, and raises funds and awareness for local non-profits.
In order to understand how UNIQ came to be, we have to go back to the beginning. SF LA Queer Nightlife (SFLAQN) was started back in 2014 by Jenna Simon with a simple mission: to keep the queer community together. What started as an event guide on Instagram has turned into an event production company that supports community advocacy and produces three monthly events. Their first event was Queer as Fourth which took place at El Rio and had more than 800 people in attendance with fundraising efforts going to a housing non-profit. From there, they hosted many more successful events.
Around that same time, the Port Bar, a queer and Latin-owned venue in Oakland, mentioned they had an opening for a new event every second Saturday which led to the start of UNIQ. The whole team got together—including Leah Jackson, UNIQ co-founder; Jazmine Vieira as SFLAQN content manager/co-production manager; and Victoria Aguilar as SFLAQN social justice and inclusivity manager/fundraising coordinator. They sat in a room and truly discussed and debated how they could make this new event something different. They decided they would incorporate performers and prioritize local QTPOC (queer-trans-people-of-color). And from there, UNIQ was born.
We interviewed UNIQ founder Jenna Simon, to get the inside scoop on what UNIQ is all about and how community has played a crucial part in the parties that she brings to life.
What does UNIQ stand for?
Unique. Non-conforming. Inclusive. Queer.
How long have you been throwing this party?
The first UNIQ party was held on May 12th. SFLAQN hosts three monthly events; UNIQ every second Saturday at the Port Bar, Space, every third Thursday at the Port Bar, and Foreplay every fourth Friday at the Armory.
Where did you get the inspiration to start this event? Did you see a need for it?
There are so many talented local performers and we wanted to give them space to express themselves and share their talent with the community. Some of our past performers include Micahtron, Ms. Jackson, Dreams, Aima the Dreamer, SirJoq, Deity, and VonKiss.
On top of being inclusive to people of color we also make a conscious effort to be mindful of all body types. It’s important to us that we hire folks who have different body types so as to create representation and inclusivity on our dance floors and throughout performances. Donating to reputable non-profit organization’s each month is another priority which means that we’re not just partying but we’re partying for a cause and with purpose
What are some nonprofits that you’ve worked with and raised funds for at previous events and how do you choose them?
Each month we have a different non-profit has the central cause that we raise funds for. Proceeds from each of our events UNIQ, SPACE, and ForePlay will be donated to the non-profit of the month. Victoria Aguilar, our social justice and inclusivity manager, researches the organizations. We discuss different fundraising focuses and largely look for radical, mostly queer, organizations that are focused on people of color. Some organizations we have benefitted in the past include the Center for Sex and Culture, Dare to Strive, and Sahodari Foundation. Our non-profit for September is Somos Familia, which is an East Bay non-profit whose mission is to create support and acceptance for Latina/o/x lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning youth and their families. And of course, if something pressing comes up we try to support that as well. For the month of August, partial proceeds went to the family of Nia Wilson.
It’s not like we’re donating thousands of dollars but we are able to donate a couple hundred and that makes a difference. And we’re not just raising funds we’re creating awareness as well. Other events get caught up in the scene culture and we want to pull away from that and make our efforts community-focused. Everyone is welcome and we’re making a difference. That’s one of our values and it’s really important to us.
What cool new projects or events do you have in the works?
In addition to our three monthly parties, we host two annual parties: Queer as Fourth and Queer Fam. Queer Fam is very special as we invite all queer organizations and event producers to help host the party. This year’s Queer Fam will likely be held in October, to not only celebrate our anniversary but to also bridge the gap between community leaders.
We want to bring everyone together, dancers, DJs, hosts, all folks for networking opportunities but also because we are the community and we set an example for the rest of the country and the world. It’s so important that we are a united front. We need to be unified, radical, and safe. We’re stronger together and there’s enough space for everyone. So many parties can become cliquey and that’s not what we’re about.
In addition, we’re hoping to create a producer panel of queer organizers to talk about things like inclusivity and to help to keep us unified. I want everyone to get along and feel seen and included. That in itself is remarkably impactful and sends a great message. And there are new venues and spaces opening up and we’re planning on growing more and more. We love creating space for queers.
What other collectives/events do you recommend?
Hunnies and Hot Sauce – we love how inclusive and radical they are…they’re amazing humans. It’s really refreshing to see.
We also collaborate with Body Party, they have similar messaging. We admire that they celebrate a body positive message and prioritize POC.
Swagger Like Us has been in the game for a long time and they throw great parties with radical people and very inclusive.
Soulovely has also been around for a while, but again, they are a really amazing and inclusive space. We love that they have QTPOC pre-sale tix prioritizing QTPOC in these spaces, making it even more accessible.
Where can people go if they want to perform or get involved?
Email us at [email protected]. Please send photos, SoundCloud links, and social links, as well as a bit about yourself or your company’s mission. If you do submit, please keep in mind that we prioritize QTPOC. We are inclusive but we do focus on QTPOC from this area.