Andreana Clay

Andreana Clay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at San Francisco State University. Her recent article, “Working Day and Night: Black Masculinity and the King of Pop,” was published in the Journal of Popular Music in March and her book, The Hip-Hop Generation Fights Back: Youth, Activism, and Post-Civil Rights Politics will be released in 2012 from NYU Press.



"Feelin' Mighty Real: Race, Space, and Identity in the Castro"

It was once said, “if Harvey Milk was the mayor of Castro Street, Sylvester was the undisputed first lady.” Milk, the city’s first openly gay council member, known as the “mayor” even before his election, and Sylvester James, the Black, gay R&B/Soul singer defined the Castro neighborhood and gay male culture in the 1970s. Sylvester’s music, particularly songs like “(You Make Me Feel) Might Real,” and “Do You Wanna Funk?,” provided the backdrop for a ever-expanding gay male community locally and throughout the country. However, as a Black man, the community was organized around African American exclusion, outside of entertainment value.

This paper explores how the opening between Milk as subject and Sylvester as object, has framed the Castro and the San Francisco LGBTQ community since the 1970s. In the past four decades, the community has changed dramatically, losing 10,000 or more to the AIDS epidemic, as well as a recent outmigration of African American and Latinos in the city. These shifts have had a significant impact, not only on the racial composition of the neighborhood, but also on the boundaries that define the Castro and the LGBTQ community in the twenty-first century. And while Sylvester’s music continues to underscore the nostalgic imaginary of 1970s, pre-AIDS, Castro, the neighborhood itself maintains it’s status as a Gay Mecca is maintained through the formal and informal exclusion of people of color. This paper explores the legacy of the subject (white)/object (Black) distinction in the Castro’s contemporary cultural scene in an effort to understand a larger discourse of LGBTQ community, identity, and culture.

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