by Mike Orie of www.theconscioustip.com
Three Black women in Chicago are changing the way Black people celebrate day parties. Only six months ago, Lauren Ash, DJ Chardonnay and Nickecia Alder joined forces to launch Party Noire. In just a short amount of time, their success has by far exceed their expectations. We sat down with DJ Rae Chardonnay to talk about the success of the day party, challenges and how they've found their niche: celebrating Black women.
CN: Six months ago, you launched Party Noire with Lauren Ash and Nickecia Alder. What inspired you all to launch the party? How did you all meet?
RC: I met Lauren via mutual friends who constantly mentioned that we should know each other. We were introduced via email and social media and I later attended a Black Girl in Om event. Lauren and Nickecia met at a BGIO event at the Silver Room but were previously connected via social media platforms. I’d say that Party Noire was created out of necessity. There was no space for young Black people to gather in a meaningful way and in particular young black women and creative individuals. We wanted to create a space intentional for celebrating each other.
CN: Where did the name come from?
RC: We did a lot of brainstorming on things related to Blackness and played around with a few different titles that included the word Black. We landed on Noire because if its appeal and how nicely it flows. We wanted to be as clear as possible in our intentions.
CN: Party Noire really focuses on the Black woman's experience if I understand correctly. Is there anything specific that you do differently that captures the attention of the Black woman?
RC: I think that we are already very women focused in most of our individual endeavors. Coming together as a collective gave us all a larger platform to express that focus. I think the highlighting of sisterhood and kinship amongst Black women is a large part of what captures the attention of Black women who enjoy Party Noire is the freedom that is expressed by the women who attend and how our photographer RJ Eldridge, so beautifully captures that vibrancy. In each photo that he has ever taken for us I’ve seen nothing but pure joy in the faces of our partygoers.
RC: I believe this is a bit more complex. What is the average Black male in 2016? Who is that person? We definitely see fewer straight Black men at Party Noire. However the ones that do attend are very welcoming to the diversity Party Noire brings. Some of our queer Black men partygoers have expressed that they feel well received by our straight Black men partgoers. It wasn’t until this most recent party that we noticed a significantly larger amount of straight Black men. Some were obviously not the most comfortable but seemed to be intrigued enough to stick around. We think this may be because Party Noire challenges the reasons why most people party. Our community is very inclusive and diverse and our priority is to create a space for a nonconforming #BlackJoy turnup. I’d like to think that we get a significant amount of support from those who may be considered veterans in the Chicago social scene, most of whom are straight Black men.
CN: Can you tell us about your co-founders, Lauren and Nick? What role do each of you play in the success of Party Noire?
RC: Lauren and Nick are amazing young women who concurrently run their own businesses. Nick is is the founder of Black Girl Fly Mag and Lauren is the founder of Black Girl in Om. In the most literal sense we all do a little bit of everything to keep our ship afloat. I think that because we all independently run businesses of our own we’re are naturally adept to doing each task necessary, so we all pick up the pieces where we need to in order to make Party Noire a monthly success. More recently we’ve implemented a bit more of a process and have set some clear outlines on who is responsible for communicating with the various entities involved in Party Noire. For example I handle all communications regarding music and DJs, Lauren handles the bulk of our social media and Nick corresponds with our direct supporters. While these are three important tasks, they are only a portion of what goes into making Party Noire what it is.
CN: Day parties have been extremely successful in cities like New York, DC, and Atlanta. Were there any challenges you first saw trying to introduce a different variation of this concept in Chicago? How has the weather factored into people's decision to attend?
RC: Not particularly. I think we experienced more identifiable challenges after the first iteration. We took some time to reconsider our approach to how things are communicated to everyone involved and became more strategic in our social media presence. It’s an ongoing learning experience and I think each party has presented a new learning opportunity. In Chicago, weather is definitely always a factor. We battled a snowstorm for our third party but still had a beautiful and abundant turnout. The great thing about winter weather challenges is that we always have the summer too look forward too.
CN: Hyde Park has always been this huge cultural hub in Chicago, despite the cities continuous attempt to gentrify it. How did you all select The Promotory? Were there any hesitations of people attending because of its Southside location?
RC: We selected The Promontory because it has become a staple venue in the Hyde Park neighborhood and imagined it to be a great central location and welcoming space. Lauren and I had previously done work with the venue before and have always enjoyed working with their team. If there are hesitations on coming to the Southside they have not been expressed to us. People come from all over the city to attend Party Noire and that in itself is very humbling. Chicago is a huge city and Hyde Park is not the easiest neighborhood to travel to particularly via public transportation. We’ve gotten asked to put out requests to carpool from the Northside because it was imperative that these individuals made it to Party Noire. I feel like many people have expanded their own already established communities with connections made at Party Noire. I think people see more benefit in being there than not being there so location becomes a less important factor. Unless of course there’s a snowstorm.
CN: If you could describe the atmosphere of this event in three-to five words, what would you say?
RC: Here for #BlackJoy. Always.
CN: As a DJ, what approach do you take when selecting the music for this event? Is there anything you might do differently than a different gig?
RC: I generally do not plan my sets. I like to have fun with the music that I play at any gig, really. If we propose to do a musically themed event I will plan for that accordingly. Besides that it’s all very free flowing. I play the music that we as a community have a general interest in be it old school or new and I like to introduce music that our attendees may not be very familiar with from time to time. In terms of our guest DJ’s, I like to make sure that I am familiar with their execution and what music they are most comfortable playing.
CN: Lauren and Nick are both founders of their own publications, Black Girl In Om and Black Girl Fly Mag. How have these online platforms helped support the growth of the brand Party Noire?
RC: Lauren and Nick’s platforms have helped with growth exponentially. Their brands were already established to cultivate the kinship of Black women. Women who feel connected to BGIO and Black Girl Fly Mag trusted that Party Noire would be an extension of what their brands represent, which is the continued uplifting and support of women of color, Black women in particular.
CN: Six months from now, when you reach your one-year mark what do you see Party Noire evolving into?
RC: I see Party Noire evolving into an intersectional community staple event and not just for Chicago. We will continue to celebrate the vibrancy of our community by bringing unique ideas into our execution and maintaining the mission of cultivating space for #BlackJoy.
CN: Can you provide is info on pricing, time and the next Party Noire party in Chicago?
RC: The next Party Noire is April 23rd from 2:00-8:00pm at The Promontory in Chicago. Tickets are available for $10 pre-sale and $15 at the door. You can find out more information about it here.