Chicago Nightlife: Socialites Aim to Diversify a 'Segregated' Scene

As some Chicago venues face accusations of being adverse to blacks, are these isolated incidents not uncommon to a large metropolitan area? Or does Chicago really have a race problem? A quartet of young African-American women aim to revamp the nightlife scene.
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chicago downtown in the night
chicago downtown in the night

As Chicago faces tough challenges -- from the teachers strikes to an alarming crime rate -- one aspect of the city that continues to shine is its vibrant nightlife. At least, I always thought so.

As a young black woman, native to the Midwest (with ties to the windy city), the bright lights, haute cuisine and keep-it-real attitude has been an aspect of Chicago I often cherish.

Yet, Chicago's nightlife has been targeted recently as discriminatory towards blacks -- and discrimination is something I definitely do not cherish.

Fuze nightclub in Lincoln Park was recently sued for allegedly using illegal tactics to limit its number of black male customers, according to WBEZ, which added that the lawsuit since has been settled.

"The black male has the toughest time," Teddy Gilmore, a longtime black promoter in Chicago, told WBEZ. "People say 'oh, it's just a party.' And while that may well be true, there's more to it than that. Because you have to also be able to see the different things that are going on. How the people are actually looking at you, how people are judging you."

In a separate incident, a bartender at Proof was fired this year for posting offensive rants on her Facebook page, calling black patrons "apes" and "animals" and using racial slurs.

While disturbing, the question remains: were these isolated incidents at Proof and Fuze simply not uncommon to large metropolitan areas? Or does my beloved Chicago really have a race problem?

A quartet of young African-American women seems to think the latter, and as a solution to the problem, the group launched an event-planning company this year to celebrate Chicago's diversity: Posh Entertainment.

"Our hope as Posh is to enlighten these venues, managers and their staff that African Americans in the city should be able to party in the same venues and have a good time," Paris Tyler, director of operations for Posh, told The Huffington Post. "We have a crowd that we would like to call the 'Tastemakers.' They want what's new, cool. They spend the money to dine at the finest of restaurants, dress in the best of designers and to keep their pulse on what's hot."

So far the firm has already partnered with Red Canary, Paris Club, NV Penthouse and Epic. The clientele mainly has been African-American young professionals.

"More and more venues seem to become more selective on who they are allowing to party," Tyler said. "The diversity is at an all time low. Living in Chicago for close to eight years, when I first moved here, I would be able to go to any club and it was full of all ethnicities and music. Now the hottest venues limit their music."

Diamond Ingram, director of new business development for Posh (and full disclosure: a good friend of mine), pointed out that some Chicago venues may have predominantly white patrons, but then once they are facing financial trouble, the venues will promote to a mainly black audience.

"They always seem to resort to what we call a 'black' night," Ingram told The Huffington Post. "I would like to see us all be able to party and have a good time together.

"I believe we are paving the way," she added about the Posh team.

Tyler and Ingram co-founded Posh along with Kisha Keeney, director of event coordination, and creative director Lesley Martin.

Maybe Posh reflects how Chicago society simply has moved into the early stages of a renaissance? The promoters and socialites of years past are slowly being replaced by a new generation -- all while the nightlife scene is moving outside of downtown and into neighborhoods such as the south loop, west loop and Wicker Park.

"One of our main objectives when we first started was to expose our crowd to the hidden 'gems' of Chicago," Ingram said. "You know that one club or restaurant that everyone says, 'Man I heard that spot was nice, I want to go.' We do not want that to be a question in someone's mind. We want them to say while driving by, 'Oh, I been there for a Posh event. I love that venue.'"

Yes, there's no question that the crowds hitting Chicago's nightlife scene are sometimes segregated, and as a result, venues become segregated when one group gathers here and another gathers there.

But in my experience, all groups have equal opportunity to enjoy Chicago's vibrancy at night -- which is a positive aspect of a city facing many serious economic social, and political challenges.

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