WE CAME TO SWEAT
Directed and Produced by Kate Kunah
Before Stonewall, there was Starlite.
In 1962, openly gay Black entrepreneur Mackie Harris brought his vision of an LGBT-inclusive bar to life in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, when he opened the Starlite Lounge. A community of friends, lovers, performers and activists--primarily people of color--quickly took shape around the bar. Its patrons found refuge and a place of celebration, while across the river another bar—the Stonewall Inn—became known as the nexus of the Gay Liberation movement.
We Came to Sweat: The Legend of Starlite is a portrait of this historic gathering place and the battle for survival that it lost in 2010.
The Starlite witnessed profound change over nearly fifty years: the Civil Rights Act transformed America, seven New York City mayoral administrations came and went, and AIDS/HIV devastated communities. Through it all, its patrons gathered to celebrate, mourn, organize, or meet friends.
As neighborhood property values began to rise, the Starlite’s future became uncertain and eventually its owners faced eviction. Members of the Brooklyn community—as passionate an engaged as ever—fought to protect this landmark and the history it held. The questions they raised still remain unanswered: why did the Stonewall survive, while the Starlite died? How can communities protect their historic sites in the age of gentrification? And above all: Whose history matters?
We Came to Sweat documents the Starlite’s brave culture of affection and inclusivity, its critical history as a Civil Rights-era landmark, and the passionate advocacy of its community. The result is a portrait of an LGBT community of color that refuses to be invisible.
WE CAME TO SWEAT