When you meet Jafar Flowers, you are immediately charmed by the cool energetic confidence exuded but it hasn’t always been that way.
“When I was growing up, my parents had a hard time with me emerging as a queer person and finding myself,” Jafar says. “If I didn’t have a community of queer people of color, I don’t know that’d I be out of the closet, take me seriously and my art seriously.”
Jafar and friends plan to spread that network through an artist’s collective called Ice Cream Support Group. The collective has already made its mark in Richmond’s DIY arts movement. Now it’s bringing DIY to the mainstream to uplift queer people of color.
It started with the friends creating their own music, magazines, making clothing and hosting dance parties. Now, those events are drawing more crowds as they move from DIY arts spaces to mainstream venues like Gallery5 and Strange Matter.
“It’s important to offer spaces like this because people of color have a history of being disenfranchised where they don’t have as much access to facilities or money. Add the extra layer of being a queer person and you're even more hesitant to approach those spaces.”
And as for the name - well they literally really like ice cream. Who doesn’t? “It’s a friendly name,” Jafar says. In the next two months, Ice Cream Support Group has already planned a benefit for standing rock, HTML coding workshops, and an album release party. To learn more and stay up-to-date, join the group’s Facebook Page here.
Since moving here, Jafar has learned how welcoming Richmond can be and shares a few favorite spots.
So what’s on the itinerary?
- I love showing people Jackson Ward since it’s a historically black neighborhood.
- Soul.eil is a boutique and performance space that often hosts events curated by queer people of color.
- Mama J’s is a must. When I first came to Richmond, I typed in “good food” and it came up! It’s an example of one of thoses, no matter who you are, you feel welcome. I appreciate that it’s become a Richmond staple and is black-owned.
- I love the outdoor area at the Morris St. Lamplighter. We’ll sit outside talking about some creative venture watching other friends pass by. Even when I’m alone, I can be here and I’ll know someone.
- TT Lounge is the boba tea place on Cary St. The lady always remembers me and puts extra jelly candies in my tea. I love the vibe.
- Rumors Boutique is a great space if my friends want clothes they don’t normally have access to. They can experiment with their looks if their experimenting with their queer identity. For me, that was a huge, huge, thing. When I first got here, I was able to try on dresses and say “hey, I like this.”
- Gallery5 is a really great art space and works a lot with the DIY music community.
- Croaker’s Spot is probably my favorite spot. When I went with my mom and dad, they said, “This is real southern black cooking.” Seeing their smiles was awesome.
- I love biking culture in Richmond and have met so many friends. Rags and Bones is really dedicated to making sure your bike is working and will teach you what to look for so you can fix it yourself.
- The serving sizes are so huge at Big Herm’s Kitchen. It’s take out soul food like fried chicken, rice and greens -- and Big Herm is such a nice person.