Jewel Thais-Williams

More than Your Neighborhood Bar | Jewel Thais-Williams, Jewel’s Catch One

Long known as America’s oldest black-owned nightclub, Jewel’s Catch One opened in 1973 and was considered a radical oasis where queer people of all colors could come and be liberated. At that time, gay black women didn’t own nightclubs, especially nightclubs that catered to gay black people. Over time, the bar itself took on immense fame and fortune with visits from celebrities like Sandra Bernhard, Sharon Stone, Thelma Houston, Evelyn “Champagne” King, amongst others. But what was looming as the 80s unfolded and would shake the foundation of the club and of many queer, underground bars in America: the AIDS crisis. Nevertheless, Jewel, and her Catch One, persisted, providing a safe space for people, creating and fostering a community of healing and support in the depths of darkness and pain.

As CivitasLA celebrates Pride Month 2021, join Jewel Thais-Williams, a pioneer who holds the record for the longest running Black lesbian-owned event space in the country, as we discuss the role that her iconic nightclub played in providing a strong sense of community in Los Angeles over the span of decades and its impacts on the history of gay, and Black gay life, in Los Angeles. Her persistence during many trials and tribulations resulted from her never quit attitude. When asked if she ever thought to call it quits, Jewel commented that she’d say to herself,“There’s no quit to your game, Jewel. It’s no accident you were put in this position to do these things.”

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