After dozens of women spoke up with stories of abuse and harassment in the Twin Cities music scene via social media last week, three prominent local musicians have kicked off a fundraiser campaign to open a safe-haven music venue operated by women of color.
With no set location yet but a firm name in mind — Auntie’s — hip-hop and R&B stars Sophia Eris, Lady Midnight and DJ Keezy announced their intentions Wednesday along with an ambitious $5 million GoFundMe campaign to get the venue up and running.
“With the recent uprising ignited from the murder of George Floyd combined with accusations of abuse in the music community, the need for a safe space is evident and urgent,” the power trio wrote at the start of their GoFundMe mission statement.
“Auntie’s will be a venue owned by womxn of color rooted in radical freedom of expression without judgement. Leading with loving accountability, it will provide a safe space that presents performance, fosters healing, and provides professional knowledge. Highlighting powerful femininity, Auntie’s welcomes people of any age, race, gender, or sexual orientation to leave our space feeling empowered, inspired, and supported.”
Response has been swift and in some cases rapturous, with $37,000 already raised in less than 24 hours and a widespread show of support from around the Twin Cities music scene and beyond.
“You all are being the change we need,” ex-MPR producer Jeyca Maldonado posted with her donation.
“We can’t imagine better people to be leaders in the Twin Cities,” Justin “Bon Iver” Vernon tweeted.
The three women behind Auntie’s have diverse musical backgrounds and amount to a wide range of experience.
Keezy recently toured as Atmosphere’s opener and is the chief organizer of the Klituation dance parties, which have packed First Ave and other spaces with all-female or gender-fluid performers.
And the ethereally voiced Lady Midnight has been performing all over town — from Icehouse to the Turf Club — after dropping her acclaimed album “Death Before Mourning” last year and guesting on a wide variety of other artists’ tracks, including at least one male artist beset with allegations.
While they listed off a wide variety of idealistic plans to set their dream venue apart — they even pledged to enlist mental-health and sex-abuse experts as advisors — many logistical questions remain, including the size, shape and location of the place and a targeted opening date. The trio did not respond to request for further explanation Thursday.
This would not be the first Twin Cities music venue operated by women minorities, as their post claims. Both Arnellia’s in St. Paul and El Nuevo Rodeo in Minneapolis were owned and run for decades by women of color, but each is now closed (the latter destroyed by arsonists in the East Lake Street riots after George Floyd’s tragic death).
Of course, any timetable for opening hinges on the ongoing pandemic and limited-capacity issues plaguing concert spaces around the world. Look for an in-depth story in Sunday’s Star Tribune on the calamity that Twin Cities venues are facing through year’s end.
For now, though, it’s nice to at least have Auntie’s as a goal to aim for once live music can rise again — and to help ensure not everything will return to normal in the Twin Cities scene.