Director Kate Kunath in attendance
“We all had a common goal—and that was to sweat our asses off.”
That’s the unofficial mission statement of Starlite Lounge, which held a proud distinction as the “oldest black-owned, nondiscriminating bar/club in the heart of Brooklyn.” A pre – Stonewall landmark in the rapidly changing Crown Heights neighborhood, Starlite boasted patrons, performers and proprietors who formed a tight-knit family, creating community connection for a population that often had nowhere else they could feel so welcomed.
But despite surviving the devastation of the AIDS crisis and rampant street violence, Starlite was confronted with a tidal wave of gentrification. After a half-century in business, they were given a 30-day eviction notice to vacate the premises.
In We Came to Sweat, filmmakers Kate Kunath and Sasha Wortzel introduce us to the club’s devoted habitues (including house mother Mama Dot and resident performer Lady Jasmin) while documenting the passionate campaign to save Starlite against all odds. “When we lose historical institutions like the Starlite Lounge,” an activist shouts through a megaphone, “we lose a part of our history, we lose a part of our culture and we lose a part of ourselves.”
Despite formidable obstacles, supporters remain resolute, vowing to keep the Starlite spirit alive: “We’re going to be bigger and we’re going to be stronger. Nothing is going to hold the Starlite down.”
We Came to Sweat: The Legend of Starlite: Dirs Kate Kunath & Sasha Wortzel 2014 USA 70 min
Community Partners: Imperial Sovereign Rose Court; Peacock in the Park; PFLAG Portland Black Chapter