In the heart of Coachella Valley’s diversity and inclusivity, African-American lesbians redefine retirement, discovering a vibrant and welcoming desert landscape.
By Sweet Baby J’ai
In the heart of the Coachella Valley, where the sun paints the sky with hues of orange and purple, a narrative unfolds. African-American lesbians from around the country are discovering more than just a retirement haven; they’re finding a place to call home. This isn’t just about quiet sunsets; it’s about the vibrant colors these women add to the canvas of the desert.
For us, the desert isn’t just a retirement option; it’s a choice steeped in self-determination. It’s a deliberate move to a place where we can be unapologetically ourselves. The decision to plant our roots in the Coachella Valley goes beyond the tranquility of the landscape; it’s about creating a space where we can breathe, love, and be authentically us. In the vastness of the desert, we found the freedom to shape our destinies.
Our journey led to establishing the Coachella Valley Sistahs Network (CVSN), where women of color, their wives and allies unite. This local initiative brings professional women together, fostering mutual support and collaboration. In this empowering community, we find strength in unity and experience profound joy by embracing our shared experiences and forging lasting connections.
What distinguishes our narrative is the deliberate creation of environments echoing our voices. We’ve birthed businesses, charities, and social events speaking to our hearts and the soul of the Coachella Valley. Inspired by Gertrude Stein’s legendary salons, our gatherings are where intellectual conversations blend with artistry, fostering a community that appreciates our narratives.
We delve into pressing topics, such as the medical crisis facing African-American communities, worsened by unconscious bias. The noticeable scarcity of doctors in the desert who mirror our community offering essential representation, alongside the unique challenges of caring for aging or ailing parents and family members.
These gatherings honor pioneers like Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Baynard Rustin, and others who paved the way for our community. However, they’re not just about serious discussions and profound art; they’re also about embracing the unfiltered joy of lively pickleball, golf, movies, concerts, dinners out, and spirited bid-whist games. We wholeheartedly embrace pure, unadulterated fun.
In Palm Springs, a city proudly displaying its LGBTQ heart, we’ve been welcomed with open arms, becoming an integral part of the rich tapestry of diversity. This story goes beyond retiring to the desert; it’s a narrative of resilience, finding beauty in self-acceptance, and the unyielding strength discovered within our chosen families.
A familiar refrain often arises when we’re out in groups at restaurants or social events: “Where are you visiting from?” Our well-rehearsed response, in harmonious chorus, asserts proudly: “We live here!” As desert dwellers basking in the warmth of our chosen home, like artists with brushes against canvas, we paint our narratives, creating a legacy that celebrates the power of being authentically, unapologetically black and lesbian.
Sweet Baby J’ai is a member of the Coachella Valley Sistahs Network. She is a festival and event producer, internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter, and writer. Renowned for her role as co-founder and Artistic Director of events such as the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival, and Juneteenth Jazz Fest, she is now at the helm of Sweet Baby J’ai Presents the Sunset Music and Comedy Festival. With a rich array of accolades, including the HRC Advocate for Equality Award, Living Jazz Legend Honor, induction into the California Jazz & Blues Museum Hall of Fame, and the BOD Legacy Award, she has consistently pushed artistic boundaries for nearly three decades, leaving an indelible mark on Palm Springs’ cultural landscape. For more information, visit www.sweetbabyjai.com. The image features other professional members of CVSN recognized for their contributions to our desert community.