Image courtesy of Kayza Rose
For many, lazy Sundays are days for big family dinners and spending quality time, often at home with our loved ones. “There’s always that one aunty with the cooking that tastes the best,” Kayza Rose, founder of Family Dinner tells me. But for some, if you can’t find a sanctuary of acceptance with your family, what does home look like?
Kayza has many hats: she’s an artistic director, filmmaker, and activist – she also appeared in gal-dem’s Black British History series on Channel 4. She heads up external events at UK Black Pride and has worked with Black Lives Matter. But more than her many accolades, Kayza is clearly fervently passionate about community and collaboration – and that’s how Family Dinner was born. We caught up over the phone to discuss the genesis of Family Dinner, sober events and why safe spaces are so critical for the QTIBPOC community.
“Within our cultures, we often share food as a form of endearment, it’s how we show love”
Family Dinner was conceptualised after chatting with performer and poet Travis Alabanza, Kayza tells me. “We both saw mutual friends posting about mental health,” she says – and from there, she was determined to make an event for the community. “After I made all the plans and secured some funds for it, then I got back to Travis and was like ‘yes it’s all done’” and so the first Family Dinner was born in 2017. Kayza is a do-er, the kind of person to lead rallies and turn ideas into actions, although she admits the journey to organising Family Dinner the second time around wasn’t always easy. “It’s been two years of me trying to get funding for it, me getting loads of knockbacks – it’s been really difficult.” But now after a small hiatus and lots of planning, it’s back.
Essentially, the idea is to spend a fun-filled Sunday with people in the QTIBPOC community over a wholesome potluck dinner in an environment where everyone can authentically be themselves. Held in St Paul’s Church in Stoke Newington (the space is hired, it’s not a religious event), the theme for the next Family Dinner is QTIBPOC history, to align with LGBTQ history month, “because we’re often left out of the national narrative,” Kayza explains. There’s also tarot reading, life drawing, a qualified therapist on-site, live performances, and a designated quiet space – and the best part is it’s completely free to attend. For people who aren’t out, or are concerned about safeguarding, there is a wristband system meaning they will be exempt from any photos or social media appearances.
As the name suggests, food plays a key part in the day, with the notion that Sundays and sitting and eating together can be a cherished moment for chosen families too. “Within our cultures, we often share food as a form of endearment, it’s how we show love,” Kayza says. Although vegan finger food will be provided, everyone can contribute a dish of their choice – “just make sure the food is clearly labelled,” she adds.
“If we have a space that’s about our wellbeing, self-care and empowerment I just wanted it to feel like we are all in our sober minds while we’re doing it”Kayza Rose
Family Dinner is also a sober event. With the conception and popularity of sober spaces like Misery, it’s obvious that socialising in a clear mind is a growing and needed trend. Not only are members from the LGBTQI+ community more likely to suffer from alcohol and substance misuse; beyond that, nightclubs and bars just aren’t the best or most accessible environments for everyone.
“All I ever knew were nighttime spaces where everyone was drinking… I just wanted Family Dinner to feel a little different,” Kayza explains. We all know alcohol is quite often used as liquid courage in social situations – something Kayza can relate to: “As a person with social anxiety, I have used alcohol as a way to help me relax, in terms of socialising.” But the need for sober spaces in this community is so important, especially for sound judgement, she explains. “If we have a space that’s about our wellbeing, self-care and empowerment I just wanted it to feel like we are all in our sober minds while we’re doing it.” Kayza wants to create a space where interactions with people happen because “we feel like the vibe and energy is right”, rather than just because of everyone’s drunk.
Although the upcoming Family Dinner is already booked up, there will be five more over the year on 16 February, 22 March, 21 June, 16 August, 18 October, 13 December. More than anything, Family Dinner is about collaboration. “I wanted the event to be super impactful – to be what people say they need rather than what I think they need,” Kayza muses. She also reiterates that this wouldn’t be possible without the help of the assistant producers Tashmia and Akeilah. “They have some amazing contributions and amazing ideas and I think that is what we need in our communities. It’s empowerment.”