‘About Us’: Three stories of Pride and belonging from Felton Edward Kizer

Three stories of Pride and community from Felton Edward Kizer | Soho House

In his new zine, created in partnership with Soho House Chicago especially for Pride, the entrepreneur reflects on his own experience of growing up Black and queer, and shares excerpts from his community

Thursday 30 June 2022 Words and Photography by Felton Edward Kizer

Growing up, I always knew that I wasn’t like everyone else. I wanted something different; the options I was given as a child never agreed with my agenda. Eventually, I learnt to accept that. In that moment, I realised that I needed to find my ‘community’. I needed to find my tribe – my people. But, as a twenty-something entrepreneur, I began to question how long it would take me to arrive home. 

I ‘identify’ as a Black, queer, Muslim cis-man. Most days, I have no idea what that means. Other days, I understand them in their singular form. I came into each identity at different times in my life. I stepped into my Blackness during my first semester of art school during the Mike Brown trials. That was the first time I questioned what it meant to exist in a Black male body. 

My queerness came much later. In high school, I acknowledged that I wasn’t straight, but it wasn’t until I had an unexpected orgasm while travelling to Brooklyn that things shifted for me. That experience changed my thoughts about gender and sexuality, and I started following my desires. I think the majority of the time, I’m most insecure about my Muslim identity. I came to Islam two years ago and have changed a lot since then.

I have to admit that I tiptoe my way through various communities – for whom I am grateful and honoured to be able to share space – but I never feel truly at home. In this special edition of About Us in collaboration with Soho House Chicago, I invite you to explore various Chicago communities with me, House members and community leaders. 

Three stories of Pride and community from Felton Edward Kizer | Soho House

Jasmine Jeanine
Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging leader at Universal Music Group 

How often do you think about your identity?
‘Honestly, I would say I’m grateful enough to be reminded of my identity in positive ways every day. I don’t know if I wake up daily thinking about my identity. My friends hold space for me to be myself. And even though most of my friends are heterosexual, I’m not really reminded of being queer. But there are other spaces where I am.’

Could you share some insight on the work you do and why you do it? 
‘I work at Universal Music, and I work on the diversity, inclusion, and belonging team. We call ourselves DIBS and there are five of us. I look after and manage our employee resource groups, which are groups of people from all different backgrounds [and] cultures. I also oversee our workplace – this involves building trust with employees across the company to make sure they feel seen, heard, and respected.’

How often do you think about the impact that you make? 
‘I think in my everyday life I didn’t use to. And [then] you start being more self-aware and thinking about the impact that you’re having. [It] wasn’t until I started therapy earlier this year.’ 

How do you define community?
‘I think about [it] as people moving as one – respecting each other, hearing each other, seeing each other, feeling each other. I think community is a place [where] you’re supposed to feel safe [and secure].’

What do you want people to know about you?
‘That’s a good question... it’s a nice opportunity for me to tell you what I want people to know. I want them to know anything I put out into the world [that] I do everything from the heart. I want to see everybody win.’ 


Three stories of Pride and community from Felton Edward Kizer | Soho House

Vincent Uribe
Artist and creative community builder

How often do you think about building community?
‘I think about it all the time. My work, art practice, and day-to-day are centered around community, building community, and bringing people together through community. I’m conscious and mindful of what that looks like and what that is.’

How do you define community?
‘It’s a tricky term because I often think about it as being around like-minded people. I believe community is an appreciation for the people and things around you. I think we can have differences in identities and perspectives. Still, I think it’s an appreciation and respect for one another – it’s the foundation for a strong community.’ 

How do you identify on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum?
‘I identify as queer – it’s a broader term. I am a gay man, but I tend to gravitate towards queer terminology and [to] the queer community. Part of me feels like it’s a bit more “alt” and it seems to be something that I’m surrounded by a little bit more.’

Do you ever think about the impact that you make on your community, but also the impact you’re making on future generations? 
‘Yes. I work with a lot of younger artists, but also folks that are a lot older than me. Trying to be comfortable with who I am and represent authentically feels significant to me. I remember when I was getting my first handful of tattoos, and they were pretty visible; people would ask if I was afraid of being able to get jobs and that’s never really crossed my mind. Because I never want to be in a position where I have to hide who I am or something about me. I am always conscious of that when working and interacting with younger and older generations. 

‘I want to show that we can be comfortable and show who we are, and not have to do something or not do something because of somebody’s judgment. I think it is essential to be who I want to be for myself and others.’ 

How do you define happiness?
‘This is a tricky one. Pride is a big part of happiness and being able to be proud of the things you’ve done or are doing. I always like to think about the future and what’s coming next, and it can be hard to think about happiness in that sense. Everyone has different ideas of happiness, but I think it stems from the idea of being proud of where you are in the moment.’

Three stories of Pride and community from Felton Edward Kizer | Soho House

Ryan Meyers
Marketer and Culinary Expert 

How often do you think about your identity?
‘I would say that historically, growing up, I thought about it all the time. As I became more open and loved myself more, it became something I thought about less. It’s something I think about and am proud of, but it’s nothing that keeps me up at night.’

Beautiful. And how do you define Pride?

‘Pride is celebrating who you are and how far you’ve come. And it’s a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come. But also, a moment to reflect on how far we have to go.’ 

What do you want people to know about you?
‘How much I care about others. And I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I try to tell and show [the] people around me how much I love them. Sometimes I get caught up in my head, but I want to make sure that everybody around me knows how much I love and embrace them for exactly who they are – I want others to know that that’s how I feel about them.’

Who were you 10 years ago?
‘A lot of people don’t know this, but I was a D1 athlete. I played football at the University of Michigan. But I was graduating college and moving out to Chicago. It was when I first truly started embracing my sexuality and opening up about it. It was a time when I was exploring – figuring out what I wanted [and] what I liked and didn’t like. You never know what you want until you know what you don’t want. And that was a really big time for that.’

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