On November 16, TRiiBE art director Ash Lane spent time at Affinity Community Services capturing a Friendsgiving dinner hosted by its executive director, Latonya Maley. Lane produced this photo essay detailing the warmth and safety created in the space.

When I walked into this Friendsgiving dinner, Latonya and the Affinity Community Services (ACS) staff greeted me warmly. I watched and took photographs as old friends talked. Newcomers were welcomed into their space, too. The ACS is a Black- and queer-led organization on Chicago’s South Side that’s dedicated to social justice in Black LGBTQ+ communities. 

Shortly after I arrived, a few of the staffers began to serve dinner. The air filled up with the smells of my favorite foods, including macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler, and mashed potatoes. Something about seeing large foil pans feels like a universal sign that the holiday party is about to begin.

The room felt familiar, like home away from home but more free. That was intentional. As the evening continued, I watched the room shift from small talk and introductions to lively conversation and full-blown laughter. I saw people finding safety in their space the way they wanted.

Soon, the room broke out into karaoke, singing “Candy Rain” by Soul For Real at the top of their lungs.  There were intimate chats taking place in the kitchen. Some learned how to play spades. Participants created the holiday they wanted, the memories they could reflect on, and most of all, being cared for. It was their community.

I spoke with Josie Lewis, who has attended a few events at Affinity, to get her perspective. “Thanksgiving can be heavy. Thanksgiving has a lot of heavy history and, like, a lot of people who have family baggage. I feel like Friendsgiving has the connotation of love without any of the burden or the effort,” she said.

Friendsgiving is the acceptance and celebration of your chosen family. It’s making happy memories and honoring all gender identities and sexualities without the frustration of masking to appear content.   Having a place to exist judgment-free is what has popularized Friendsgiving.

“I think that thinking about Thanksgiving, the holiday, its origins and kind of, like, it’s very problematic, especially for as a Black person and as a queer, non binary, dyke person who is really aligned with the liberation for people of color and Indigenous people,” Latonya Maley said. “And so I think, firstly, it is a nice kind of rebrand to kind of get at some of the things around connection.”

We live in a world with high expectations for what celebrating the holidays should look like. Thanksgiving, which was birthed from colonization and the mass genocide of Indigenous people, has now become a westernized capitalistic venture. We are over-saturated with marketing of the ideal family, but for others, the reality can be painful, traumatizing, and isolating. 

Friendsgiving is a quiet and revolutionary step towards rebuilding community.

is currently the art director for The TRiiBE.