By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Life as a young lesbian of color, of course, has its risks. In 2003, a young AG named Sakia Gunn engaged in a shouting match with a man named Richard McCullough at Newark's Penn Station after Gunn had returned from an evening of partying in the West Village. The altercation turned violent, and McCullough stabbed and killed Gunn. He's serving 20 years in prison. Last August, Patreese Johnson and six other women got into another shouting match with a man named Dwayne Buckle, a street vendor outside the IFC Center. Buckle was stabbed, and identified Johnson as his attacker, telling the press that he was the victim of a hate crime against straight men. Johnson has pled not guilty to charges of attempted murder and gang assault.
Well aware of such incidents, Don Vito has recruited 50 womena mix of femmes and AGsincluding Siya, from across the country and even overseas into the family just since January. But a rash of other groups are giving houses like Don Vito's a bad name.
"Those gangs or crews are the really young kids. Some of them rob and steal; others just want to fight in the club over petty stuff. In my house I require my members to partake in at least two charity events a year. I want a family bond and I don't want it to be about drama."
Growing up in Atlanta with a preacher for a father, Don Vito wasn't able to talk about her feelings or her sexuality. "To this day I can't say to my parents, 'I'm gay.' I didn't come out to anyone until I was 26. I don't want my 'sons' to have to go through that."
The VIP lounge at the Lab on a recent Friday is filled with the members of the House of Corleone, who are all wearing their colorsred, black, and white. Siya and her friend Pretty Milly Corleone are standing on one of the balconies over the dance floor checking for cute femmes. The two have been friends for years, and next year Milly, an army reserve specialist, is expecting to head over to Iraq. Don Vito pulls out a camera and calls all her "sons" over to take a picture. They throw up their hand signals, flash their jewels, and clench their jaws. Siya crouches down in front.
Ky is sitting nearby with her new girlfriend, Lite Brite, on her lap. She whispers something into her ear; the two laugh. They stand up and Ky gently guides her by the hand down to the dance floor.
Behind these brick walls, the girls are free to be badass rap stars and their girly dates. They're free to grab their crotches, kick it to a pretty girl, or dance in a tight embrace. It's a life you might not imagine when you see one of them on the street, look at her face, and think to yourself, "She looks like a boy."