It’s the intimacy of ENIKAlley Coffeehouse that Wayson Jones remembers most. The small carriage house-turned-performance space located just off H Street NE was a thriving hub for D.C.’s Black LGBTQ community in the 1980s. “I remember the intimacy. I remember the feeling of community,” Jones tells City Paper. “That was palpable—it seemed that everyone knew one another.”
Jones, who describes himself as gregarious, admits he still felt a “little socially awkward” during his first few visits to ENIKAlley, a performance venue, rehearsal space, and gathering spot for artists and political organizations that opened in 1982. A musician, performer, and visual artist, Jones didn’t begin to feel truly at home in the coffeehouse community until he began performing on its stage, often with his longtime friend and frequent collaborator Essex Hemphill, the renowned poet, activist, and editor of Brother to Brother.
Jones—along with acclaimed local artist and activist Christopher Prince, award-winning filmmaker Michelle Parkerson, writer and founding member of performance poets and writers’ collective Station-to-Station Gregory Adams, and playwright Pamela A. Jafari—has spent the past two years working to tell the long lost story of ENIKAlley. On Aug. 21, their new documentary, Fierceness Served! The ENIKAlley Coffeehouse, premieres virtually. Directed by Parkerson, the 34-minute film combines history, interviews, archival photos, music, and spoken word to tell the story of the influential but oft-forgotten space, which shuttered in 1989.