What if your favorite restaurant created its very own line of tote bags full of food, drinks, and other mystery items, and sold it all for a good cause? That's exactly what Meme's Diner—a queer-owned Prospect Heights diner that The New Yorker's Hannah Goldfield described in 2018 as "a wellspring of inspired delights"—is doing with Totes Gay, a collaboration between over 20 local queer chefs and makers who are selling their goods to benefit The Okra Project.
Totes Gay was conceived by Meme's and the Brooklyn-based collective Queer Soup Night as a response to last year's "corporate" World Pride celebration, said Meme's co-owner Libby Willis: "So often during Pride, there's a lot asked of queer people and businesses in the form of donations or undervalued work, and we were like, 'There has to be a way our community can come together and support people.'" To that end, all the creators making goods to fill the tote bags are being compensated, with 100% of funds still going to The Okra Project.
Local favorites including Kopitiam, Babydudes, Fig & Pig Catering, Butch Judy's, Baz Bagel and Queer Candle Co. are contributing items to Totes Gay bags, which come in two sizes—a 5-item, $50 option and a larger, 15-item one that costs $150—and can be picked up at Meme's on Wednesday, July 1. Those purchasing totes can expect to find everything from benne wafers to turmeric popcorn seasoning to kimchi paste to bottled cocktails, but the exact contents of each bag are a surprise.
"So much of focus among our friends right now is on Black Lives Matter, racial justice, and supporting the Black trans community in particular," said Queer Soup Night creator Liz Alpern, noting that the idea for the fundraiser was generated before the current wave of protests: "We didn’t know who we would donate the money to, but knew we were going to donate it." The Okra Project, with its focus on providing Black trans people with home-cooked, healthy and culturally specific meals, immediately emerged as a natural fit.
"As queer chefs, our products can be inaccessible to a lot of people, and this is a way we can come together to show support," said Willis. "The Black trans people being fed by The Okra Project are the ones who started Pride in the first place."