For A Decade, CLIK Magazine Rose To Black Gay Prominence. So Why Did It End?
Before the digital explosion of Black gay blogs and social media in the mid-2000s, CLIK, a glossy full-color monthly magazine created specifically for the Black gay community dominated as the publication of choice for a decade. Co-founded by Lewis Nicholson, who served as the first editor-in-chief, and Dwight Powell, initially a publisher and graphic designer who assumed the role as editor-in-chief after Nicholson’s departure; ultimately becoming the magazine’s longest-running editor and the personality most widely associated with the magazine, CLIK quickly became a Black LGBTQ+ staple.
The inaugural issue of CLIK launched in Houston, Texas in May 1998 as a Playbill-sized magazine with the former spelling CLICKQUE. Powell tells The Reckoning that in its early days, there was a perception of CLIK solely being a bar magazine as it was widely distributed in nightclubs in Montrose, Houston’s gay neighborhood.
“At the time, that's where all the publications were,” he says. “A few were in mainstream bookstores. Obviously, they were also in gay bookstores, which there were so many back then.”
But according to Powell, there were no magazines available in Montrose or specifically at “Rascals,” Houston’s single Black gay bar (at the time) that reflected the lives of its clientele.
“At the time in Houston there were just a few [LGBTQ+] publications, but they didn't cater to us or serve our demographic,” Powell says. “And so that was something that I found was a need. It wasn't even anything [I did to] make money or to have a second job. I just love designing. I wanted to provide something for the community that I thought was needed. It was full color. It was glossy. And it was something nobody had seen before for our demographic.”
CLIK was the shiny new object that Powell presented to an underrepresented and often ignored community. And like a moth to a flame, Houston’s Black gay community flocked to the magazine.
“Back then, remember, we didn't have anything that we have now. We didn't have the internet. Social media didn’t exist. So it popped really fast,” Powell says. “The magazine was glossy, and color was a big thing. So for Houston, it clicked fast for people because it was done very well. Folks recognized themselves in the magazine.”
The final few pages of each issue were reserved for photos of community events, including swimwear, ball, and drag photos.
“Those were local people that were in the community. And by showcasing them in the magazine, they became celebrities,” Powell says. “I realized that one of the key ways of getting support for the magazine was having folks that lived in the city in it.”
But in the late 90s, before the LGBTQ+ movement had achieved widespread social acceptance and many of its current legislative wins, Powell says getting a person of color to appear in a gay magazine was nearly impossible, but CLIK became the exception.
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