I love this movie. I’ll tell you why later
Upon the 25th Anniversary of the publication of In The Life: A Black Gay Anthology, edited by Joseph Beam
In March 28, 1984, writer Joseph Beam wrote to Sasha Alyson of Alyson Publications about publishing what he called “a book of collected writings by Black gay men.” Later in the letter he emphatically stated:
I am committed to beginning to end the immense silence that surrounds the lives of Black gay men.
In October 1986, Beam?s dream would arrive in a slim gray volume adorned with a sketch of two black men in tuxedos ?stepping out? by black gay artist Daryl Mackie. In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology was published by Alyson Publications, the first collection of its kind featured writings by twenty-nine black gay writers including Sidney Brinkley, Samuel R. Delany, Melvin Dixon, Craig G. Harris, Essex Hemphill, Reginald Shepherd, Max C. Smith, and Assotto Saint.
In the same letter, Beam also tells Alyson “for purely selfish motives, I need the support in knowing who my gay brothers are and where they have been.”?In the Life offers a sumptuous range of stories, essays, poems and interviews written by and about queer men of African descent. Beam stepped forward to excavate and illuminate figures such as Richard Bruce Nugent and Bayard Rustin, and introduce new writers like Essex Hemphill and Melvin Dixon as well as members of early black gay writing collectives such as Blackheart and Other Countries to larger audiences.
Beam’s efforts provided a platform for out black gay voices and expanded what was possible (and thereby profitable) in the world of publishing. Although Beam did not live to complete what was intended to be a sequel to In the Life, his desire to know and record the experiences of black gay men has become a flashpoint from which current scholarship perpetually draws insights, information and inspiration. Thanks to RedBone Press, both In the Life and Brother to Brother are available to a new generation of readers, writers, thinkers, activists, and simply people who, like Beam, seek to know their brother?s stories, and perhaps feel a little less lonely.
We want to take this opportunity to honor Joseph Beam and his tremendous accomplishment that is In The Life on its original publication date October 1986. His genius has been a necessary, sustaining light, and we graciously thank him for it.
Charles Stephens and Steven G Fullwood
The Banal and the Profane: The Little Filter That Couldn’t
TIME. THERE’S NEVER ENOUGH TIME TO DO EVERYTHING I WANT TO DO, BUT I, SISYPHUS, CORRAL THE LITTLE FILTERS THAT COULDN’T – GIGGLY, SURLY, RANTY, GROGGY, SPACY, FROTHY, HORNY — FEED AND BURP – EM.
The Banal and the Profane is a new monthly?Lambda Literary?column. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the publishing industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.
Our inaugural Banal and Profane column comes to us from writer and publisher The Little Filter That Couldn’t, the author of the book?Funny?and?co-editor?of the collections?Think Again?and?to be left with the body.?He is also the founder of?Vintage Entity Press?(VEP), an independent press publishing innovative new works of poetry, fiction, and essays infused with concern about social, spiritual, racial and political issues of people of color. The Little Filter That Couldn’t’s writings have appeared in various publications including?Library Journal,?Black Issues Book Review, XXL?and?Vibe.
Up at 8, out the door by 8:30am. Call Dad on way to train. Rant with him about family, state of economy, black folks, Obama. Board A train. Try and hear what will write me today. Breakfast at Tick Tock Diner. They know me here. Devour egg blood and jellied toast. Consume articles on neurological studies, suicide or some other stool softening literature. At Borders grab Baldwin, Bukowski, Burroughs, any interesting book on the way to escalator to cafe. Stack books so spines face me. Open computer, pull out notebook, scraps of paper from pocket. Scrape insides for diary entry. Bullet points. Draft essays, write reviews, letters, lists. Five hours writing, sometimes with a break, sometimes not. Plan week ahead. Go home, eat and nap and twist. Wake up at dusk. Check Facebook for whatever. Watch a movie in my drawers. Avoid phone as if it were a disease.The Little Filter That Couldn’t Photo by Larry D. Lyons
Day off. Debt, deadlines, doubt, desperation. Drama. Diary entry is one long rant. Get over damn self. Shitload of emails. Respond to offers from colleagues and other sentients to publish my work, or their work; to give talks or show up at a party, event, etc. Throw it all up in the air. Whatever comes down, I eat. Don’t know how else to live. In bed watching?Obsessed, a reality show on folks with OCD, telling myself that I’m not that far gone. Nap. Later, on train to village I am reading?The Autobiography of Malcolm X?for the first time. (Shhh, they’ll revoke my Black card.) Meet with one of my writers. New poems crackle in her eyes. My poetry is floating somewhere in the Gulf. The author and I eat and swap writing stories, art stories, deceased mother stories, love stories. Walk hand in hand to piers, stare at the water. Consider all the fucking that went on here before New York became a sterile Disneyland. Chain stores on every corner. Something’s happening here, but who knows what? Tired.
Up. Journal. At library. Rather be at home writing my own shit. Sublimate desires through work. Sift through letters and photos from abandoned rooming house in Harlem. Shiny black faces frozen, staring at somebody else. Not me. Made up memories, not mine, climb into my head. Greet patrons and assist them with finding resources. Later meet with friend from grad school visiting New York to attend a romance writers’ conference. We librarians who write talk art. She proudly aims for the mainstream; I prefer to masturbate in the margins. Just sayin. On train, pledge to weed the following words and phrases from my vocabulary: I, me, kind of, sort of, more, which, a bit, maybe, possibly. On walk home, I think of renaming an old Jackson 5 hit: Jacking Machine. Imagine five guys simulating masturbation in lockstep. Sing part of it aloud. No one looks at me be me. It’s Harlem.
Up, wash, eat, journal. Obsess over belly because I’m homo, 45 and therefore dead.?Run, Steven, run! shouts my ego, Run get that six-pack, stat! Over my head a gray cloud rumbles. No one likes my writing (a lie). I hate my writing today (but you like it, right?). Who would read this self-indulgent shit? (you would. did. do. are.) The Magician’s Assistant’s Dilemma (poems), Dirty Old Man (essays), Raw (selected journal entries, letters and poems). Will these projects ever see the light? Time. There’s never enough time to do everything I want to do, but I, Sisyphus, corral the The Little Filter That Couldn’t – Giggly, Surly, Ranty, Groggy, Spacy, Frothy, Horny – and feed and burp ‘em. Walk to work with a colleague’s manuscript (it’s good). Dream job. History, archives, art, writing, social and political engagement and sometimes cake. Only man in department. Must write about that. Dinner time! At the caf? after work writing about my week, thoughts about ongoing projects, missed opportunities for work, upcoming lectures. Reading collected letters of J.R. Ackerley over steak and eggs and coffee. What a writer! Occasionally look up at the people eating alone with no books. Wonder who they’re talking to.
Get up early, breakfast at cafe. Read recent interview with the sexy?Cheryl Clarke. What doesn’t she know? Read?Chip Delany‘s new manuscript and I’m stunned. He’s nothing but a big eye and cuddly beard. Cheryl and Chip stimulate me, making me wanna be better. Fire my own light. Pull out interview?Herukhuti?did with me seven years ago. Not bad. Guess I’m a genius after all! Home from work, eat dinner, relax. Tonight I manage a publishing house, discuss writing projects with co-editors, send checks, edit manuscripts, send rejection letters via email. Edit CFS for two anthologies on aging and pornography. On phone way too much. Crick in neck. I don’t even like the phone. Finish three hours later. Flirt with leaving New York for good. Feeling trapped by ego. Consider calling or texting ex for sex. Realize that eating and sleeping will suffice, like a good Negro.
Sort of up. Journal. Eat. Work. Leave. See bad film with peeps. Currently reviewing every film, book, album I see, read, and hear. Create a few good ones, but most are unfinished. Walk down Lenox Avenue past a Chase, Starbucks, Staples, Marshalls, Rite Aid, Red Rooster, Sylvia?s, past black people, white people, older people, younger people, teenagers on bikes, young mothers pushing sweet babies, beggars. Friday night Harlem. Cueballs bouncing expectations seeking corner pocket desires. Zombies in suits and avoid beggars with the best lines. Teenagers loud talking, test their new skins. Old folks like me just wanna get home and into bed. Mourn a New York that no longer exists. There’s a one-legged essay in my queue about Harlem kicking my belly, begging to be born. Ignore her silly ass, masturbate, go to sleep.
Up. Journal. Eat. Work. Leave. Home. Online sending emails, checking FB. Despise awful FB statuses. Hide the culprits from my news feed. Have a lot of nerve, I do. Post whatever I feel whenever I feel it. Editing an essay about the meaning of Dark Matter in the universe (needs salt). Walk down 5th Avenue near 125th. Wonder what regular people do to feel alive. Not really. The Dark Matter essay sucks, but oh well. Split it in half, see what’s salvageable. A few lines I extract for a poem. Night comes, hugs. Beg off a party with wanna-be-seens. No energy to pose for possible pleasure. Stay at home and read. Wrestle with the word till I pass the fuck out.
CALL FOR PROPOSALS – Black Sexualities Studies Reader (Antiquity to 2013)
CALL FOR PROPOSALS
Black Sexualities Studies Reader (Antiquity to 2013)
Editors: Drs. L. H. Stallings and H. Sharif Williams
Publisher: Vintage Entity Press
Anticipated Date of Publication: August 2015
Proposal Submissions Deadline: August 1, 2012
Black Sexualities Studies is an emergent field but one that has faced tremendous obstacles to its advancement. Within Black/Africana Studies, the politics of respectability has discouraged many scholars from engaging black sexuality critically and seriouslyâ€”relying on narrow definitions of blackness and authenticity and limiting formations of nationalism and essentialism. Outside of Black/Africana Studies, researchers who have studied black sexualities have tended to study them within the context of pathology (e.g., teen pregnancy) and disease (e.g., HIV/AIDS). The field has also suffered from an overreliance on psychology and quantitative sociology. While these challenges have stilted certain discourses in Black Sexualities Studies, other factors, such as the development of Black Feminist Thought and Black Queer Theory, have encouraged and advanced its development.
Anthologies and compilations have traditionally had significant effects on the development of fields of study. They have helped to organize and orient thought in a particular field. They suggest borders and boundaries. The Black Sexualities Studies Reader will be a groundbreaking teaching text and web-based resource, providing specialized knowledge and innovative pedagogical tools while performing a work to solidify the rich legacies of black history and culture. Our project seeks an interdisciplinary approach to Black Sexualities Studiesâ€”including work by various sources of black sexualities discourse. We will draw from the humanities, cultural studies, and social sciences. Our editorial decisions will be informed by the various discourses and tensions that have contributed to the field.
We seek text-based, visual, and audio submissions that were previously published or unpublished in any discipline from anywhere in the world by people of African descent. While the project will be mainly in English, we welcome previously published work in languages other than English. We seek work in all genres and forms including: critical and scholarly essays, creative writing, artistic work, experimental forms, interviews, etc. The Black Sexualities Studies Reader will be produced in two forms: a book and digital archive. Both forms will include historical and archival material in addition to submitted work selected by the editors in conversation with an international advisory board.
L. H. Stallings, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Gender Studies at Indiana Universityâ€” Bloomington
Andre Elizee: Archivist and Intellectual
On Sunday February 28, 2010, the Schomburg Center memorialized Andre Elizee, archivist and intellectual in what was more than a simple acknowledgment of his extraordinary 26 years of service. It was a ceremony that featured testimonies from his coworkers, colleagues, scholars and researchers, and readings from his guides to the collections which illuminated for many the indelible footprint he left on the Center’s collections and the Center itself. Andre’s intelligence and dedication to the library’s collection development, maintaining and making available to the public the library’s holdings, was a testament to a life lived with purpose and far-reaching vision.
Rousing beats and robust vocals pulsated throughout the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Reading Room, engaging the heart and ear. The room was packed. We had come to this place to remember him, to pay our respects. We had come from near and far, young, old, male, and female, Africans, African Americans, Haitians and Haitian Americans, Armenians, and European Americans. More than a few of us wiped our eyes throughout the service. Heads hung low.
The poignancy of this idea resonated throughout the ceremony. For Andre Elizee, who passed away on January 10, 2010, had worked in the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division for over a quarter of a century, this ceremony was a homecoming. Here was a house Andre helped furnish with invaluable information. He was a conduit who facilitated communication among scores of people from various communities and introduced many people to the vast and rich resources of the Center.
Among the over 100 people in attendance, Andre’s widow, artist Rejin Leyes, and two of his three children, Vanelle and Georges, sat in the audience among relatives, friends, colleagues, scholars and researchers as several people stood at the podium to share their recollections, their sorrow, and their love for Andre.
Andre Elizee was born in St. Louis du Nord, Haiti, January 30, 1955. A passionate, engaged thinker, he attended Notre Dame high school. After graduation he taught in Haitian secondary schools, in the areas of Greek, Latin world history and Haitian literature. He spent two years at the Universite Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France, where he studied medicine, history and political economy. After moving to the US in the late 1970s, he enrolled in York College?s Black Studies programs and participated in study groups. Around that time, Andre completed an internship at the Queens Public Library.
In 1982 Andre joined the New York Public Library as a library technical assistant at Mid-Manhattan; a year later he transferred to the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where he found his niche. “Almost immediately after Andre came to work in the division, I recognized his talent as a “budding” archivist from the questions he asked or didn’t ask, especially after I read a few of his finding aids,” said Diana Lachatanere, curator of the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division. “His grasp of the work and of the content was evident from the start; her totally ‘got it.’ As the years went by and our friendship deepened, I came to rely on him to help me think through a variety of issues. We didn’t always agree, but Andre’s advice was always thoughtful and to the point.”
Andre brought to the Center a wealth of knowledge about Haitian history, politics and culture, as well as French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean. He also had a profound grasp of African-American civil rights and labor history, and the fundamentals of Black Nationalism, the Black Arts Movement, Communist history and theory, and other related areas. In addition to processing collections and providing access to materials in the Center, Andre also helped to create interpretative programming for the Center. Between 1988 and 1989, he co-curated (with then Exhibitions Coordinator, Miriam Jimnez Roman) two major exhibitions, “The French Revolution in the Americas,” and “Dechoukaj! Contemporary Social and Political Developments in Haiti, 1986-1988.”
Jimenez Roman remembers Andre’s quality of work. “Andre insisted on a comprehensive treatment of each of the periods we were examining and in the face of his reasoned arguments I could do nothing but acquiesce.”? She adds: “Once this commitment to excellence was made, however, the looming deadline required that we approach the work with almost maniacal dedication. What Andre invariably brought to each project was a fascinating and layered intelligence. Even when not directly involved with Center exhibitions, Andre was an invaluable resource for me. I could always rely on him to help identity specific archival materials that would best illustrate a historical moment,” Jimenez Roman said.
Andre also organized a film/lecture series at the Center and Hunter College on Haitian politics, economics, history, migration, culture and religion to further explore themes featured in the “Dechoukaj!” exhibition.
Still, the largest and most substantive impact Andre made at the Schomburg Center was through the many collections he processed. Highlights include the papers of Malcolm X, Ralph Bunche, Fredi Washington, Paul Robeson, Ewart Guinier, Alpheus Hunton, John Henrik Clarke, Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., and several Haitian subject collections including the Maurice Dartique Papers, additions to the Kurt Fisher Collection, the Haiti Miscellaneous collections, as well as supervise the processing of the Ira Gollobin Collection by two New York University students, Chantal Johnson and Nathalie Pierre. He also contributed articles to the African Heritage on the manuscript sources on Haitian history, Paul Robeson and Preston Wilcox, and served on the editorial advisory committee.
When I arrived at the Center in 1998, I quickly discovered that processing manuscript materials can be challenging. To get a sense about how to create guides to manuscript collections, I read a few of Andre’s. “Finding aids are the most boring things to create,” he once told me. “You have to stick to the facts.” However, the guides he wrote were clear, concise and interesting narratives that helped researchers understand not only the scope and content of a collection, but also provided rich contextual insights into the individual, organization or subject. The Julian Mayfield Papers guide is especially interesting to read due to Andre?s sparkling rendering of Mayfield as a man of his time, a creative thinker amid social upheaval in the US in the 1960s, and as one of the proponents of the burgeoning Black Arts Movement.
Co-workers recall Andre not only as a gifted thinker, but also as an individual with strong, informed opinions on politics and culture. Berge Turabian, a cataloger with the Center, worked with Andre for a number of years, and enjoyed having a “French-speaking erudite person” with whom he could converse. “The short meetings and conversations we had once a week would leave me in a warm and dear feeling of happiness; these conversations would always relate to abstractions, ideas, concepts that can only be appreciated intellectually,” Turabian recalled.
For many, Andre was a living archive. “It didn’t take long after joining the division for me to realize that there were certain research queries that could only be called ‘Andre’ questions,” remembers Edwina Ashie-Nikoi, an archivist in the Manuscripts Division. “If the answer wasn’t in a finding aid, it was in his head! He was diasporic in a way that very few people are. A true loss,” said Ashie-Nikoi.
“He was my friend for twelve years, but I did not easily approach Andre. It seemed to me that he was always working, always thinking deeply. He knew too that I would not dare approach him until I saw him smile. His smile gave me a sense of his approval, that he would give me as much time as I needed,” said Christopher Moore, Schomburg Research Coordinator. “Whether he was guiding me through the collections; or sharing an opinion on virtually every topic imaginable, Andre was both an historian and great philosopher. Personally we shared many interests, including a mystical view of the world and its afterlife. For that I am so pleased, as since his passing, he has helped me at least twice,” Moore continued.
“I came to the Center in 1987 and immediately became engaged with Andre,” said Aisha Al-Adawiya, secretary in the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division. “First he sized me up rather closely and then decided that I was someone he wanted to engage! How fortunate I was that he did. Through the years our relationship grew from colleague to friend to family. He was also my mentor to whom I turned for advice on the most important issues of the day and his council was always wise and compassionate. Andre was truly gifted and wise beyond his years,” she remarked.
Researchers from all over the globe sought his perspective on a variety of subjects, and were enriched by his expertise and wisdom. “I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Andre,” said Chantalle F. Verna, Assistant Professor at Florida State University. “Each time I remember him, my charge to continue to researching and writing about Haiti at the highest level is renewed.” Herb Boyd, author of “Baldwin’s Harlem,” and a journalist for the Amsterdam News wrote of Andre’s expertise as “peerless.”
Pearl T. Robinson, assistant professor at Tufts University and currently working on an intellectual biography of Ralph Bunche, said “Andre contributed to making the Schomburg a place of cultural joy for me.” With all of the accolades acknowledging Andre?s intellect and vision, he was also the best kind of co-worker to have. “I loved the summers in the early years when we would eat lunch on the roof outside the third floor landing and dubbed it Schomburg Beach,” said Christine McKay, archivist, who had known Andre for years. “What I think I will miss most was his laugh.”
After the memorial, a friend recent shared that not everyone is so remembered. Indeed, the memorial was a moment to recall not only Andre’s tireless efforts to preserve black culture, which are revealed in the exceptional work he leaves in the stacks for generations to come, but also his kindness and warmth. Andre was a voracious reader and fecund thinker, who, through a life of learning and practice, had distinguished himself as an archivist and intellectual.
Take Care of Your Blessings: Items from the Essex Hemphill/Wayson Jones Collection
A unique take on the life’s work of poet Essex Hemphill is the subject of an extraordinary exhibition, Take Care of Your Blessings: Items from the Essex Hemphill/Wayson Jones Collection now on display at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library. The Black Gay & Lesbian Archive, the largest archive of materials created by and about black queer life, produced the exhibition as a part of The Audre Lorde/Essex Hemphill Memorial Lecture, an annual event meant to commemorate the lives of the American poets, Audre Lorde (1934 -1992) and Essex Hemphill (1957-1995), as well as encourage exciting scholarship and literary production within the communities to whom their poetry and prose spoke.
Essex Hemphill (1957-1995) was a groundbreaking thinker, writer and activist whose published works include Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry (1992), Conditions: Poems (1986) and Earth Life (1985) and his poetry and prose have been published widely in anthologies such as In The Life: A Black Gay Anthology (1986) and Tongues Untied (1988), and periodicals such as Thing, Pyramid Periodical, Essence, and Gay Community News. He was also the editor of Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men (1991).
Take Care of Your Blessings: Items from the Essex Hemphill/Wayson Jones Collection featured rare and unpublished manuscripts of Essex Hemphill’s as well as copies of his first two chapbooks, Plums (1982) and Diamonds Was in the Kitty (1983), assorted photographs, fliers, posters and programs. Wayson Jones, a musician who collaborated with Hemphill in Cinque, performance group (along with Larry Duckette) and later as a duo (Hemphill and Jones) in the 1980s, donated the material to the Black Gay & Lesbian Archive.
The 2nd Annual lecture on November 8th featured poet Cheryl Clarke 2010 who used Hemphill?s poem, “Heavy Breathing,” as the centerpiece for her talk. The lecture was sponsored by the Africana Studies Concentration and co-sponsored by the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean, the PhD Program in English at CUNY and the Black Gay & Lesbian Archive Project, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library. Films featuring Hemphill and his work, Tongues Untied and Black Is…Black Aint also premiered at the Anthology Film Archives in conjunction with the lecture.