At 40, you would think I’d be able to say goodbye with ease. Tilt the head. Raise a hand and wave. Turn, face the horizon, and walk. Sounds easy, but not for me.
Here’s the thing: I like adventure. Whatever’s coming, I’m down. Even if I don’t initially cotton to it, change is alright with me. Can’t live without it—indeed, who can? Still, saying so long has always been difficult for me because I automatically associate leaving with loss, and loss with losing. Although I know that these concepts are not synonymous, tell that to the body aching for a yesterday, a ‘never will be like again’ time throbbing in the brain coupled with a persistent petulance.
Fortunately I’ve been able to poke at, puncture and deflate the bloated, self-important corrosive leaving/loss/losing idea with two very sharp instruments: a love of experiencing the unthinkable, and humor. Recently I have been blessed with the unthinkable:, a painfully hilarious, bittersweet reality that demands a shift in focus and desire, and an admission to myself that dwelling in possibility means anything can happen—and, at times, quite inconveniently. Humor always waits in my palm, itching to tickle and rouse me out of whatever funk I’ve crawled into. These are my only tools, fashioned from stone, bone and breath.
August (or maybe forever) feels like a good time as any to rest and relax and remind myself of the healing power of silence.
Me: I sit on a fence, wearing a hat, one side red and the other blue. What color will you see if you stand to my left? My right? What if you face me? Glimpse me from the back? Most of my life I thought it mattered that you saw me, considered me, maybe even wanted me, but now I know that’s just my ego laughing and talking loud like kids at the mall. Forget I ever said it. Forget that time after time when I wanted you to see blue, you saw red, and some of you actually had the nerve to see yellow. Yellow. Jesusmotherfuckingchrist.
I am inconsistent, complex and cryptic. I have no answers, no truth to offer you. I arc towards meaning. Come for me. Here’s what you’ll find: a baby thumbing his way across the galaxy, tripping up everyone’s alarm system, happily defecating in his diaper. Stank, stomp, storm, sensation, ssss.
My toes curl up when I think about this website. Three years and one day of interviews, poems, photographs, program announcements, reviews, riddles, rants. Me starting out hopeful and eager. Me after a few days wondering what the fuck to write. Me getting excited when someone actually responded to what I wrote. Me liking to be heard. Me easily self-satisfied. Me getting it right. Me getting it wrong. Me being told that my website doesn’t represent me. Me getting off on my own work. Me getting off on people getting off on my work. Me loving to promote other people’s books, films, art, politics, etc. Me finding ideas I originated at my site on other people’s blogs. Me loving to meet other bloggers. Me being scared of uber-bloggers. Me seeing that bloggers often fluctuate between genius and self-masturbatory drivel. Me not exempt from previous critique. Me happy because I answer to no one.
Me wondering if I should call my next book “Crouching Nigger, Not-so-hidden Faggot.” Me thinking it’s a good idea cuz I am always crouching, always niggering, always faggoting.
Me pondering the years online. Me considering why it was important to me to share my life in this manner. Me knowing why. Me spilling guts. Me being a dick. Me getting some dick and ass because of this website. Me grateful to those who offered it up quite willingly.
Me laughing because what I said to you is not what you heard.
Me letting go of the steering wheel. Me hoping you crossing the street. Me wishing that we all end up and heap giggling.
Me generally satisfied with spitting smoke in your face and licking your funky, funky drawers.
Me wanting to see you without your myth. Me gonna see it anyway, regardless.
Other elements. Funny this, Funny that. The doctor of all dicks. The Black Gay and Lesbian Archive. This here’s one extraordinary machine, if I do so say so myself. And I do. Bask in all that is Steven. If you haven’t already, feel free to get all up in my cyberspace. Go on. Don’t be shy. Feel my pulse. Place one finger just inside the lip.
To you who visited my website deliberately, and to you who came accidentally, thank you. To those who came, read whatever the fuck I wrote, and maybe went back and read prior entries, I sincerely appreciated the time you spent here. To you who read my website while at sitting at work, I hope it was worth getting fired for. To you who wanted to know about me, so you Googled a brother and found me prostrate screaming on your screen—afroed, dreaded, bald—thanks for considering me. To you who unwittingly fell under my spell, sorry. I’m addictive. It’s the light skin.
To you who may not have access to all the resources every black homo/lesbo/bisexo/transo/SGL-O/queer-O should have, hopefully I’ve provided you resources: personalities, books, films, music, events, etc. to enrich and expand your consciousness. We around here at sgf.org luxuriate in the beauty of not being hetero, and say it loudly.
To you who read my shit and started your own shit, glad to be of service. To you who wanted to meet/date/fuck me because you saw my face on the Internet, I am flattered, but also bummed that we didn’t meet earlier when I was lonely and desperate because we could have had a spanking good time dicking it out.
To you who left commentary that helped me think and rethink my genius thoughts, a hearty thank you. To you who read about the BGLA and contributed materials, thank you so very much. I could never thank you enough for helping me grow the project. To you who, because you happened upon this site, hired me to give readings or presentations, thank you, thank you, thank you. Traveling is fun and cash is nice.
To you who bought FUNNY, I am forever grateful. To you who pointed out uneven segues, typos, and just plain bad writing, thank you from the bottom of my walnut-sized heart. I’s better for it, I’s really is. To you who, after reading a post, saw fit to send me an email, I sincerely appreciated the gesture. To you who are obsessively drawn to everything Steven, thank you very much.
CLARENCE FLUKER: YOUNG AND WONDERFUL
Photo by Todd Franson courtesy of MetroWeekly.
Where did you grow up? I can imagine that you were an exceptional child. Talk about growing up black and homo. I grew up in East Cleveland, Ohio. Many natives affectionately call it “EC.” It is a predominantly black and economically disenfranchised suburb of Cleveland. Most people look at EC and think to themselves that they are glad they didn’t grow up there and wouldn’t want to raise their kids there. I actually look back on it as a great experience. I know I wouldn’t be the young man I am today without the bad and lots of the good experiences I had as a little gay black boy in the hood. I tell people all the time even before I was a flame I was a flicker 🙂
If exceptional means exception to the rule, then my mother would say I was certainly exceptional. In second grade I became the first male cheerleader at my school. (My mother should have known right then.) Later in fourth grade when I came up with the idea of having a birthday party I told prepared a sample menu for the “event” that included mini quiche, shrimp cocktail, mock martini’s and an assortment of fruit and veggie trays. (Some things don’t change.) So I was certainly different from my siblings and other kids on my block.
The great part about it though is that in that community with the exception of a 7th grade biology teacher/minister no one ever tried to change me. I was allowed to be. I was allowed to appreciate the arts. I was allowed to not play football. I was allowed to be a thinker. I was allowed to say what I had to say. I was allowed to be funny, flamboyant, have a good time me and for the most part people were okay with that. Maybe everyone else was more concerned with taking care of themselves, they didn’t have the time nor care to worry about me or maybe they just knew I was who I was and let me be. I was never questioned and so I just was and I am thankful.
Tell me a little about your education. I actually began my college career at the University of Cincinnati. I was there for two years and somewhere along the way I discovered two things, the city of Cincinnati wasn’t really for me and that the school was in many ways a reflection of the City, thus it wasn’t for me either. I had a friend who was going to UC at the same time and one day she told me that she was going to transfer. A light bulb went off in my head. I am somewhere that I don’t want to be and it is probably not healthy for me to stay here “I am an adult” I can choose to leave. So I left. I took a semester off to save up money for my transfer and I transferred to Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. (Go Bears!) I majored in speech communication. It was fantastic. I enjoyed Morgan because it was the HBCU experience I wanted which encompassed more students of color, professors and administrators of color, people who looked like me and who I wanted to be. Moving to a Baltimore was also a great step for me in terms of being in a city with more of a black LGBT community. I was really able to begin to connect with people in Bmore, DC, Philly and NYC socially and politically. That was something I wouldn’t have had a chance to do in the same way in Cincinnati. I chose speech communication because I have always had a love for great orators and rhetoric. In the study of communication we actually study history of the world and its inhabitants–or so I like to think.
After Morgan I immediately began a graduate program in public communication at American University in Washington, DC. I focused on public affairs. It seemed natural to me. I was at that time thinking I would begin a fabulous career in PR or doing public education for a national organization. I learned a lot at AU about PR and had a couple of great professors who also let me dig deep in communication theory.
I love communication and I love to communicate in all forms with purpose and direction.
What inspires you to write. I would love if I had some terrific and deep answer for that but I don’t. I am inspired to write generally because of an event that strikes a chord with me. Men have also been a great muse for me. I also write (like on my blog or in my journal) because I know that if I don’t write my story or point of view no one else will.
How does writing compliment/enhance/dovetail with your work as a community organizer? That is an interesting question. The other day I was cleaning out my closets and going through boxes that I hadn’t even touched probably since I had first moved in my apartment five years ago. In one of the boxes I found a note card that I had written on at the beginning of a workshop I conducted at DC Black Pride in 2000. On the note card I and the participants in the workshop were to write down all the things we were. My card had words like, son, brother, student, single, student loan holder, and the word writer. At that time I thought that more than anything writing would be my primary form of working in or contributing to the community.
I think my writing is very important because as a “community organizer” people often see or attend an event that I have helped put together with the purpose of trying to build community. It could be Black Pride, it could be a forum, it could be a screening of a film , but in those venues I am usually not able to get out all my thoughts, use my voice–in my writing I am. There are people who have probably been to every event I’ve have helped put on but don’t know where I stand on gay marriage. In my writing I can say so. People can read it. Hear it. Know that’s how I feel–not an organization, but me.
When and why did you first join DC Black Pride’s board? I joined the Board of DC Black Pride in September 2002. I joined for two very important reasons. The first, which is something I think a lot of folks can learn from, is because Earl Fowlkes asked me to join. I was 22 and had just finished graduate school. I had lots of energy and lots of time on my hands and he thought that I could contribute something. He also saw there was a void on the Board of people under 30. He had become familiar with me because I had done some workshops targeted at young people at 2 prides in previous years and knew I had an interest in community.
Too often I think I still hear people say, “well, where are the young people?” and “they don’t care.” Too all those people I beg of them to step and do what Earl did and invite a young person to the table and let them have a voice. They will learn that there are young people who do care and want to build a stronger black LGBT community with viable and sustainable infrastructure. Step one is inviting them to do so. Step two is being open and engaging when they get to the table.
The other reason I joined the Board is because I thought if I joined that maybe one day some guy or girl would feel the very same feeling I felt in my body when I attended my first Black Pride and looked around and for the very first time in my life knew I was not alone. That was exciting.
GROWN UP GIRL: MICHELLE SEWELL
Talk about Growing Up Girl. How did the idea for the book come about? How would you like the public to receive the book? What has been the response so far? A couple years ago I decided to take a break from the “day job” grind and started teaching writing workshops. For the most part I specialize in screenwriting and poetry workshops. For about a year I taught my poetry workshops primarily in shelters, detention centers, and alternative schools. While teaching these classes I would be exposed to some really talented girl/women writers who were desperate to share their stories and get feedback about their writings. Some how I got it in my head that it would be great to put together a book of their writings so that they could touch a larger audience with their work. At the time I was a starving artist so I did not have the resources to take on the project and print the anthology. A couple years go by and I receive an independent artist grant from Prince George’s Arts Council. This seed money put me in a position to bring the anthology to life.
My premise for the anthology was that every woman was a girl at one point and I wanted to see how our experiences might be different or the same. I learned that girlhoold is a period of discovery, danger, transformation, and building a sense of self for all children born a girl. From the submissions I received (which were also international) it did not seem to matter where or when you were born, but simply that you were born a girl that linked the writers’ experiences.
The book has done really well. I’ve sold over 500 copies at this point. That’s pretty good for a book that is basically sold of my website and shipped out of my little home office. It has been placed at a couple bookstores and more stores are calling as they see how popular it’s becoming. Just last week it was named the number one bestseller at Busboys and Poets, a local DC bookstore. I was really pleased with that. It beat out books that had been released by major publishers and with more name recognition. It has also been a tremendous tool in a series of roundtable discussions that me and several of the contributors have been involved in. We go to group homes, shelters, or where ever folks will have us and we talk to the girls and women there. The contributors read their piece and dialogue just flows from there. This whole experience has surpassed any and all expectations.
What drives you to the page? At this stage in my life it’s something I just have to do. I don’t really think about it, I just do it. I consider it a good addiction. I journal every day to mostly get all the anxieties and worries out of my head before I move to my projects. I am often dealing with several writing projects at a time. It helps when you get stuck on one you can move on to another. I love that my job allows me to people watch and listen in on other people’s lives (kinda like being in the CIA but not as scandalous)
Ultimately, I like creating. I like the feeling of creating something from nothing – that feels authentic. I haven’t encountered anything to date that makes me feel so accomplished.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? YUP.
In March 2003, Ellis Cose published an article in Newsweek about how black women are doing better than black men and says this: “Is this new black woman finally crashing through the double ceiling of race and gender? Or is she leaping into treacherous waters that will leave her stranded, unfulfilled, childless and alone?” Respond to these questions. I sense he was speaking primarily of my straight sisters. Not that I don’t share the same frustration with the ever looming glass ceiling. Race and gender can absolutely be a tricky combination, but definitely surmountable. It might be a little easier for those who are willing to think outside of the box and not let “define us” to smash the double ceiling to pieces. When it comes to choosing career over the rest of my life I don’t think I have the same concerns – at least when it comes to finding a mate. I am not looking for a “good man” to settle down with and have beautiful ashy babies with. If I wanted to be a mother, it’s something at this point I could accomplish all by myself – dependent on no one but a donor and my gyno. I suspect my straight sisters could do the same, but I don’t think many of them want to be that independent. I am not trying to bash or generalize, but I have heard enough of my straight friends talk about how they feel boxed in by traditional expectations (from their families and themselves) to take their independence too far. They site Condi Rice as an example of how they don’t want their lives to go. Barring her politics, I personally don’t see anything wrong with how she is living her life. But I guess it’s all about your value system and what you feel that you have to give up to get what you think you should want.
Finish the sentence. I would like to know more about: God. I would love to: own a house on the beach.
One word for each poet. June Jordan: powerful. Amiri Baraka: controversial. Allen Ginsberg: prophetic. Audre Lorde: complicated. Samiya Bashir: beautiful. Sylvia Plath: melancholy. Name a poet you love. Pat Parker.
Tell me about your upcoming film. My newest projected is called “Spoiled.” It is my first attempt at writing a purely comedic script and directing. We go into production in August. It’s a short film that I plan on submitting to the film festival circuit. I wasn’t planning on writing this particular piece, but about a year into our relationship my girlfriend informed me that she thought I was spoiled. I have had my fair share of relationships and “spoiled” has never been one of the things I’ve heard about myself. Loud, drama queen, funny, bossy, too independent, smart, silly, great boobs, and kind “definitely” but never spoiled. So I decided to create my alter ego (Keisha) on paper and see what she would do. Girl is a trip! Here is the logline: How far will Tuffy Alexander go to please her super high maintenance girlfriend Keisha Greggory? The answer might surprise even the “softest” butch.
By DAA, 2006.
What about children who aren’t ready to be born? Who honors their cries of protest?
Ease him out slowly, gently. Placenta on the tongue Snot thick around the eyelids Taste feel smell the essence
Do not choke.
Fingers wet with anticipation Of the new Fragile, unsettled He crawls toward an unfamiliar light Trying to ascertain What he might need or want In this new place. A satchel full of poems? A cutting tongue? A bow and arrow?
Ease him out slowly, This one came to fight.
All liberations disrupt the dreamlife Tsunamied villages face down In soft mud Commingled with spit And ash broken branches trees slumping Cups and clothing Diapers and TV guides Books face open Sofa a place for ants and worms
Ease him out slowly This one didn’t want to come.
Contractions distractions protractions mere actions
Labor and deliverance All he can hear at the moment Are sirens. Who are they coming for? Who are they for? Who are they? From this hour on Things will be different.
Come, if you dare To see what Is born from desperation Fear, insecurity Jealous, rage Laughter Lies Risk
What once was waiting Laughing in the shadows Now cradles my head
What greed looks like Trussed up on its back Legs open all night
What opening the cut Feels like at 2am
What a trick it is To place pillow Muffle silly knees
How memories of tenderness Dance on the skin Unrepentantly
How liberty feels In a constricted throat Ready to burst with tears Yelling at The Ancestors Spirit guides Angels For answers For relief For breath
How a heart wheezes A painful tickle Terrifying, hilarious
How lies love an audience Waiting for the battle royale A showdown in sepia
How drama watches its reruns Because it cannot watch Anything else
How vacant the city feels At 2am Harlem yelps and throws itself On the ground Please. Please. Please just be quiet I just want to sleep. Please. Help me get over. Help me not go under.
How breaking open Signals new things You too will grasp at Your innards Spilling
How new sounds erupt Substitutes for Sweet phone calls Peach rings Stank breath Mouth wide open On its back Dreaming me.
BARBARA DECESARE: DEADLY POET, GREAT LAUGH
Who me? The Writer Decesare.
Talk about your early years on this planet. You must’ve been a pistol. Um, maybe. I know I was a problem child, in the way that if I was a kid today I’d be on Ritalin or something. I hated learning things that I couldn’t translate into my real world; like religion or mathematics. I remember making my algebra teacher cry when she taught Pythagorean Theorem in 7th grade. She said A+B+C and it seemed to me that A+B would equal AB. I didn’t mean to make things hard for her; I just couldn’t understand where the hell that C was supposed to come from. I also remember once having a huge fight with my mom where she said over and over that I wasn’t her throw-away child (I was one of six) and I remember thinking very clearly that she was saying this to convince herself of it and not me.
When and why did you first start writing? Okay, I was one of six kids. When I had problems, they were my problems, you know? I couldn’t exactly talk to my parents, who were always busy with somebody younger and probably crying.
So I started writing, and pretty young. Maybe six or so, since I was reading when I was three or four. My mother is a huge pro-lifer. She was always banging out these angry letters to the editor on her little Olivetti typewriter and I remember as a preschooler how important this seemed. She’d type and type and type, then she’d be on the phone with her friends reading the letters and getting feedback, then it would be published, then she’d get phone calls congratulating her and it seemed so powerful. It was the only way to be heard, I imagined then, to type the words, not to say them.
Why poetry? My knee-jerk reaction is to say I have ADD and poetry satisfies my communication needs and abilities. But I have a real love of word economy, of the straight shot. Poetry is the language that communicates with me, so I found it easiest to communicate through it.
I’ve been lucky with fiction, too. But with fiction, I feel like I’m writing for an audience. The poetry I write for myself.
Tell me about the name of your book, Jigsaweyesore. Honestly, it’s a misheard song lyric from an XTC song. It works thematically because the book is sort of a disaster. I’m sure you noticed there aren’t any page numbers. It’s chaotic, and the title represents it.
Ive been reading Jigsaweyesore off and on for three weeks now and loving the fuck out of it. My favorites include, “To Make Us Poets,” “The Last to Know,” “Because Your Stomach Hurts You Think You Love Me (My Contagious Dysfunction).” I am curious about your writing process. How do the poems come to you? Are you serious? First of all, if I knew it, I would probably jinx it by telling you.
Media Contact: Jasmyne Cannick, firstname.lastname@example.org Colin Robinson, 917-482-9014 Keith Boykin, email@example.com
Black Gay Bloggers Win Victory; LIFEbeat Cancels Anti-Gay AIDS Concert
Los Angeles/New York (July 12, 2006) –Black lesbian and gay bloggers are declaring a small victory in the fight against homophobia today.
After a 48 hour protest against LIFEbeat, the music industry’s AIDS organization, and its decision to use homophobic reggae artists Beenie Man and TOK, LIFEbeat today released a statement that it is canceling its concert. LIFEbeat cited “the possibility of violence” as the reason for canceling the concert and not the use of anti-gay reggae artists.
“While we are extremely pleased that our efforts paid off, we want to make it perfectly clear to LIFEbeat and others, that no threats of violence were ever made against LIFEbeat’s staff and board of directors, nor the concert,” commented Jasmyne Cannick, activist and blogger. “Our campaign was simply to educate LIFEbeat about the history of the performers that they choose and to make them aware of the recent murders of gay people in the Caribbean. We did this through emails, blogging, phone calls, and faxes from all over the world.”
Author Keith Boykin added, “LIFEbeat still fails to address the issue of homophobia and its connection to the spread of HIV/AIDS.” He continues, “While we support the mission of LIFEbeat to educate our youth about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, we cannot support the use of blatantly homophobic recording artists to achieve that mission.”
“LIFEbeat has basically chosen to cop-out and blame us for their ill-considered decision to use these artists in the first place,” commented D.C. blogger Terrence Heath.
The concert was scheduled to take place at New York’s Webster Hall on July 18. Activists are now calling on LIFEbeat to move on with a new concert using gay-friendly artists and to donate the proceeds to J-FLAG, The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays founded by the late Brian Williamson who was murdered for being gay in 2004.
“This would be the first time a protest of these artists raised money for us,” said Karlene, co-chair of J-FLAG. “The international protests have helped build awareness and accountability back here. Artists who perform homophobic or hate songs must be sent a strong message that their acts are inhumane and will not be tolerated. But it’s even better when this can result in support for our difficult and under-financed work to counter this hatred where these musicians live.”
A complete list of the Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender bloggers who participated in the campaign against LIFEbeat appears below.
Bejata Keith Boykin Republic of T Pandagon Clay Cane Jasmyne Cannick Journey Into Light Frank Leon Roberts A Burst of Light Blabbeando J’s Theater FemmeNoir AnziDesign PlanetOut’s Politics and News GreasyGuide link Troy Notorious thebrotherlove.com Woubi-Yossi Collective Just My Thoughts Obsidianbear The 7 Magazine The Larry Lyons Experience Simply Fred Smith Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep Novaslim link Front Porch Storytellin Taylor Siluwé Bialogue
BLACK LGBT BLOGGERS LAUNCH PROTEST
Target is Music Industry’s Anti-Gay AIDS Concert LIFEbeat AIDS Concert to Feature Performances by Homophobic Reggae Artists Beenie Man and TOK
A coalition of Black lesbian and gay bloggers have launched a worldwide online campaign against a music industry groups decision to ignore requests to cancel performances by homophobic reggae artists Beenie Man and TOK at their July 18 reggae concert.
The concert, scheduled to take place in New York, is being used as a benefit to reach American youth about the dangers of HIV and AIDS. The coalition of activists is calling on LIFEbeat, the music industrys non-profit organization AIDS organization, to either rescind the invitation to Beenie Man and TOK or demand that the two artists make a public statement prior to the concert disavowing their homophobic music and remarks.
In Beenie Man’s song Han Up Deh, he sings, Hang chi chi gal wid a long piece of rope. The term chi chi is a Jamaican reference to homosexuality. The term is often used to refer to chi chi men but can also refer to lesbians (chi chi women or chi chi girls). Loosely translated, the lyrics mean, Hang lesbians with a long piece of rope. Similarly, in TOKs Chi Chi Man, they encourage the burning and killing of gay men.
Gays of Caribbean descent continue to be targets of hate crimes, including murder. It has only been a little over two years since Brian Williamson, a Jamaican gay activist and founder of Jamaicas gay civil rights group J-FLAG was found murdered, his body mutilated by multiple knife wounds, simply because he was gay. LIFEbeat needs to understand that Jamaicas growing HIV/AIDS epidemic has led to widespread violence and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and gay men, Cannick continues. Many Jamaicans still believe that HIV/AIDS is a disease of gays for moral impurity. Its commonplace to see violent acts against gays in Jamaica. Through these artists lyrics, they encourage this behavior and we here in the United States should not do the same by allowing them the platform.
Keith Boykin, author and host of the BET J series MY TWO CENTS spoke to LIFEbeat executive director John Canelli Monday morning. Canelli admitted that his organization knew that Beenie Man and TOK were homophobic artists but decided to do the concert anyway. We didn’t make the decision blindly and we knew there would be controversy, Canelli told Boykin.
While we support the mission of LIFEbeat to educate our youth about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, we cannot support the use of blatantly homophobic recording artists to achieve that mission, Boykin said. In fact, to provide a forum for these musicians actually contradicts the mission of LIFEbeat in that the artists promote homophobia that contributes to AIDS.
Other performers during the concert include reggae artists Wayne Wonder, Sasha and Kulcha and a special performance by rapper Foxy Brown. The concert is being supported by BET, Vibe Magazine, Music Choice and New Yorks Power 105.1 FM.