Tag Archives: GLBTQ

Black Freaks, Black F**s, Black Dy**s: Re-imagining Rebecca Walker’s “Black Cool”

By Guest Contributor Darnell L. Moore; originally published at Feminist Wire

15037_10151311871680791_1210328814_nEnter Scene: I am walking in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn—where we do more than die, by the way—rocking a close fade with two parts on the side, a full beard and mustache lined up perfectly, eyes protected by a pair of fresh chocolate browline frames (I was two blocks from Malcolm X boulevard, after all). I am donning a fitted button-up white shirt, closed off with a pink and gray striped bowtie, form-fitting charcoal gray blazer, dark blue kinda-skinny jeans, and a pair of hot pink and silvery gray kicks.

Passerbyer 1 checks out my footwear.

Passerbyer 2 offers up the obligatory, “Yo, son, your kicks are hot.”

Passerbyer 3 is looking at me like I’m way off, as if to say, “Really, you got on pink sneakers, sucka? That’s gay as hell. You are doing way too much!”

Passerbyer 4, my neighbor repeats, like he always does, “You cool, brother.”

My representation as a certain type of black man often transgresses the accepted boundaries of black masculinity. The ways I cut my hair, shape–or refuse to shape–my beard, style my clothes, walk, talk, and gesture tend to confound some folk and, on occasion, anger others because of my seeming transgressions. Sinning ain’t easy.

Indeed, some will stare at me as I make my way down any street rocking a beard, frames, “man bag,” and a little less than loose clothing because my gender presentation seems to be read as a sign of non-heterosexuality, deviance. In fact, most folk are okay with what they “see” until they notice that I am wearing something like hot pink (!) sneakers. According to some, a black man wearing hot pink sneakers, like a black woman wearing a suit, ain’t at all “cool.”

The notion of “black cool,” in particular, seems to be limited, limiting, and quite “straight” (as in hetero and rigid). I am thinking, for example, of one of the inspirations that motivated Rebecca Walker’s investigation of “Black cool.” She mentioned during an interview on NPR that an image of then-Senator Barack Obama exiting a black Lincoln Town Car during the 2008 campaign “was really, at that moment, the epitome of black cool.”

She went on to say that she was “drawn to that image because [she] wanted to decode it and to see where it fit into this Afro-Atlantic aesthetic.” And while that image is but one of Walker’s inspirations (and while her book, Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness, actually includes critical and beautiful essays that think through the gendering of “black cool”), that particular picture of Obama locates the quotidian “black cool” in a male-bodied, masculine, straight black man and leaves me to wonder: does coolness exist anywhere beyond black masculinity, maleness, and heterosexuality? As some of the writers in Walker’s Black Cool argue, I think so.

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Code-Red Homophobia: Homelessness, HIV, and Black Religiosity

By Guest Contributor Sikivu Hutchinson; originally published at Feminist Wire

(Excerpt from the forthcoming book Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels)
For the past several months, Crenshaw Boulevard, in predominantly black South Los Angeles, has featured a series BLACK_GAYS_FOR_JUSTICEof striking billboards condemning homophobia and its role in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  The billboards are the work of the black gay activist group In the Meantime Men, headed by Jeffrey King. Sounding a “code red alarm” on the raging HIV/AIDS epidemic among African Americans, King said, “The staggering rates of increased teen suicides in the last five years, and the uncontrollable increase of teen homelessness in America have awakened our senses to the damaging effects of homophobia in the Black community.  Every year, thousands of Black LGBT people are displaced from their homes, families, churches, and communities due to their sexuality, gender, gender identity, and gender expression. This has resulted in a mass influx of homeless youth on the streets of Los Angeles and other cities throughout the nation.”  [King will be a panelist at the upcoming “Confronting Homophobia in the Black Church” roundtable hosted by Black Skeptics Los Angeles at Zion Hill Baptist Church on February 27th]  With African Americans comprising the majority of new HIV cases in the U.S., the epidemic has devastated black communities nationwide.  Yet the refusal of mainstream black America to seriously confront how homophobia and black religiosity drive homelessness and HIV only deepens the killing fields.

Quoted: danah boyd On Dharun Ravi And Fighting Homophobia

Dharun Ravi

I can’t justify Ravi’s decision to invade his roommate’s privacy, especially not at a moment in which he would be extremely vulnerable. I also cannot justify Ravi’s decision to mess with evidence, even though I suspect he did so out of fear. But I also don’t think that either of these actions deserve 10 years of jail time or deportation (two of the options given to the judge). I don’t think that’s justice.

This case is being hailed for its symbolism, but what is the message that it conveys? It says that a brown kid who never intended to hurt anyone because of their sexuality will do jail time, while politicians and pundits who espouse hatred on TV and radio and in stump speeches continue to be celebrated. It says that a teen who invades the privacy of his peer will be condemned, even while companies and media moguls continue to profit off of more invasive invasions.

I’m also sick and tired of people saying that this will teach kids an important lesson. Simply put, it won’t. No teen that I know identifies their punking and pranking of their friends and classmates as bullying, let alone bias intimidation. Sending Ravi to jail will do nothing to end bullying. Yet, it lets people feel like it will and that makes me really sad. There’s a lot to be done in this realm and this does nothing to help those who are suffering every day.

— From “Reflecting on Dharun Ravi’s conviction” by danah boyd

(Image Credit: ABC News)

Domestic Violence Isn’t Just About What Men Do to Women

*Trigger Warning – Frank Stats About Domestic Violence*

hole in wall

A couple months ago, I read an article in Elle that impacted me so deeply, it took this long to be able to write about it.

Nina Collins, former book agent and literary scout, writes a horrifying, gut wrenching story about being a domestic abuser – and the process involved in understanding she had a problem:

In my thirty-seventh year, I divorced the father of my four kids after 16 years together, and I was arrested three times: once for assaulting him, once for assaulting his new girlfriend, and the last time for violating the order of protection he’d taken out after the first incident, when I upended a coffee table in his direction on Christmas Eve, two months after we’d separated. Aside from traffic violations, I’d never before been in legal trouble, never been in handcuffs, never seen the inside of a police station. [...]

The police promised me that this was a bullshit charge—“What kind of pussy husband has his wife arrested for cursing at him?”—even though I’d indeed broken the protection order’s stipulation against verbal harassment. The police spent hours working with the DA to follow Q.’s request: Despite having me arrested, he didn’t want the judge to go beyond the “limited” order the court previously had granted; he still wanted us to communicate with each other about the children only. This negotiation lasted for what seemed like forever; at around 8 p.m. I was taken handcuffed in a squad car to Brooklyn’s Central Booking, where I’d be in a holding cell until I could get in front of a judge. My lawyer was pulling every string possible so I wouldn’t have to spend the night in jail.

Orange cinder-block walls, sticky brown floor, fluorescent lights; the cell stank, partly because of the toilet and partly because of the bits of old food lying around—stale cartons of milk, remnants of bologna sandwiches. Continue reading

Artists Breaking Down Boundaries: Nohjj’s “Love” Wins OUTMusic Award

by Latoya Peterson

Artist Nohjj just made history with his music video for “Love” – for various reasons.

Reader Ron sent us the news that Nohjj was the first black male winner of one of the OUT Award.  Nohjj explains the concept behind the video:

Saying “I believe love is for everyone… homosexual and heterosexual….One day soon our world will acknowledge this simple truth.” Nhojj is not one to shy away from political issues with his sophomore CD “Someday Peace Love & Freedom” released in 2004 covering issues ranging from homelessness to homophobia.

But the awards happened in 2009 – why are we just now hearing about this?  Soul Sessions explains:

Even fifty-five years after Brown vs. The Board of Education, being named the first Black anything in this country is still a big deal. And so it is interesting to note how few publications other than Billboard covered the fact that Nhojj did the improbable by becoming the first Black male artist ever to win an OUTMusic Award from the Alliance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Recording Artists and Performers. His song “Love” was named OUTstanding R&B/Soul Song of the Year. Never mind how weird it is that he was reportedly the first Black male winner in the awards’ eight-year history (host OUTMusic has been around for 18-years).

Belated congratulations Nohjj!

(Thanks to reader Ron for the tip!)

Quoted: Andreana Clay on Queer Women of Color and Hip Hop Masculinity

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

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A variety of clubs cater to queer women of color in the San Francisco Bay area. Some are wall-to-wall women of color – Black, Latina, Asian and most play hip-hop music non-stop. In each club, there are all different kinds of women. For instance, there might be women over forty with long ‘locks, Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and Teva sandals in one corner of the room and younger, Butch, women wearing crisp, indigo-colored Levi’s with thick black belts, large belt buckles and perfectly gelled hair in another. There are also femme women in tight jeans or skirts, heels, and short T-shirts, some cut around the collar so that they slide down their shoulders. In every club I that I’ve been to, there is always a clearly designated dance floor, which is usually packed tight with sweaty bodies. Some clubs have elevated dance floors or stages with one or two go-go dancers dressed in hot pants and knee-high boots. Below them are women lined up with dollars. In the background, hip-hop music fills the room with beats and voices, sometimes the only male presence in the room. What type of male, and ultimately what type of masculinity depends on the club.

On Gay Pride weekend this year, I went out to several of these clubs. Two in particular stuck out in my mind because of their similarities and differences in relationship to queer sexuality and black masculinity. For instance, at one of the clubs I went to, the deejay played songs that characterize more of the nigga, or thug image in hip-hop- 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, the Game, and 50 Cent. At the second club, the music had much more of a playa or sexualized tone – the Ying Yang twins, David Banner, and Khia. While there are two different types of masculinity being played at each club, in a room full of women of color, the lyrics fall to the background as the performances take center stage. For instance, nigga masculinity in the first club is reflected in a particular style, stance, or code. It is more about an individual identity, one that each person can take on. Women throw up hand gestures as they dance, make eye contact with one another and mouth the words to the lyrics. Some women even had on T-shirts with the ultimate “nigga 4 life,” 2Pac. The tone set at this club is also about community. The mood isn’t so much about sex or domination sexually, but rather, a stance about who someone is or declares herself to be: being down, being able to take what comes in life, being loyal to this group, this identity, and this community.

In the second club, the playa image was much more prevalent. If you wanted someone to help you get your groove on, this was the place to be. Women would grind their bodies into one another, and move one another’s bodies around to the direction of the lyrics. Queer sexuality was much more on display, as a woman, you wanted to be looked at, have somebody notice you, and maybe take you home. For instance, at one point, I noticed two women on the stage, dancing with one another. One of the women, in baggy jeans and a baseball jersey picked up the wman she was dancing with who was wearing a short, silver skirt and tank top. She then lifted her up onto the bars surrounding the stage and then put her face into the woman’s skirt under the musical direction of “work that clit, cum girl.” I had to sit down. Continue reading