for colored boys who consider queer/ when gay ain’t enuf

Jay Dodd

By Jay Dodd

Recently, I was on a panel for local 8th graders about personal identity and how it connects to work around justice / community building. While discussing my story of self-discovery, I realized the students kept squirming every so often. I was intentionally not centering the talk around the “sex” in sexuality, so I was a little confused. I am an only child, my cousins are either in high school or way younger than these kids, so my experience was limited. I didn’t seem to lose them, but I was very aware that something I was saying was getting them stuck.

During the post-panel Q&A session a youth leader, who was facilitating the talk, asked me why I chose the term queer, instead of gay or bi. That’s when it hit me. Outside of the academic/ social justice/ pop culture activism world the term “queer” is still not a comfortable colloquialism. I had forgotten how it works as playground taunt and vitriolic slur. Yet, it is very important to see how important language work for identity.

I had so few scripts for Black Queer masculinity, I de-faulted to the white ones of which I had been indoctrinated.

With monikers like “Gay” or “LGBT”, the non-exclusively heterosexual community (which is HUGE), becomes severely essentialized. It is easy to positions sexuality as binary like Them vs. Us. As expansive as that “Us” may be, these often-used umbrella terms actively erase more radical identities and too often are not complicated by race, class, and other intersections.

In elementary school, I would sneak and watch episodes ofQueer as Folk, on my dad’s premium cable. I had looked up homosexual in my classes encyclopedia and saw that queer was a synonym. It was a whirlwind of emotions for my pre-developed body.

I remember seeing men kiss and love each other. While it was very affirming, there was a dissonance. I still didn’t feel and act like the Black boys I wanted to be friends with/ be with. I wasn’t “down” enough in particular ways. This was hard because at home there my racial-sexual being was validated. My mother (a Black Lesbian Womanist Poet Theologian) never positioned queerness as foreign or odd in relation to Blackness. She shared with me her story of always loving women, and still genuinely loving my father when they were married, so the dichotomy never really made sense. However, there were so few Black boys to look up to. I had so few scripts for Black Queer masculinity, I de-faulted to the white ones of which I had been indoctrinated; a type of homonormativity.

Black men were straight, Gay boys were white and I was in the way.

But as my experiences showed me, their scripts came with deeply violent understandings of race and gender. I began feeling at odds with my Blackness, feeling like I had to excuse the “inherent homophobia in community” (bullshit, btw), or prove that I could be “down” in Black communities. Long storty short, I felt homeless in both communities.

There is an unfortunate and common question for many Black + LGBTQ folks: If you had to choose a community, which would you? There was a time, I was perplexed and frustrated by this question. Why did our struggles and fights feel so disparate. Was there not a place for folks in the margin to find solidarity? And while I don’t often answer (I’d chose Black any day), I realized that most popular cultural conversations around sexuality painted queer folks as monolithic. White, typically male, and cis. Whether femme or masc (cause there are still too few outside the binary) gay or LGBT meant white for me.

Over the course of my life however, I have been blessed by a multitude of Queer Black Men and Masculine folk. Learning and loving with them were integral to my growing consciousness and Black imagination. Matched with my deepening studies of Blackness, the diaspora and Queer studies, I found a language that worked for me. For me my Blackness encompasses my queerness, and my Queerness colors my Blackness. They are in constant conversation and collaboration. Only rarely do they provide tension.

When the Voter’s Rights Act was gutted behind the DOMA decision, my soul re-hurt for all the Black folks who marched, fought, and died for that legislation. When Black Trans/Non-Conforming folk are being murdered weekly and many gay organization/publications are staying silent, I remember how our bodies are outside and unseen. I’ve grown tired of the gay community. I’m tired being surrounded by cis-white gay folk looking to me for spectacle and sass. I’m tired of them appropriating Paris is Burning. I’m tired of their misogynoir. I’m tired of their theft of Black Trans folks scholarship and research.

I’m tired of being “gay”, it doesn’t fit on my body. Queerness gives me language for defending Blackness at all costs. It gives me access to solidarity and supporting Trans folks. It gives me language to make the personal political without falling into hegemonic narratives of what it means to be “not straight”.

For me my Blackness encompasses my queerness, and my Queerness colors my Blackness.

What I told the youth on the panel was that for me being queer means “getting in where you fit it.” They laughed. But honestly, being queer, to me, means finding folk and relationships that heal you. Finding people who are working toward you success and pleasure as you work for theres.

For many, gay works. I have no place to push back on folks self-identity. AND, I hope your identity makes space for all your bring to the world.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Jay Dodd

Whose Side Are You On, Olivia?

Scandal

Last night’s episode of Scandal tackled police brutality in a way only Scandal could.

The episode in short: The dead teen, Brandon, supposedly had a knife. Officer Newton claims he was just following protocol. Olivia is hired to control the optics for the DC police. The Ferguson like shooting in Southeast, DC  led to a stand-off between the police and Brandon’s father. In real life, a gun-toting grieving father would have been shot dead, but this is Scandal where anything is possible.

Is Olivia on the side of the police or the people? It’s questionable at first, but Olivia ends up on the side of the truth, which, unsurprisingly, is on the side of the people.

The episode was frustrating, sad, and at times, seemed to take excruciating painful steps to explore the issue from all perspectives. But Shonda tackled this issue in a way not seen on network television. Which is to say, she did it at all, and didn’t rely on the anti-black tropes that often underline plots in series that have covered similar situations. For that, I applaud her.

Photo: Screenshot/ABC

To All White Folk Surprised That DOJ Found Racial Bias in Ferguson PD

By Arielle Newton

Wake up.

If you’re white and are surprised that the Dept. of Justice found racism in the Ferguson Police Department, you’re part of the problem.

For decades, the Black community has been telling you that the entire framework of law enforcement is embedded in racist and prejudicial principles that actively repress Black folk and violate our civil rights and liberties, and lead to our deaths. We’ve been creative in our messaging; using campaigns, social media, conferences, and a slew of other communicative platforms that courageously detail the facts of our existence.

But this isn’t good enough until a white-centered authority validates us. It isn’t until our lived experiences are quantified by an authoritative figure (in this case, the federal Dept. of Justice) that our stories are deemed credible and valid.

Some white folk take in issue with the very idea that racism is a cancerous stain in present society, and that is finds itself in the methods by which society is structured and functions. The Black experience of racism is easily dismissed behind indolent excuses that racism only lives individual instances that don’t expand to an entire systematic design of which these individual instances are a part.

And that’s being generous; some white folk think that racism doesn’t exist, even on an individual level, at all. We’re either too sensitive, or we’re opportunistic race-baiters when we publicly denounce the forms of racism which affect our daily livelihoods.

But when authority steps in and says “Yea, white people, racism exists and it harms Black people,” all of a sudden you start listening. Not to us, but to the authority figures that substantiate certain parts of our stories.

And even then you listen vaguely, finding every possible excuse to dismiss the data with even more lazy misunderstandings of what racism is.

This isn’t to say that statistics don’t have value in sociological phenomena; the benefits of research are profound and numerous. But when you rely exclusively on the words of a think tank, government, or some other well-financed enterprise, without qualifiable analysis through personal anecdotes, that leads to the erasure and dismissal of the cultural labor that Black folk perform.

Think of all the time, energy, manpower, and other resources spent on trying to convince you of something Black folk already knew and have been gracious enough to tell you. Think of how these resources could’ve been spent elsewhere, like towards the fantastic Books and Breakfast programs that help the very same communities affected by the racism of Ferguson police.

If you’re at all surprised by the report, you’re part of the problem. If you didn’t see racism when a white officer gunned down a Black teenager in broad daylight and did not face judicial reprisal, you’re part of the problem. If you didn’t see racism in how an entire police unit left a Black body in the street for over four and a half hours upon the traumatic eyes of Black witnesses, you’re part of the problem. If you didn’t see racism in the rapid militarization of multiple law enforcement units in response to protestors, the criminalization of Ferguson protesters, the victim blaming, shaming and ultimate mongrelization of Mike Brown, or the numerous ways in which the case was mishandled, you’re part of the problem.

—–

Arielle Newton is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Black Millennials. Follow her at @arielle_newton. For Black Millennials at @BlkMillennials.

This post originally appeared on Black Millennials

Photo: Ferguson/Wikimedia Commons

 

Wiz Khalifa, Kanye West, Amber Rose and the Slut Shaming of Black Female Sexuality

By Arielle Newton

On a track with Juicy J called “For Everybody,” Wiz Khalifa, the estranged husband of businesswoman Amber Rose, rapped about how he “fell in love with a stripper” but “fell out of love quicker.” He opines that hoes don’t “pay attention to love anyway,” because they’re “only concerned with what the haters say” and need Instagram and reality TV to decipher their standards for quality relationships, and how its not even worth playing Captain Save-a-Ho, and some more patriarchal bullshit we’ve heard about women since the beginning of civilization.

Although he hasn’t yet publicly attributed his newfound caveman philosophy to his recent breakup with Amber Rose, we all know that’s what’s happening here. He’s been bitter for some time; tweeting underhanded comments about the mother of his children and the woman he once “loved,” and overall, acting reckless and messy like he has no sense.

In an article about the Mo’Nique-Lee Daniels blackballing saga, I said there’s four sides to every story: his, hers, the truth, and perception. And the perception here is that when Black men are done with Black women, Black women are no longer suitable, clean, or desirable.

This perception is reinforced with Kanye West’s public comments about Amber Rose in an interview with the Breakfast Club. He said that he had to take “30 showers” before Kim would let him touch her.

“If Kim had dated me when I first wanted to be with her, there wouldn’t be an Amber Rose…It’s hard for a woman to want to be with a man that’s been with Amber Rose. I had to take like 30 showers before I got with Kim. Don’t ask me no more [laughs] I just want to be respectful.”

The joke fell flat, with many (including Amber) quickly pointing out the striking irony of Kanye being so hostile to Amber’s sexuality when his wife is only known for hers. A rather underwhelming sex tape is what made her a global phenomenon after all.

Amber has yet to publicly comment on her estranged husband’s lyrics (dare I even call them that?), but we know she’s not one to run from battle. She masterfully etheredKhloe and the Kardashian Kamp, and mercilessly humiliated Kanye with the sage bravada of a woman from South Philly.

 

 

But with Wiz, she’s taken a measured approach; commenting very lightly on their marriage, while ultimately boosting her social media image with that glorious body of hers. And that’s the root of Wiz’s anger—that she, even without him, still has authority and control over her sexual identity. Amber wasn’t a ho when she was twerking on Instagram to celebrate his album, Blacc Hollywood, debuting at number 1. But she’s a ho when he no longer has ownership of or agency over her sexuality.

And we won’t get in to the double standard here. Amber Rose left Wiz after he was caught cheating on her with two porn stars. And apparently, this wasn’t the first time he’s cheated on her. But whatever. She’s a ho. A dirty ho. Case closed.

I don’t think this violent hostility towards Black female sexual identity is indicative of all Black culture, just manufactured Black culture for-profit. Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa are deeply rooted within the music industry, a capitalist patriarchal structure in which calculated, strategic actions are taken to ensure a vicious status quo that subjugates the sexualized complexity of Black women while marginally uplifting the sexual identity of white women. Ugh. And I’m over it.

So, do you Amber. I may not agree with all your choices and all your language, but I know they’re coming for you because you dared to be your intricate, complicated, vulnerable, sexual self.

—–

Arielle Newton is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Black Millennials. Follow her at @arielle_newton. For Black Millennials at @BlkMillennials.

This post originally appeared on Black Millennials

Photo: Amber Rose/Facebook

Video: Are These Schools Or Prisons?

From NYCLU:

Metal detectors, police officers, handcuffs: is this an episode of Orange is the New Black, or an average day at a New York City public high school? Every year, New York students are pushed out of classrooms and into the criminal justice system via the School to Prison Pipeline. Learn about how the School to Prison Pipeline works, its destructive consequences for students, and how educators and communities can work together to fix it in the NYCLU’s latest episode of Project Liberty.

16 Black Girls From the Future You Should Know

By Candice Iloh

You don’t have to search far to find Black women who are out in the world doing incredible work. In all fields and industries Black women create, build, and thrive in professions and crafts across the board. Markedly, many of us can easily close our eyes and run down the list of Black women from decades passed who have changed the world  in a myriad of ways — Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, and the list goes on. We know those names and none of us would be here had they not laid the first bricks. But now, as we continue to make steady strides down the path into 2015, it is essential that we recognize the young and active self-identified Black feminists who have been passed the baton and are continuing the work of ancestors before them, utilizing tools and creative ingenuity of this time. These women embody the sentiment that #blackgirlsarefromthefuture, a term coined by writer and academic Renina Jarmon. Armed with more than just hashtags and online presence, this list of Black feminists is comprised of street artists, writers, community organizers, activists, filmmakers, poets, and more. From the front lines of the #BlackLivesMatter movement on the ground to the flicker of your television and computer screens, the woman-powered prowess is laid thick and the action to back it up flows through these sixteen Black women.

 

Cherrell Brown

cherrel brown

Organizing and activism may be something fresh and new for several of the young and active but not for Cherrell Brown. Brown has been on the front lines of resistance on behalf of black and brown bodies for 10 years. By day she works as the National Organizer for Equal Justice USA and by night she volunteers as a leading force of Justice League NYC. Heralding the hashtag #SHUTITDOWN and the #BlackLivesMatter chant with her team, she has stormed the Barclay’s Center on game night, gaining the attention of players on the court, pounded the New York City & Ferguson streets with the support of several well-known artists and entertainers marching face-to-face with police officers, and continues the complex work of meeting with elected officials to directly influence policy and demand justice for the families and victims of police brutality. (Photo: Courtesy of Cherrell Brown)

Mikki Kendall

mikki kendall

Mikki Kendall is a transparent writer and pop culture analyst unafraid to acknowledge that #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. Kendall coined this hashtag under which she discusses the erasure of black women in the national feminist conversation, thus dismissing the oppressive experiences of black women and protecting the safety and consolation of white women. Kendell’s work can be found in The Guardian, xoJane, and several other publications where she boldly incites dialogue centered on feminism, race, and religion. (Photo: Courtesy of Mikki Kendall)

Jamilah Lemieux

jamilah

Known for her quick-witted and merciless social media commentary, Jamilah Lemieux is an activist, writer, mother, and the Senior Digital Editor for Ebony Magazine. Her work has been featured in several major publications such as Essence Magazine, Jet Magazine, and on HelloBeautiful.com. She covered the protests on the ground from Ferguson, MO and was recently featured in the OWN documentary “Light Girls.” Lemieux publicly expresses her desire to always represent black women with integrity and truth and speaks candidly on black identity, rape culture and the significance of challenging white comfort. (Photo: Courtesy of Jamilah Lemieux)

Alicia Garza

alicia garza

Alicia Garza is a co-creator of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Birthed as a call to action after the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, Garza, and co-creators Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, created #BlackLivesMatter as a means of affirmation of the contributions and resilience of black life.  Garza is explicitly vocal about the labor of queer black women being recognized and all conversations being expanded to ensure the thorough representation of black life. She is an award-winning organizer and the Special Projects Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. (Photo: Courtesy of Alicia Garza)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

chimamanda

It is possible that it was amid the bridge of Beyonce’s single “Flawless” that you met Nigerian author & international orator, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Although it was an integral soundbite so perfectly fused into the track, the words you heard gloriously cutting through it defining the word feminist were actually an excerpt of Adiche’s speech We Should All Be Feminists. She is responsible for Americanah, Half of a Yellow Sun, The Thing Around Your Neck, and Purple Hibiscus, novels that feature dynamic female protagonists through which she explores the dynamics of race, gender, and culture. (Photo: Courtesy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)

Wagatwe Wanjuki

wagatwe wanjuki

Wagatwe Wanjuki is a sexual assault survivor and Title IX advocate who was kicked out of school after being raped on campus. Following the horrific experience, she began speaking out against the trivialization of rape and other forms of sexual assault. Disgusted by the insinuation of a coveted “privilege” afforded rape victims suggested in a Washington Post column, Wanjuki responded via Twitter with the hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege, where she began to voice the disturbing truths of how she was treated post-assault and the unfortunate reality of the lack of safety in coming forward as a sexual assault victim. (Photo: Courtesy of Wagatwe Wanjuki)

Brittney Cooper

brittany cooper

Professor, scholar, and author, Brittney Cooper is a co-creator of the Crunk Feminist Collective, a group of feminist of color scholar-activists who conduct workshops, speaking tours, and activism initiatives. Her forthcoming project, Race Women, explores black feminist thought and history in which she writes about public black women of the 1890s-1970s.  Cooper has been named among The Root 100’s annual list of black influencers and her cultural commentary can be found on several major media outlets such as the Huffington Post and Al Jazeera America. (Photo: Courtesy of Brittney Cooper)

Camonghne Felix

camonghne felix

Camonghne Felix is a poet, essayist, and leader of POC4Solvency, a new and growing initiative created by artists, writers, and educators seeking to respond to racial oppression through a direct influence on public policy, legislation, and strategic action. Felix is well known for her pursuit of a continued dialogue surrounding both the policing of black bodies and the dismantling of rape culture. Felix’s poems and prose can be found in an array of publications such as Union Station Magazine and ForHarriet.com. One of her most recent pieces, Meat: a Reflection on Street Harrassment, a poem that features the intersection of being black and being a woman, received over 5,000 views on Youtube and is only one of several that tackle intersectionality in the complex world of blackness. (Photo: Kolin Mendez)

Kim Katrin Milan

kim kaltrin

Kim Katrin Milan’s magic is in creating and taking up space. She is a self-proclaimed daughter of the diaspora who operates as a multi-disciplinary artist, facilitator, and a co-founder of The People Project, a movement of queer and trans people of color working for individual and community empowerment. She is also the coordinator of Brave New Girls, a healing retreat and traveling skillshare for femme-identified women of color and is one of the owners of the Glad Day Bookstore, the world’s oldest LGBTQ bookstore.

Mahogany Browne

mahogny browne

Poet, host of the legendary Nuyorican Poets Cafe slam, and creator of #BlackPoetsSpeakOut, Mahogany L. Browne is the embodiment of a black womanist fighting daily for the liberation of black and brown people with intersections at the start of the conversation. Browne’s extraordinary mastery of the written word and refreshing approach to creatively using voice within the black community as direct action has been instrumental in invoking a nationwide response. Through several #BlackPoetsSpeakOut readings and the #BlackPoetsSpeakOut Blog, black poets across the country share and submit original and published poems that respond to an unjust society’s genocide of black people, declaring I am a black poet who will not remain silent while this nation murders black people. I have a right to be angry. (Photo: Courtesy of Mahogany Browne)

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

tatyana

Brooklyn-based visual artist and illustrator Tatyana Fazlalizadeh wants men to stop telling women to smile. In-fact, she is determined to use her collection of hand-drawn illustrations of straight-faced women of color to send an intentional message to the world that women are not here for anyone’s gaze, probing, or consumption. Fazlalizadeh’s snarky Stop Telling Women to Smile series is a project aimed at challenging gender-based street harassment, a prevalent issue nationwide. The series features large images of women’s faces accompanied by captions that directly address offenders and are pasted along sidewalks where women are so often made to feel void of safety and the ability to comfortably reach their destinations in peace. (Photo: Courtesy of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh)

Janet Mock

janet mock

Writer Janet Mock redefines realness. The title of her debut book, Refining Realness, is one of Mock’s many fetes as a tenacious voice in the LGBTQ community. A dispeller of transgender myth and ignorance through her presence and work, Mock has been featured on several news media outlets, publications, vlogs, and television broadcasts sharing her story as one of many transgender women who often go unheard throughout the nation. (Photo: Courtesy of Janet Mock)

Amie Breeze Harper

AmieBreezeHarper

Author, speaker, and diversity consultant Amie Breeze Harper advocates for the lives of black women by addressing their relationship with food and wellness and how they are related to race, gender and sexuality. Her books Scars, Doing Nutrition Differently, and Sistah Vegan each excavate different components of acceptance, self love, self care, and identify. Breeze’s ongoing project, Sistah Vegan, is a space in which she writes openly and honestly about how personal issues she experiences are connected to her identity as a black woman and vegan. The first conference she organized through this project included workshops and dialogue on social justice, sexualization, and non-white vegan perspectives. (Photo: Courtesy of Amie Breeze Harper)

Samantha Master

 samantha master

A self-proclaimed fat black femme, Samantha Master is an example and vessel within the millennial LGBTQ community. She is a cast member of the “The New Black,” a film that addresses gay rights perspectives within the black community, and an active member of the Trans People of Color Coalition. Master is widely known for her leadership of several on-campus LGBTQ groups at Morgan State University as well as her open letter on homophobia and gender binary that was featured by both GLAAD and The Root. (Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Master)

 Shola Lynch

 shola lynch

Filmmaker and Curator, Shola Lynch, supports the preservation and visibility of black women and the black community through documentation and exhibition. Described as ‘one of the most exciting black female filmmakers’ by The Root, Lynch’s documentaries feature the historical depths of black women such as Shirley Chisholm and Angela Davis. She was recently named the Curator of Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. (Photo: Courtesy of Shola Lynch)

Lourdes Ashley Hunter

lourdes hunter

Lourdes Ashley Hunter is a transgender rights activist, community organizer, and co-founder of the Trans Women of Color Collective. Her work is centered on speaking out against gender-based violence and, more specifically, the police brutality and profiling targeted at transgender people. Hunter works consistently to arm all transgender individuals with knowledge of their rights and their power, speaking at rallies, marches, and various events throughout the country. (Photo: Courtesy of Lourdes Ashley Hunter)

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Candice Iloh is a poet, creative writer, and educator residing in Brooklyn NY whose work has appeared in Insight Magazine, Blackberry Magazine, and Fjords Review. She is a Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation Alum and the Managing Editor of Quiet Lunch Magazine. She can be contacted at www.becomher.com.

 

Self-Care Is Part of the Revolution

self-care

By Marion Andrew Humphrey, Jr.

The term ‘self care’ has played an integral role in my work in progressive organizing spaces.  I’ve trained multiple times on the practice of it.   Self care can be described as the process where activists remove themselves from their work to heal and to restore their fighting power.  Recently, however, I’ve begun to question whether or not self care is both relevant and sustainable in our movement.

Self care in itself is a privilege—as one of my coworkers often notes.  The ability to take oneself out of movement work as stakes escalate (or don’t) is a demonstration of choice.  For those directly impacted by the work, the choice to practice self care may not be an option.

Most importantly, there is a need for greater community in our movement (not movements), community that builds together, creates change together, and cares for one another. The trauma that we face as black folk and/or black social justice activists is real, and it cannot be dealt with in a silo.  Spending a night alone in a warm bath with a bottle may help with mental trauma, but it won’t heal it.  People need to talk.  Be it with a counselor or a close knit group of friends or movement family, the trauma we face needs to be spoken about and communicated to others.

One of the most important activities I have participated in at BYP100 meetings is called radical healing.  It’s a space where—as a collective—we air out our grievances and hardships to support one another through our issues.  This is revolutionary for a society that isolates people from those around them and perpetuates an individualistic way of living that plays the notes of to each his own simultaneously with just work, work, work, and the American Dream is attainable.

As a community—particularly as a black community—we must continue to promote our intrinsic culture of black community, one where we know our neighbors well enough to let them keep our kids, cook for us, and provide a shoulder to cry on.  We should participate in self care if privileged enough to have that space.  Most importantly, however, we should make sure to find a community to care for and that cares for us in return in the most personal of ways; it benefits us all in the long run.

 

Photo: Generic

Watch: #ThisIsLuv Town Hall

Former NFL player Wade Davis and writer Darnell L. Moore have partnered with National Black Justice Coalition, GLAAD, HRC Foundation, Politini Media, Feministing.com, and Ebony to launch #ThisIsLuv. ‘This Is Luv’ is a multi-media campaign to highlight LGTBQ acceptance in the Black community.

Watch the important conversation from the #ThisIsLuv town hall.