This weekend author and activist Kevin Powell will host his annual conference, Black and Male in America, in Brooklyn NY.
I am thinking about Roberto “Pancho” Duncanson, and what his recent murder has to do with being Black and Male in America. The other young man who committed the act of violence, Omar Willock, is now being prosecuted. Hatecrimesbill.org posted this update from the Brooklyn DA’s website.
Brooklyn, June 14, 2007 – Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes today announced the indictment of Omar Willock, 17, in the stabbing death of Roberto Duncanson, 20, because he was gay. Willock is charged with Murder in the Second Degree, Murder in the Second Degree as a Hate Crime and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree.
On May 12, Willock and Duncanson passed each other on St. Marks Avenue in Crown Heights, and Willock became enraged, accusing Duncanson of looking at him and shouting anti-gay remarks. Duncanson walked away and continued to a friend’s house. When he returned, Duncanson again passed Willock, and Willock again berated him for his sexual orientation. Duncanson tried to walk away, but Willock pursued him and started a fistfight. The indictment charges that Willock then pulled out a knife and stabbed Duncanson four times in the back. Duncanson was taken to Kings County Hospital and died an hour later.
An indictment is merely an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Howard Jackson from the Homicide Bureau. Ken Taub is Chief of the Homicide Bureau.
I know how unsafe I feel as a black gay man in most black urban neighborhoods, including many I have lived in personally. That’s not an easy thing to say or admit, but it’s the truth. I understand the relationship that poverty and deprivation and forms of state violence have on violence in the domestic sphere against children, women, and queer folks. But damn, do we have to solve world poverty before women, chldren and differently gendered people can walk down the street in their own community and not be harassed, bashed or even murdered?
Even still, will hate crimes legislation solve the problem? Has hate crimes legislation based on racial identity solved racism? Hardly. And I hardly think it will solve the problem of homophobia. I wish that gatherings of Black men like this weekend Black & Male in America would be a place where I felt safe to do work and to make these issues of violence to the table. But oftentimes I get shut down by the need to address “real issues” in the community, or shut down by heterosexual allies who want to beat me to the punch, because they want to appear to be the most “hip” on issues of gender and sexuality–and as long as they keep talking I am forced to shout or fall silent, neither of which are good choices.
So I wonder, this weekend, at being Black & Male in America, though there are a sprinkle of gay or “same-gender loving” presenters, I wonder about the overall arch of the event, and those spaces. Be gay as long as you’re not too gay, or as long as you get with the “strong black brotha” program, we’ll let you in the club. Not so much.
So I wonder in the course of this weekend, how man times Sean Bell’s name will come up. Not that it shouldn’t, but I wonder how many times Roberto’s name will come up, will folks sit and think through strategies of how to engage the young brotha who killed him? Will the names of the 7 seven black lesbians now facing time for defending themselves against a black man’s advances come up? Will they wonder how they can as black men, be more supportive of black women (especially those they have no chance of sleeping with)?
I’m ranting. I need to get ready for my weekend.
Tonight. Cassandra Wilson.
Tomorrow: Color Me Queer.
Sunday: Newark Pride.
That’s my way of being Black and Male in America.