Black and Male In America: Roberto Duncanson and the Rest of Us

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. 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.

7 thoughts on “Black and Male In America: Roberto Duncanson and the Rest of Us

  1. Yeah, I’m leaning towards the idea of hate crimes bill being more of a step back than a step forward for challenging oppression.

    A 17 year old, even in light of his actions, facing up to 25 years in prison?

    News media who botch up the reporting of a anti-gay assault from the get-go?

    Societal homophobia and the criminal justice system’s unfairness remaining unshaken by a hate crimes law?

    All of that sounds pretty oppressive to me.

  2. It seems like the more comfortable we get and the stronger we grow the more they (society) wants 2 fight n intimidate us. No matter what we do we r wrong! We walk away they come after us we fight n get locked up! Those 7 girls defended themselves and as we lesbians have gone through plenty of times before we ALL KNOW DAMN WELL that sometimes some men just don’t get it!!!

    BUT. . .

    What about the many times we fight against each other? What about the many times we turn the “Ville” (our safety net at times) into a battle field? There is 2 much hate already against us 4 us 2 add 2 it, they dont need our help. WE need our help 2 stand 2gether n make it better. Ur life is UR life as we’ve all been told or taught so y r we allowing ppl 2 kill us 4 living our lives??
    Have a great time n b smart n safe.

  3. well hello my name is lamdia better known to rob was lam lam i just wanted him to no that i love him and miss well as other but like pple no every one has there own different bond with him his personality alone was out of this world and he also had a big heart and i love him 4 being him and nothing different im sorry that god thought it was his time cause he just took one of his most loved children home may roberto be my angel n rest in peace love him always and 4eva lam lam

  4. let’s not watch each others faults and just respect
    each others ; as humans we go through a lot of
    emotional feelings so lets arm ourselves with
    feelings of forgive,respect,patience,caring,helping,humble
    May God Bless you all
    Love Rob’s mon Karen

  5. Has anyone heard the other side of this story?? Maybe it was not even a hate crime. Maybe it was only coincidence the victim was Gay. His own mother didn’t know he was Gay. Please be careful before you jump to conclusions. Maybe the media and prosecutors hyped this entire situation based on the victim being Gay.

  6. Hi just to introduce my self I am poncho’s x boyfriend for two year and i am deepely upset and sad about this tragedy that happen may 12. I had just got home from a show when these cars approached my house, people getting out and crying and telling me to go in the house , and let them talk to me . getting to the piont me finding out that morning took a toll on my life from that day forward, im strongly missing him and wishing for the best and his family. no one deserves to die wether straight or gay. bottom line we need to become associates instead of enemies.i hope really that boy gets the worse treatment that some taking someones life deserves no one should loose a lover nore son ..

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s