Tecumseh Roberts: Gay Murder and Nation-making in Liberia

I have this theory–nationalism is bad for queers. Why? It seems to me that many nationalist movements are framed around an idea of nationhood that equates resistance with (hetero) masculinity. The idea of building a nation then means that the heterosexual family becomes the initial “seed” of the nation. All other people who fall outside of those terms of “reproducing” the nation, vis-a-vis the family, are expendable, and are often written off as socially dead, murdered, or suffer the brunt of infectious diseases or chronic illnesses (AIDS or breast cancer, to name a few specifics) Queer and non-normative sex, gender expression and identity become seen as counterrevolutionary in the nationalist politic.

I am not taking sides about “revolutionary”–I mean any organized group trying to overthrow a political/ideological government or regime. In the most recent case, Liberia. That West African nation “founded” by the U.S., using former U.S. slaves as the “colonizers,” is recovering from the throes of a very brutal period of violence and political instability which lasted, in various forms, for more than 20 years.To address the most recent conflict (1999-2003), the country has established a “Truth & Reconciliation” Commission to, according to the website, create “an independent and accurate record of the rights violations and abuses as a result of the conflict.”

Last week, Prince Johnson, a state senator and former guerilla leader was testifying about the death of Tecumseh Roberts, a Liberian popular musician. He testified that another member of his former militia killed Roberts because he was gay. Apparently Roberts was in charge of delivering rice to people in the territory that Johnson controlled, but read this synopsis from the Liberian Journal of Johnson’s discovery that Roberts was gay:

Mr. Johnson said following the discovery of musician Roberts, a stream of blood flowed down his pants leading to the confirmation of suspicion by Gen. Varnii that the musician was a “homosexual.”
“Gen. Varnii ordered Tecumseh Roberts to take off his trouser and when he (latter) took off his trouser, it was discovered that his butt [anal] was rotten. The man whole anus was rotten,” the senator told commissioners.
Following the discovery that he was a homosexual, Johnson said, Gen. Varnii shot and killed Mr. Roberts.
The suggestion by Prince Johnson in his testimony is that Roberts had been fucked so much and so hard that his anus was “rotten”–in a state of decomposing, no longer alive or viable. It was in fact, dying,and therefore Roberts’ whole body, and the idea of a gay Liberian, also had to die, and therefore he was shot (Nevermind the thought that if the man was in fact bleeding he may have been raped). One need not look to West Africa to find similar examples of non-heteronormative sex/sexuality is tantamount to social, political and cultural death. It is the reason why, I continue to blog about all the murders of Black queer folks here in the U.S.

Whitney…

There is nothing funny about this recent performance of Whitney Houston. It makes me really sad, so sad I could really cry.

Afro-Latinos in Colombia

In the last couple years there have been an increasing amount of news stories in the US about Afro-Latinos. I have been glad to see some of it because oftentimes I feel like in the US, it’s as if slavery didn’t happen in Latin America and there are no Black people there to speak of. Or that somehow or another, the Spanish speaking Caribbean and South America has “gotten beyond” racial categorization, when it was only a generation ago that people like Cuban singer La Lupe (among many others) proudly declared she was Black. And why don’t any of these Baseball players from the Dominican Republic get discussed as Black people? There’s also this thing that happens, where I have been told that I, as an African-American, don’t understand the nuances of what happens in terms of race/racialization in Latin America.

OK, I am not trying to take over that conversation, there are plenty of Afro-Latinos organizing on their own, but I know that when many of these organizations of Afro-Latinos in Latin America are referring to Black American struggles for inspiration, and sometimes directly seeking assistance from groups like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (as did organizations in Brazil) to help address legal forms of racism in their countries. That says something to me about how Afro-Latinos in those organizations see what Black Americans have done as a possibility, and not as some group of people who don’t get it. And I do, ultimately, feel responsible for what happens to Black people wherever we are, however we got there, and no matter what conquistador language we now speak.

Anyhoo, I found this interesting story about Afro-Colombians, which are even less talked about than Cubans, Dominicans or Brazilians. What interests me most about the many different movements of racial justice happening in Latin America is in what ways are notions of “nation/nationhood” informing conversations about gender, sex and sexuality–that is, as a cautionary tale from many Black Nationalist configurations in the US–is the Afro-Latin revolution being formed as a (hetero) dick thing?