Coming Back.

I left for a while. Been working harder than I’ve ever worked before. But I think it’s time to come back. Maybe not as regularly. Maybe a different set of issues, but I need the space to speak.

See you soon.

LZ Granderson: Gay is Not the New Black

This piece just ran on CNN.com by Black gay journalist LZ Granderson. I am totally shocked CNN ran it. Granderson’s central point is illustrated here:

Despite the catchiness of the slogan, gay is not the new black.

Black is still black.

And if any group should know this, it’s the gay community.

Bars such as The Prop House, or Bulldogs in Atlanta, Georgia, exist because a large number of gay blacks — particularly those who date other blacks, and live in the black community — do not feel a part of the larger gay movement. There are Gay Pride celebrations, and then there are Black Gay Prides.

There’s a popular bar in the heart of the nation’s capital that might as well rename itself Antebellum, because all of the white patrons tend to stay upstairs and the black patrons are on the first floor. Last year at the annual Human Rights Campaign national fundraiser in Washington, D.C. — an event that lasted more than three hours — the only black person to make it on stage was the entertainment.

When Proposition 8 passed in California, white gays were quick to blame the black community despite blacks making up less than 10 percent of total voters and whites being close to 60 percent. At protest rallies that followed, some gay blacks reported they were even hit with racial epithets by angry white participants. Not to split hairs, but for most blacks, the n-word trumps the f-word.

I like that this piece continues to do, as myself, Jasmyne Cannick and others have been doing for the last several years, to continue to raise the issue of racism within the gay community. And I am happy that more of us are able to access  mass media to break intervene in the hegemony of gay politics. But, I think there are two places where I depart from Granderson. One, Granderson suggests that there Black LGBT folks are not unhappy with Obama. I think there are Black LGBT folks who have critiques of Obama, but are very different critiques from what are raised by the mainstream LGBT Movement. I think that there is a way in which Obama, and everything his restoration of Black masculinity and Black family values he represents, implicitly supports and encourages heterosexism & homophobia in the Black community. For me, this is as critical as an end to DOMA or the HIV travel ban.

Also Granderson goes onto say that

The 40th anniversary of Stonewall dominated Gay Pride celebrations around the country, and while that is certainly a significant moment that should be recognized, 40 years is nothing compared with the 400 blood-soaked years black people have been through in this country. There are stories some blacks lived through, stories others were told by their parents and stories that never had a chance to be told…While those who were at Stonewall talk about the fear of being arrested by police, 40 years ago, blacks talked about the fear of dying at the hands of police and not having their bodies found or murder investigated.

I think rather than using Stonewall as a moment separate and apart from historical structural Black oppression, I think Granderson misreads the racial and sexual/gendered dynamics of police oppression of queers that led to the Stonewall Riots, and factually misses who was present, or that police don’t or did not, actually kill queers, and that the spectre of that kind of violence wasn’t also especially targeted at Black queers–we still see that to this day, as last year black transgender woman Duanna Johnson was beaten by Memphis police officers while handcuffed in the precinct, and was later shot to death after filing for a lawsuit against the Memphis Police Department. Granderson could have actually talked about the way this history has been re-cast as white and bourgeois, and as a natural pre-cursor to same-sex marriage and military inclusion fights, rather than actually being in direct opposition to the current LGBT movement projects. In fact, it was widely rumored after Stonewall that the Black Panthers and/or Students for a Democratic Society had been behind the riots. While proven untrue, it was clear that the powers that saw Stonewall as part of the radical black power, anti-imperialist and feminist movements, rather than assimilationist.

So while we have to continue to push and challenge racism in mainstream LGBT politics, we also need to be critical of the Obama Administration, and not allow for racist and revisionist history to obscure and de-value radical politics of Stonewall.

RIP MJ

This is my favorite Michael Jackson video, “Remember the Time,” though “Wanna Be Startin Somethin'” is probably my favorite song. I liked Michael’s music like most people, but was far from a HUGE fan. Nevertheless, I have found myself weeping at his loss. Perhaps he meant more to me than I thought.

Selling AIDS: Wiretap Mag On HIV Prevention Messaging

I am Gay StayI recently met the author of this new piece on Wiretap Magazine called “Selling Ourselves: Questioning HIV Prevention Campaigns,” Kirk Grisham, through mutual friends and he’s a kindred spirit in trying to really push against all of the assumed narratives about “men who have sex with men,” and notions of “community” and “risk” in HIV prevention work. Let’s hope we get into Mailman, Kirk! LOL!

I have gotten into debates on this very blog about the meaning and efficacy of social marketing campaigns. While not perfect, and alone will not end the epidemic, I think they can be effective in breaking social norms, especially when they speak to people as having agency, value, and break certain silences and social taboos. In short: They get people talking and thinking.

Conversely, social marketing campaigns can also be stigmatizing, blaming, and as Grisham says in the article:

City agencies, private firms and the populations themselves share blame for producing these messages, which begs the question: Do we know what’s good for us? Are we simply propagating the same stigma, homophobia and racism vis-√†-vis mainstream society through marketing, as seen in the Homoboy campaign?

Do these negative, racist and stigma-filled homophobic messages sell? Would positive messages work any better? Can one sell liberation?

He names some of the most problematic campaigns to come out in recent years, including “Don’t Be a Bitch. Wear A Condom.” The response he gets from Better World Advertising Exec Les Pappas (who I worked with on the WeArePartof You.org capaign)” basically says to Grisham that the message tested well in focus groups.

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Where are your politics? When I was at New York State Black Gay Network and we did the campaign with Better World, we were very clear that we did not want to do some tacky stigmatizing campaign that talked down to Black gay men. The campaign we ended up with was taken to focus groups, but our values and politics shaped it from jump. This Don’t Be a Bitch message probably would test in the current social context where Black folks are running around talking about “Man Up” and “No Homo.” Does that make it right? Is it the goal of social marketing campaigns, as they pertain to public health interventions, just to mimick what else is already out there in the world? Or to actually know that what you’re doing isn’t doing more damage than it will acutally do any good? What are the measurements of success?

Very little reporting happens that questions the more subtle forms or racism and homopbobia that happen in do-gooder public relations campaigns. Thanks for continuing a conversation, Kirk.

Tonight in Newark-A Tale of Two Movements: Black & LGBT Civil Rights Struggles

This event should be a really interesting conversation. If you’re in NYC/NJ you should come through tonight! If not, make sure you get on board with the Newark Pride Events this week. I’ll be there. And I am comin’ from Brooklyn! What’s your excuse?

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Kenyon on TheGrio.com: Not All Gays Support Same-Sex Marriage

I just started writing for a new Black-focused news site called TheGrio.com, and my first piece is on my growing frustration with same-sex marriage politics and the Black community:

I have spent many hours in lectures, panels and private conversations trying to explain why Black people, in poll after poll, overwhelmingly do not support same-sex marriage. But my arguments are beginning to lose steam and I am not sure I believe them anymore regardless of how I feel about gay marriage. At the end of the day, there is no excuse for homophobia and I am tired of indirectly defending it.

Hours after the California Supreme Court decided to uphold Proposition 8, effectively banning future same-sex marriages in that state, I found myself standing along a protest route where about 1000 same-sex marriage activists marched along 14th Street in Manhattan to rally in Union Square. Suddenly behind me I heard someone shout “God meant marriage for a man and a woman! Stand Strong Obama!” READ THE REST AT TheGrio.com

Rep. Barbara Lee on Hate Crimes Bill

As much as I don’t think hate crimes legislation will do anything to curb or combat homophobic violence, I am at least happy to see Rep. Barbara Lee talk about Black and Latino LGBT folks–which quite frankly very few politicians of color are willing to do.

She, against the wishes of the Bush Administration, also attended the 2008 International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, and was very vocal about the epidemic in the US, and the need to focus prevention efforts on Black gay men.