Friday, July 24, 2009

Being Out in the Closet

What does it mean to be out? Does it mean holding hands with your partner? Or is it placing a picture of your and your significant other on your desk in and HRC frame? What constitutes your out-ness?
This topic is particularly intriguing because it involves several different points of view. On one hand, the organizations advocating gay rights, LGBT places of entertainment, and community events are both enjoyable and essential to the prosperity of the movement. On the other hand, the question that's raised discusses the dependency of the LGBT community on these assets. Do they limit us from being as "out" as possible?
I look to the civil rights movement for suggestions. When segregation and Jim crow were prevalent in the south, blacks orchestrated sit-ins. Now, I'm not saying we should borough through town just sitting places, the framing of that movement will not be our own, but I think we should commit ourselves to more exposure. Social or political canvassing is a good way of being visible but I also think the act of attending an otherwise "Straight" event, can go a long way toward equality.
We need to practice being out, in our jobs, among our family, in our communities; we need to be in support of each other outside of the gay-bor-hood, that means practicing solidarity in places that may not be as receiving. This is not a chastisement of LGBT establishments or their patrons - I'm pretty sure I'll be at Fab lounge at some point this weekend - it's simply a different way of forwarding the movement.
LGBT people are no more or less perfect than their straight counterparts, however, as advocates for equal rights, we must use the vastness and diversity of the movement to reach our opponents. Think of it this way, Bishop Jackson and I may not agree on equal rights, but we may agree on eliminating poverty. I'm fairly certain there are LGBT people in his congregation, out or not. Although I may not be able to change his mind, by being a fervent supporter of gay rights and working with him on a cause we both agree on, I may change a few minds in his congregation. My visibility may expose people to the gay rights movement, and possibly sow a seed of doubt that their anti-gay stance is on the wrong side of history.
It's not necessary to "make everything about us", the gay rights movement will speak for itself. By just being out and actively pursuing community awareness, we make our mark. As Professor Richard Flacks says, "Historical action is not necessarily noted or recorded. A historical act may appear as exceedingly mundane behavior. A telephone call, a scribble on a memo pad, a push of a button can initiate a chain of actions and events that fundamentally reshape the live of millions."

We can't tell each other how to be out, we can only tell each other to Be Out; our personal relationships and connections can change minds. Don't wait for October, make your coming out day today. And to all the people who are actively practicing being out, reach out to someone who is on the threshold, support their journey, bravery will prevail most expeditiously when there is a glimmer of hope.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Get the Spirit at Black Church Maraca

One of the most exciting things about moving to a new city is discovering the hidden treasures that lie within the side-streets, alleys and boroughs. Black Church Maraca is indeed one of DC’s greatest gems, combining music, poetry and the love of life.
Every second Saturday of the month, a throng of artists pack into a private residence and assimilate under the guise of true artistic expression. Upon entering you are greeted with a hug or a warm handshake, food and drinks, discussion and laughter. By the time you reach the middle of the room you are immersed in the feeling of family and community, one which knows no color, gender, or sexuality. Everyone exists as a representation of themselves, nothing more, and nothing less.
After what seems like the passing of a brief moment, organizer and host Jade Foster welcomes everyone, and explains what BCM is and why it is, “Black Church Maraca is a monthly poetry reading [that] manifests the power of genuine fellowship.” She explains that it’s a chance to get away from the “Busboys” pretentiousness and the cacophony of club-going, and enjoy some good words and good music with good people.
She then introduces the featured artist of the month, this month it’s Venus Thrash, professor of English at the University of DC, who delights us with stories ranging from a little girl who wants to be an angel, to the ins and outs of lesbian relationships. Her performance continues scripted by the discussions and feedback from the audience, her thirty minute set seems to fly by. After raucous applause, Ms. Thrash joins the congregation to enjoy an open mic session. One after another, first-time poetry readers, Black Church veterans and previously featured poets and artists take the stage and bear their souls before a room of welcoming hearts. Michelle Antoinette, AKA Love the Poet, stakes her claim as a proud lesbian of color, despite her family’s dissonance and intolerance; her partner in crime, Missy Smith highlights her smooth vocals and impeccable songwriting skills before accompanying Love on a comical serenade. Local female MC artists, “Hyll Factor” offers the “benediction” to the beat of an impromptu beat box from an audience member. The stage then transforms back into a living space and the conversations begin.
Black Church Maraca, despite its name, draws in people of all colors, creeds, religions, and sexual identities. It’s shrouded heavily in pulsating intellectualism, poignant artistry and, like Jade’s introduction, genuine fellowship. The word “Church” in the title, I think refers to the visceral experience you receive, and even if you have never believed in anything in your life, there is a certain truth that can be discovered within the four walls. So the next time you need some uplifting and are tired of the usual city scenes, go catch the spirit at Black Church Maraca.

You can find more information about BCM at

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lessons From a King

Is is not everyday one stumbles upon a black pearl, one of earth's most coveted treasures. It's aura and beauty is only grasped at the very surface, with so much more waiting to be discovered. You, Michael Joseph Jackson, were a pearl. Placed firmly at the top of music's hierarchy, you did what no one else could. You gave your childhood for our entertainment, your privacy for our satisfaction, your time and money so that children may eat, so that there may one day be a cure for AIDS, so that more people may live and less may die. You were our partner in crime, the soundtrack to our lives, the leader when we didn't even know how to follow. Today we mourned you, we celebrated your life and your legacy. You are more than a pop star, you are a legend. The mark you made on this earth will both be highly coveted and never reached.

It is my hope that in your passing you have left a significant mark of a different kind. I hope that people take Michael Jackson the person into their hearts, that they fixate their gazes higher than what was previously thought possible. We should look at your life, one of kindness, generosity, and unchallenged artistry, as a beacon for which to reach. We should spend more time finding ways to love each other and less time hating each other. We should love people while they're still here. If you have taught us anything Michael, it's that tomorrow is never guaranteed. We should extend more open hands, give more hugs, and send more blessings. We should talk more and text less. We should hold fast the belief that there is good in humanity. We should take the time out of our day to reflect. There should be more "We" and less "Me".

Your life wasn't about you, Michael. It was about us. The gifts you gave humankind, the barriers you broke for Black Americans, the bar you set in music and performance, the strides you made as a humanitarian will forever be immortalized in the hearts and minds of people all over the world. Let us all celebrate your life by improving our own and the lives of those around us. We love you, MJ. <3