Meet The Boys


 Twitter: @Eddie_Ndopu 

Eddie Ndopu is a South African queer designer, fledgling activist and intellectual, and transnational socialite. He serves as a Contributing Editor for The Feminist Wire where he writes about disability, representation and embodiment. Eddie is currently wrapping up his Bachelor of Arts Degree at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. When Eddie isn’t studying or writing, he’s reading Vogue and hobnobbing with friends in search of the best martinis and mojitos.                          

 

 

 

Twitter @Talley_Marked    Aaron Talley is a Chicago-based activist, educator, writer, and blogger. Though he loves shade and a good #Read every now and again, he prefers to read actual books. (James Baldwin anyone?) He’s still struggling to make his Jack’d profile sound less nerdy. Tips would be appreciated. You can follow:

 

 

 

Twitter: @KenyonFarrow  Kenyon Farrow  is your favorite butch queen’s favorite butch queen. He is an award-winning writer and activist. He is the former executive director of Queers for Economic Justice and currently serves on the board of Streetwise and Safe. Kenyon is co-editor of Letters From Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out.  Kenyon has been a panelist, lecturer and keynote speaker at many conferences and universities including New York University, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin/Madison, and Hampshire College, University of California/Berkeley, Antioch College, & University of Texas at Austin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter: @Chase8PP Chase Simmons is storyteller and filmmaker based out of Atlanta, GA. He directed and produced Dear Dad: Letters from Same a Gender Loving Sons, a film about eight black gay men and their fathers. He is passionate about social justice and telling the untold stories of communities of color. For more information visit: www.chasesimmons.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter: @YoloAkili   Yolo Akili is the creator of Brunch with the Boys. He is a longtime writer, poet, yoga teacher and activist. He is the author of Dear Universe: Letters of Affirmation & Empowerment. Yolo’s writings have appeared in the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Everyday Feminisms, The Atlanta Journal Constitution and much more. He has been an invited keynote speaker at Vanderbilt University, University of Illinois and Northern Illinois University and an invited presenter at Columbia and Fordham. Yolo has appeared on Huffington Post Live & The Derek & Romaine Show (Sirius XM). He also loves gourmet cupcakes. 

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Gifted Generations: An Interview with Psychic & Astrologer Max S. Gordon

 


Today my Astrology and African Americans series continues with an interview with New York based astrologer and psychic Max S. Gordon! Max has brilliant insight into the psychic legacy of black families, new age spiritualities and their appropriation of indigenous cultures and much more! Enjoy!

You are a professional astrologer and psychic. When did you first feel a pull towards astrology or an awareness of your intuitive/psychic capabilities?

I think I have always been “sensitive” even as a very young child, but I didn’t know that that had anything to do with being psychic. I thought it was normal having a second sense about things and people. I began giving professional tarot readings when I was in my early twenties, and around that time I went to a party and made a joke about seeing someone’s future by taking her hand.

I told one woman about the vacation she took, the color of her new bathing suit, her career and the work she was currently doing – again, all as a “joke”. The thing is – everything I told her turned out to be true. It was one of my most accurate readings I’d ever done and I didn’t have cards around me or anything. I thought, “Wait a second, maybe there is something to this…” and began practicing with strangers whenever I could. I wasn’t right all the time, but sometimes I got some amazing “hits” and that encouraged me.

It is often said that “gifts” such as yours are hereditary. Who do you believe you inherited your abilities from? Is their a deep pull towards the psychic/intuitive/astrology in your family?

My mother taught me to read tarot cards. She used them for meditation and never read for anyone but herself. She’d done a reading for a neighbor friend, a few years before I was born, and saw something in the cards that suggested the woman’s husband might be having an affair. Let’s just say the information wasn’t welcomed and the friendship ended. At that point my mother refused to read for other people, but she taught me everything she’d learned through books. It was like having a metaphysical mentor right in the house. I spent hours learning and I was fascinated, mostly because of the pictures and the meanings. We talked specifically about the major arcana as archetypes for life, and how the first 22 cards relate to the hero’s journey.

My grandmother was also into spiritual books, but her take seemed much more fear based. Her relationship with the supernatural had to do with books on warding off evil, psychic protection and that’s never been my thing. My great-grandmother, however, was known in the family as a faith healer. She was a devout Christian, as I am told, and she is rumored to have healed one of my great aunts who was bed ridden because of a incapacitating back injury. There was also a story about a white man who had collapsed or had some kind of attack somewhere in the street, and my great-grandmother was nearby and laid hands on him, which wasn’t something that happened all the time between black women and white men in Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1930’s/40’s, and he fully recovered. Again, these were family legends, I have no way to verify them, but the stories I’ve heard about my great-grandmother feel true. I only knew her briefly as a child, but she was that kind of woman.

On my father’s side, I’ve never heard any stories of the miraculous, but my grandfather was a minister and had his own church in South Carolina, so the faith is there.

3. How did you learn astrology?

I’m self-taught, but I’ve had some great teachers through books. And I’m still learning. The tarot cards I grew up with have astrological and Hebraic letters and symbols on them, and that was one piece of the puzzle my mother didn’t have, so we always skipped that part. But I wanted to know.

I remember after college, I was on a plane to San Francisco with some friends, and for the ride, I brought an astrology book I’d gotten somewhere the week before. It was Jan Spiller/Karen McCoy’s book Spiritual Astrology. That book is so deep, I still, almost 20 years later, read parts of it as if I’m reading it for the first time. On the plane, I looked up my friend’s birthdays and my jaw just dropped over and over again. I couldn’t believe it. It was like having a cheat–sheet on life. I kept thinking, “How can they know all this from a birthday?”

3. Have you encountered prejudice as an African American practicing astrology?

To be honest, I have to say that I really haven’t, at least that I’m aware of, and I’m pretty sensitive to that kind of thing. I’d like to think that for the most part the people who are attracted to this work are already coming from a higher vibration, and are more open, less inclined to prejudice – however, I am not naïve, and I know the racism exists everywhere. I’m sure there can be some categorization, where someone might say, “Oh he’s a Black Astrologer” as opposed to “He’s an astrologer” but I think the bottom line in this field is, do you have information that people ask for? Because when someone really needs help or wants to know why she came to the planet, she doesn’t care who’s giving her the information, as long as it is accurate.


The New Age movement is notorious for taking the knowledge of indigenous people of color communities, appropriating it and selling it to a white market. In fact, many suggest that Quantum physics is merely a regurgitation of major themes in indigenous spiritualities all over the world. Have you experienced this phenom? What are you feelings/thoughts about it?

I feel that you can’t appropriate the truth. There are universal truths that belong to all of us and if you dig down deep in most religions, philosophies, cultures, you’re going to find the same truths. I’ve definitely seen the appropriation of black culture in the entertainment industry and I’ve been critical and written about it. I guess if anything bothers me, it is the way that sometimes certain things are appropriated from Native American/Indigenous Indian cultures….I’ve been to workshops/retreats where someone just puts on headdress with feathers, and someone else beats on  a tom-tom, or starts taking people into sweat lodges, like the recent tragedy with James Arthur Ray, and I really wonder, do they have an authentic relationship to and respect for these powerful spiritual icons, rituals, etc, or can just anybody do a “rain dance” because they watched a video on You Tube. I would never just go into a Catholic Church light a candle and assume I could lead a Catholic mass. There has to be reverence. I’m not saying don’t experiment or try new things, just understand and appreciate the tradition something comes from.

Do you believe that factors such as race, gender and sexuality, impact how an individual will express their astrological energy?

Absolutely. I believe we are all incredible, beautiful expressions of God, and that, like different flowers in the garden, we are meant to express that beautiful in different ways. Who wants a garden, flower or vegetable, with just one thing growing all the time? We come to the planet at a certain time and space, and we have to deal with/come to terms with what is happening on the planet as it relates to race, gender, sexuality. I live in New York. This is a very interesting time for me, having incarnated in this lifetime as a gay man. And I am a black gay man too!

So I have some very interesting things to tell you, whoever you are, if you are interested, about what I see out my window. Now if you are a heterosexual, white woman living in Farmington Hills, Michigan with two kids, you probably see something different outside your window. But we’re living in the same house. So we have to tell the truth about our experience. And I am constantly fascinating with the way astrology expresses itself through our chart. A Pisces man with his moon in Cancer is going to have a much different experience working in a high school, than in the military. There are so many factors that make us who we are. I’m learning to love the mystery. I actually just wrote a song about that last week.

Why do you believe you have come to this lifetime?

I feel I have come to express love, which is why we have all come, to be my authentic self, despite what may or may not have been “done” to me, to be the beautiful creation that God made, without having to ask everyone permission to shine, or take a poll to see if I’m good enough every day. And that’s true for all of us. I think specifically I have a message that is related to my identity as a black gay man because I can talk about race, sexuality, and, with the mother I had and the things I saw growing up, I am committed to having a progressive view and analysis about gender too. I believe I am meant to use my gifts to bring people to a place where they see the divinity in their brother, their sister, and lead and encourage us into the new era of love. It really sounds so 1960/1970’s, but I was born in 1970, and actually love the hope some felt during that time. I hope it comes back again.

What is the core of your spiritual belief system, if any?

My belief, when I am conscious myself and not caught up in fear, is that we are all precious, all valuable, all vital. Yes, there are some people out there doing some hurtful things and behaving in ways they shouldn’t, but that doesn’t diminish the potential beauty. It’s our responsibly to say to those people, “We love you, and because we love you, we’re not going to let you act out here – we’re not going to let you destroy. We’re trying to build.”

I truly believe there will be an age – I still hope to see it in my lifetime – where a black woman will turn to a white man and say, “This is my brother” and there won’t be a pause, or a stutter, and we will see ourselves as a “world community.” I find it so hard to talk about these ideas without it sounding like clichés, or the corny side of New Age movement, where we all just “pour pink paint” over everything, as Marianne Williamson has sometimes said, because we don’t want to deal with our anger, our grief. But I’m not saying that. We have to talk about the pain, we have to go through the grief. There aren’t any short cuts. But the movement I’m envisioning is one where everyone is fed, everyone is valued, everyone is encouraged to contribute, REGARDLESS. And expressions of unconditional love are the rule, rather than the exception. And I believe we will get there. Our future depends on it.

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“Are We The Kind Of Boys We Want?” Now Available For Download!

 

“Are We The Kind of Boys We Want?” is the third docu-poem based on work from Yolo’s studio album “Purple Galaxy.” The docu-poem has heralded praises and rave reviews from members of the public health and social justice communities as an innovative tool for engaging young african american gay men.

“Are We The Kind Of Boys We Want?” has been featured at numerous public health conferences, blogs and news outlets including The Body.com, Scavengers, Living Out Loud With Darian, & much more

“Are We The Kind of Boys We Want?” is now available for  a download for only 7.00!

Watch the trailer Below:

 

 

You can buy now by clicking Here: Buy Now

Read Reviews of the Video here:

Son Of Baldwin

Living Out Loud With Darian

TheBody.Com

“Are We The Kind of Boys We Want?” is the property of Michael Robinson © 2010.

All rights reserved. The content of this video may not be copied, replaced, distributed, published, displayed, modified, or transferred in any form or by any means except with the prior permission of Michael Robinson. Copyright infringement is a violation of federal law subject to criminal and civil penalties.

 

 

 

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“Queer At MoreHouse College with Comic Books & Feminism”: Yolo Interview’s Activist & Filmmaker Daniel Edwards

 

This past year in Atlanta I had the privilege of meeting upcoming Film-maker, Queer Feminist Activist  and former Co-President of Morehouse College’s Safe Space, Daniel Edwards.  Daniel and I met at “Pride Week” at Spelman College, where he spoke on a panel that addressed homophobia in the Atlanta University Center. Daniel’s energy immediately intrigued me, and after exchanging emails he introduced me to his amazing short film work, which I found equally as fascinating.

Most captivating to me was his interview of Melvin Mohammed, a man who has bought a house, several cars and has made a living for over a decade by selling bags of fruit for $2.00 on a corner in the West End Atlanta neighborhood.

When I lived in Atlanta, I actually bought fruit from him several times! This interview put me in the mind of Zora Neale Hurston, who once sold hotdogs at a park just to record accurately “the way in which the black people spoke.” It carried the same spirit of reverence and celebration of blackness. Not coincidentally, Daniel and Zora are share the same zodiac sign of Capricorn.

One-Man Market from Daniel Edwards on Vimeo.

Equally intriguing, was his  short film “By Any other Name” a documentary that is a portrait of  Cindy Lutenbacher, Ph.D., a white English professor at Morehouse College and her mixed race adopted family.

By Any Other Name – Part 1 from Daniel Edwards on Vimeo.

Interview:

Yolo: How do you define queer? And why do you/ or do you choose to identify as queer rather than or/in conjunction with identifying as gay? Or do you choose to identify with any of them at all?

Daniel:

I define queer as anything that is not easily readable. Anything that keeps you guessing because it’s constantly evolving.  Queer for me ranges from personality to sexuality.  I often use queer and gay interchangeably.

I know gay, queer, etc. are White-constructed socio-political terms that did not include people of color.  However, that’s what I came to know first and how I came into my own.  The rainbows, the “Out and Proud” consciousness may have came from people that do not look like me, but I am affirmed.  It’s an affirmation that I’ve had to create in my own Black community because we don’t readily give it to each other.


Yolo: Whats Your favorite comic book superhero/heroine? And what do you think is your psychological connection to them? How do you see yourself reflected in their character etc?


Daniel:This isn’t a fair question!! lol.

My favorite hero is Ultimate Spiderman and my heroine is Storm.

In the “Ultimate” storyline, Spiderman was drawn up as a small, skinny, 15 year old that lived with a single parent who had a side hustle to help support his home.  If that isn’t a Black Classic, I don’t know what is lol.  Storm, simply, is a powerful Queen.  Just like all the important women in my life.


Yolo: Recently Marvel Comics has got alot of attention from it’s choice to make Spiderman Blatino ( Black & Latino) As an avid comic book fan, what do you think of this choice?

Daniel: I’ve always been able to relate to the themes in the Spider-man storyline even though it was a white face being used to tell the story.  I’m glad the writers decided to try something different.  They definitely went for it when they decided to make him a minority lol.  I’m interested to see how they develop the themes of Spider-man with a younger character and the different realities of all the minority statuses they applied to him.  If it’s anything like Spider-man: India, it’ll be great

 

Yolo: Have you experienced a lot of diversity in regards to race and sexuality in the comics you read? What titles would you recommend?

The only title I have read that has a minority as the lead is Black Panther and Batwoman is a leading character that is lesbian, other than that there is a scattered presence across Marvel and DC Comics.  I don’t believe the characters get as much shine as they deserve.

For anyone that’s interested: Black Panther, Falcon, War Machine, Batwoman, and Young X-Men are  great characters.

 

Yolo: How you think being raised by three women has impacted your relationship to the world and to feminism?

Daniel: The women that raised me did not gender my teaching.I was first and foremost taught to be an adult I never heard “a man is supposed to do…”

I remember my grandma telling me ” I don’t want you leaving this house having to depend on no woman to do anything for you.”  So, I learned everything from sewing to changing the oil in a pick-up truck.  I am an active listener because of my three parents.

They taught me that no one is above or below me, just at different places in their journey.

As for feminism, I guess I fit the mold of how a male feminist would act so that is a label that I happened to acquire along the way.  I’m really just being me and respectingall those I come in contact with.


Yolo: As the President Of Morehouse’s Safe Space  have you ever encountered prejudice from black heterosexual women in the AUC? Are there any ways in which you have experienced Heterosexual Black Women in the AUC attacking/putting down or ridiculing black queer/gay men on the campus?

I’ve encountered more false pre-conceived notions about gay men more than anything.  A lot of women like to talk about how I don’t fit a stereotype. 

I did have one girl ask me to be her “gay best friend” and I told her no, that I would just be her friend lol. Some passion arises when there is mention of more feminine-acting gay men.  Most Black women want to know where that persona comes from because if it is supposed to be a reflection of what women are/act then it’s offensive..

 

Yolo: What is your spiritual vehicle or do you have one? How do you identify or do not identify spiritually? And if you do have a spiritual perspective, how do you see your spirituality operating in the context of your film work/activism etc?

Daniel: I was raised in the Christian church.  It’s where I got a lot of my values regarding how to treat people and how to be a good person for God.  That was when I was religious lol.  Now I think I’m a step further by claiming my spirituality and personal connection to God.  A relationship that’s not based on any stipulations of my creation.  My spirituality is present in my activism because I am Actively renewing my mind everyday, educating, and livng fearlessly to the best of my abilities.  With my filming, it’s all about moving those in the margins to the center of the page (or the frame in this case lol), in order to highlight the divine creation of as many as possible. Altruism is my spiritual base.

 

Yolo: What do you feel like is your purpose artistically and creatively for your time here on earth? Why do you think you came to earth as opposed to somewhere else?

Daniel: My purpose…..I think my purpose in life is to help those around me in anyway I can.  Artistically, it’s to create life-changing, life-highligting, enlightening stories.  I believe in a higher self, a self that is connected to my past, present, and future.  A self that is connected to a higher power, a common thread between all life.

My freshman year, my brother Matthew and I had a conversation about not being meant for this Earth.  He called me an Old Soul and an Angel on Earth. That was a lot to take in then and it’s still a lot now lol, but I am here and I am going to do/be the best I can be.

———

Daniel is the current CEO of D.D.E Productions and can be contacted at edd_kmt_1789@msn.com

 

 

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“A Queer Chicana Femme Kind of Revolution”: Yolo Interviews S.O.N.G Co-Executive Director Paulina Hernandez

As the conservative gay agenda becomes more and more visible to the american ideological imagination, many of us whose politics focus on systemic transformation instead of inclusion and assimilation must work to ensure that we are not erased.

In the spirit of supporting this work of visibility, I took the time out to interview my colleague Paulina Hernandez, a long time farmworker rights, LGBTQ, immigration activist and fab femme. As expected, Paulina had alot of brilliant insight to share about our collective movements for justice, spirituality and more. Enjoy!

Yolo: What do you mean when you say you identify as Queer? How do you define queer? And why is that different, for you, then identifying as lesbian?

Paulina: I identify as a  two-spirit and a queer chicana femme.
I identify as queer femme & as two-spirit rather than as a lesbian because I think often ‘lesbianism’ assumes that there are two genders to be attracted to: female or male… and i believe gender often manifests itself in a spectrum and variety of ways that go beyond male and female.

{ To me} Queerness is NOT a new or an western thing: many of us come from communities where gender & sexuality was acknowledged to be more expansive than male / female & gay / straight, and if anything, it’s been western colonization that has institutionalized homophobia, transphobia and sexism into our belief systems.

Yolo : How do you experience, or do you experience the marginalization of queer Latino culture in the context of broader so called “mainstream” gay Latino culture? Do you experience intentional erasure from the mainstream Latino gay community based on your queer politics? Please feel free to cite specific examples

Paulina: (Laughs) Well, this is a great question! …Yes and no (laughs).

I often find that along with the migration story many  of us share, many  Chicano / Latino kin who were born on US occupied territory (the American southwest, Texas, California) and other latino-heavy places are struggling with the same fears as other ethinic and immigrant communities face in the south: { which is}

“How do you hold on to a sense of tradition and culture that creates unity and not an erasure of our complicated identities, struggles, diversities and diverging points of view and values? …”


{ You see } I came out of farm worker organizing and immigrant rights organizing in the South, and my being queer wasn’t always central to the struggle for survival in my mainly mexicano / latino community in NC, and I have to say a lot of that was also because I have passing privilege (as do many other queer femmes & other more feminine identified women) so it was easy to assume I was / could be straight… and it wasn’t until it became CENTRAL to my political organizing that I saw the push-back from folks that I’d organized with, and had been in community for years.  Then again, not because of what I look like but because of the refusal to not speak to homophobia, transphobia, the narrow roles sexism and misogyny places upon us, and of course Machismo.

Within the larger latino gay / lesbian / bisexual communities have to say that the divides are often generational & political in my experience: in the SE we haven’t always experienced an abundance of community and so we hang on to our trusted relationships for dear life.

I experience that often times our (latino gay/les/bi/trans/queer) people have been exposed to the Mainstream Equality Agenda that they KNOW isn’t often inclusive of people of color, let alone immigrant folks, and told that’s what G.A.Y. in America is… and it’s the breaking out of that and towards something more organically ours that we ALL struggle with… because I don’t think equality is enough, nor is assimilation…nothing will buffer us from oppression except liberation: and THAT is often where I break from other Latino gays I know lol.

Yolo: As a Latina queer serving as the co-director of a southern based organization, ( S.O.N.G) what tensions have you observed and or experienced between people of color communities and how has that impacted your organizing? For example, I know that all too often in the south in particular, people of color becomes a code word for “black”. I am also aware of the tension between working class African Americans, Latinos and API folks in the south. How have you worked on these issues?

Paulina: I have, and I’ve experience those tensions all too well (Laughs).

I’d say that like most other communities experiencing oppression and repression …within our own ethnic communities we come out swinging into other communities we are also part of, and so as part of the lgbtq community you can see that trauma, sense of scarcity, depression, loneliness playing out: in our organizations, our homes, our bedrooms.

I don’t think movement work is about ignoring that or brushing past it, but to see what we make of that, and how we see our own trauma and healing from that trauma as key to the survival of our people.

I think I often recognize the tension  as being about scarcity: the sense that there isn’t enough.  Not enough people who will love us, not enough community, funding,  not enough resources and visibility, and we HAVE to get over that to build together, we just have to. I don’t think many of these tensions are necessarily out of our own creation, rather are part of our ethnic communities and permeate the rest of our lives… and that’s ultimately the role of white supremacy & capitalism: to pit us against each other for SCRAPS.

Literally: scraps.  How we work past that, and build People of Color unity to me is also about survival, and learning to speak to each other in non-coded ways that don’t always center whiteness and / or speak to Whiteness as a way to relate to each other… not that we all don’t bond about racism, etc., because we do lol but that we have to find more organic ways of building relationships that aren’t just always about shared trama: but a shared longing to be in communities where we are treasured, valued and loved.

Yolo: The recent legislative moves on Immigration in Georgia specifically have been very frightening. What strategies is S.O.N.G seeking to employ to help address this recent conservative push?

Paulina: Oh god it is scary isn’t it?!

The new right wing scares the shit out of me (Laughs) they’re myopic and vicious!  The strategies we’ve been building a lot around are the LGBTQ Coaliton to help strengthen our capacity and coordination to create a LGBTQ left response to HB-87 and calling it for what it is: another legislation to police identity, racist, and meant to fragment communities and drive many of our people further underground.  If they could legislate us into non-existance they would do that: and this is the perfect stepping stone in GA.

 

The main strategies inside of that work as well is the National Call for the Boycott of GA (which you can check out more info on www.somosgeorgia.org campaign website of WE ARE GEORGIA, which SONG is a part of) for convention / entertainment / sports / vacation travel.

We see this as key to divesting from GA’s economy which is heavily built on Conventions and Sporting events, to acknowledge that if people of color and brown folks (who’ll be heavily targeted with this) aren’t safe in GA, why should OTHER folks of color and allies spend their money here?  It’s a lead we took from AZ whose lost MILLIONS of dollars due to the economic boycott post the passage of SB-1070

The other strategies is what we are calling the GA Buy Spots (for busineses) and Sanctuary Zones (for places of worship & organizations / centers / etc.) who identify themselves as Immigrant Friendly places and places of non-compliance with HB-87 (you can also see listings of those on the www.somosgeorgia.org website) that pledge to not allow law enforcement (police / ice) into their places of worship or business for the SOLE purpose of checking someone’s status,

pledge to NOT contribute financially to this right wing crackrocks that are pushing this type of racist legislation on our communities, and to display signs of solidarity with our communities.  We see this as key to the fact that we don’t believe anyone can afford to be neutral around this issue: and will not support businesses that don’t support our communities in creating safety, and seeing their role as privately owned spaces who are part of a public resistance.

We have lots of plans about continuing to fight against all kinds of Identity Policing, { that suggests it is acceptable} to police anyone because of the color of their skins, their gender / sexuality, and presumptions of class / language / etc…

Yolo: What is your spiritual vehicle/ and or how do you or do you see yourself as a spiritual person? How do you understand/enact and or embody your spirituality/religiosity in the context of your activism, if at all?

Paulina: I see myself as an indigenous spiritual person: I try to reflect about what my role is on this earth, what has been given to me, how I can honor my ancestors by being a warrior for my people, and with my people.

I ground myself in ceremony as my main practice of spirituality, and see movement work as one of the most central healing forces in my life.

Being part of the First Nations / Two Spirit collective & one of S.O.N.G.S sister organizations Kindred (the Southern Healing Justice Collective) has challenged me to blend my political work with my spiritual life, and I still have much to learn.

Right now, my main spiritual practice revolves around my altar and the ocean: those are two places I feel deeply drawn to and the most spiritually open.  I believe in the idea of sacred time & sacred space: and that I need those two to have be my best, operate with the most openness and honesty, and generosity.

I believe that where my spiritual practice blends / manifests in my political work is in the belief that politicizing moments where you realize what your calling on this earth: that it is sacred, and that there are consequences for not responding to that call.  That our work as movement people is to NOT fuck that up, and support other people in seeing their role in the survival of our people: that’s ultimately what it’s about for me.  The belief that my ancestors & the creator put me on this earth for a reason, and that our ancestors crossed paths so that you and I could meet: and our we cannot lay down till we are ALL free.

Yolo: How do you want to be remembered?

Paulina: How do I want to be remembered?  I want to be remembered as funny!!

(Because I try! I swear (Laughs)  I think am HILARIOUS, my 3 brothers have a hella sick sense of humor, and if anything: we ALL think we’re funny as shit (laughs).

{I also want to be remembered} As trying to redeem myself for my mistakes whenever possible, as someone who places people above profit and ego (which I think we ALL struggle with) as someone whose life couldn’t be possible without all the fierce queens, jot@s, femmes & elders in my life…

If my life means anything at all: it is because it was gifted to me.  SONG elders have taught me ALL I know about scandalous behavior as a tool to sexual liberation, and how individual safety will not save you: we are better together.  Oh, yeah lol and that gay/homo/queer sex is the truth & the light! 🙂

Paulina Hernandez can be reached at Paulina@Southernersonnewground.com

You can learn more about her work at www.Southernersonnewground.com and Kindredhealingjustice.com

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Se-lah:Reads That Bleed:Black Gay Men & Passive Aggressive Communication

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Oh, we’ve all been there. In the room. In the space. With all the black gay, bi, queer male faces. With all the high strung, defensive,angry, tense energy.

You see everyone is on edge waiting for it.

Waiting for the first assault-however small,  the first sly comment, however seemingly minuscule, that will make its way into the room. Eyebrows are raised amidst greetings, lips are pursed in suspicion. Many are sweeping the room psychically as if preparing for a military war strategy, much less spending time with a gathering of friends and colleagues…
The conversation begins to deepen and like clockwork, someone reacts. The statement could be about anything: someone’s “shadiness” some one’s “belief” some one’s “relationship” or more. It generally comes indirectly, a swift jab to the throat. Underneath the dinner table, everyone is caressing their switch blades. Fearing they could be the next target of ridicule. Fearing some private moment they shared could be put on the table, some piercing insecurity they disclosed could come up for public scrutiny, or some sexual relationship they have could be probed, exposed and berated…….

Ah, the good ole “read”. Where would we as black gay men be without it? I mean if we didn’t have the concept of the “read” we might actually have to begin talking to each other and not AT each other. We might actually have to, Goddess forbid, learn how to assertively express how we are feeling and are being impacted by each other, instead of side swiping each other across the throat with violent passive  communication. Now don’t get me wrong “reads” can be fun in playful jest. Yet the reality for many of us is that they are often a lot more than just playful jest.

I define read in this context as an incisive, inflammatory, indirect comment aimed at naming or exposing an issue, perceived flaw, or shortcoming of another individual or thing.

Now these passive aggressive statements are often covers for real hurt, pain, jealousy and anger that we are experiencing.

But instead of saying “Hey, I really missed you and I’m hurt that since you got your boyfriend, you don’t come around and hang out anymore” we say:  “The girls get real shady when they get some dick.”

Whats the difference? The first one is speaking from a personal place. It’s naming how you are affected and going beneath the anger to locate the deeper meaning. It has more of a possibility of inviting a serious dialogue. The latter is an attempt to hurt someone from your own hurt. It cuts and is intended too. It does not necessarily open up a conversation about the real issue at hand- the friend being missing in action, so much as it creates a space for the friend to feel attacked, defensive, guilty, and ashamed.

From this space he’s likely to get aggressive back and not open up an intentional dialogue about the challenges of friendships and romantic partners.

The reality is with assertive communication, or any other style-we don’t always “get what we want”-but we do take care of ourselves and others by expressing our feelings, relieving us of the weight of carrying all that pressure and by respecting the other person by not degrading them.

So, lets have talking points shall we?

1) Like all men and human beings in this society- I believe we as Black gay men are not taught how to communicate our hurt, pain and issues assertively. Assertive communication is the straightforward and open expression of your needs, desires, thoughts and feelings without attacking, demeaning or disrespecting the needs, realities, or feelings of others.

Often we are taught three communication styles as it relates to conflict:

A) Aggression- We just go off on folks, which is emotional violence. Screaming, yelling, interrupting, not listening,using our body to intimidate. Inflicting more trauma and pain, and ultimately not inviting anything but to show how “powerful we are”. How “you don’t even know me” , “How you are “wrong” or “How I will fuck you up.” In other words -we use the tools that we have been taught by western society. We replicate patterns of abuse inflicted upon us systematically and socially by all major systems of oppression: racism, able-ism sexism, homophobia etc.

B) Passive Aggressive-this is where “Reads” often fall. We say nasty things indirectly or do manipulative nasty indirect things to express our hurt. This is often a tool used by those for whose voices have been silenced, or who have experienced trauma with speaking their truth ( and who hasn’t?) It is aggressive and violent as well and often just as, if not more hurtful, than aggression itself.

C) Passivity- We completely disregard our feelings and let ourselves be a doormat for others, leading to other forms of anger. We belittle our feelings as unimportant. We do not speak out on injustices invoked against us by others, but instead play ourselves down, shut our voices out, and inevitably the anger festers into some other aspect of our life.

None of the latter serves us. What they do serve is creating confusion, drama and unnecessary conflict in a world filled with more than an enough of it already. So why are you creating more of it? Here are some further thoughts:

1) Black gay men, like most men in this society, talk about the the realities of loneliness. We are surrounded by loving people, loving friends and family at times-and yet still we feel lonely. This is too much of a complex issue to explore completely here-but a large part of our loneliness is we wont let anyone in.
We have been taught like straight men “don’t trust no other nigga”.

We become paranoid about some other person taking, manipulating or hurting us-and so we stay locked up within emotional, spiritual and psychic prisons. We don’t go deep into anything with anyone, especially, if not specifically, other black gay men-because often those who embody our same cultural demographic are the people who we project the deepest fear of judgement onto. We are scared they will say the horrible harsh things we already say to ourselves in our heads everyday.

Release that. Trust a friend. Trust a relative, trust a counselor. Find someone with whom you feel safe. If not, write in a journal. Release all the stuff within you. Stop holding on to the hurt before it kills you!

3) We learn it at home- I have a belief that when it comes to large community gatherings, organizations, friendship circles etc-that this is the place where we more than any other begin to enact dynamics that we learned in our families. For instance, if we learned that aggressiveness gets you what you want in that context as little one’s– well then of course if unchecked, we decide to use that again as an adult in “family like” gatherings. Investigating our feelings about family and what we learned can help us begin the process of unlearning, compassionately, what we do not desire to replicate in our own lives. But first we have to realize we can make that choice.

4) All feelings are VALID:   You feel sad today? Embrace it. Feel anger? Embrace that too. Do not “should” on your feelings. There is never any way you “should” feel other than what you feel in any given moment. Embrace your feelings and instead of hurting someone else because of them, look deeper into what they mean for you. What is this connected to you in your experience/life/rearing? What insecurity or fear does this awake in you or bring up? Feelings are often informed by ideologies-yet intellectualizing your feelings won’t help you deal with them. Sometimes you just have to sit with them, or be present with them as they are within you, trusting that you are not the feeling, but the feeling is instead something within you that has something to teach you about yourself.

5) You want a friend? BE a friend! In the black community, we have all kinds of biblical quotes and sayings that are hardly ever in practice. One is no judgment-“let he who cast the stone”…. But we do judge. In fact judgment is not bad. Judgment in of itself is about evaluation. You evaluate things, friends, life etc.
But evaluation with an assertion of superiority, or moral authority-now that is the funk.

This often appears around sex a lot. People say “well you know hes a “ho” or “fast” or fill in the blank. And promiscuity is the funny one for me. Because he’s a ho in relation to who? Is their a standard number that is acceptable for you to be intimate with? If you have 20 partners over the course of your life or 20 partners over the course of one month is one worse than the other? And who gets to decide? Why are we even counting if its not to impose comparison, or if its not too make ourselves feel better than “those girls”, which is all about moral superiority?
What do we know about their lives anyway? Who they are, how they came to be? Are we concerned about their sexual health sincerely? Their hurts, desires, longings, needs? Do we even care or do we just want to kiki about it, have a good laugh and look down upon them? Whats the real purpose here?

In closing, I  really want to invite more conversation on us as black gay/bi/trans men talking in ways that invite dialogue and not battle. I want to speak with men in ways that are honest and sincere and not a Russian roulette of who can come back with a snippy reply first. This is not conducive to intimacy. It is not conducive to love. It does not lend itself to building the kind of relationships that help us be all we can be, embrace the gift of life, and survive this already nasty world and society.

And let me be clear, I don’t write this as one above this or as one who has never enacted these tendencies. I write this as one committed to shifting them and committed to actively being accountable and  loving with the black gay/bi/trans/queer men in my life.

I’m a black gay/queer man doing my work to look at myself and see how I can do things differently. Are you doing yours?

Yolo

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