Sunday, May 11, 2014

Top 10 Greatest TV Moms

In honor of Mother's Day I thought I would take a moment to countdown the 10 greatest TV moms of all time.  I was raised by a phenomenal mother (Ms Linda Green) who had a little bit of all of these in here. Moms are there to nurture us and encourage us and with the love and support we grow up to believe that we can accomplish anything.  So in honor of Mothers Day, and in honor of my mom, here goes . . . 

10. Wanda McCullough from The Bernie Mac Show (played by Kellita Smith).  RIP Bernie Mac.  I can still hear him screaming "Waaaannnda."  Wanda was raising kids that weren't her own, a challenge that many modern moms share.  Although these kids were not biologically hers, she was amazing at being there to encourage and support and discipline when needed.  Kudos to Kellita Smith for making this stepmom so adorable.

9. Mabel Thomas from What's Happening (played by Mabel King).  Mabel Thomas was such a strong mom that when she disciplined Roger, I got scared.  She knew how to give you that look that would make you straighten up and act right without saying a word.  She was the epitome of the strong black single mom and she did is so well.

8. Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son (played by LaWanda Page).  Though technically not a mom, Aunt Esther still needed to go on this list.  When Lamont lost his mom, Esther seemed to step in and play the role of mom-pro-temp.  She was always there to protect Lamont from himself (and sometimes there to protect him from his dad) because he most definitely needed the guidance.

7. Helen Willis from The Jeffersons (played by Roxie Roker).  By the way, did you know this TV mom was also the real life mom of rocker Lenny Kravitz.  I know people may be wondering why Helen Willis and not the star of the show Weezy Jefferson, but Weezy worked my nerves.  It was always Helen that was the smart one, the nurturing one and the fun one.  Weezy was okay but for me, Helen was the best mom on the show.  

6. Harriet Winslow from Family Matters (played by JoMarie Payton).  I simply loved Harriet Winslow and the entire Winslow klan.  I think I loved Harriet because she was amazing in every role she played.  Loving wife, terrific mom, supportive sister and caring daughter-in-law.  In case you weren't paying attention she was the hub of the show and was amazing at it.
  
 5.Rochelle from Everybody Hates Chris (played by Tichina Arnold).  Of all the moms on this list Rochelle is probably the most similar to my mom (although my mom has characteristics of them all).  Rochelle loved her kids but she made sure she kept her kids in check.  I know the title was Everybody Hates Chris, but rest assured he knew Rochelle loved him by the way she treated him.

4. Mary Jenkins from 227 (played by Marla Gibbs).  Remember the theme song - "There's no place like home, with your family around you, you're never alone.  When you know that you're loved, you don't need to roam, cause there's no place like home."  Mary Jenkins was one of the best moms we ever saw on TV.  She always seemed to have the best advice for Brenda, even when Brenda didn't want to listen.  She loved her husband and she loved her neighborhood (I even think she kinda cared for Sandra Clark).  

3. Vivian Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (played by Janet Hubert).  I'm talking about the origiinal Aunt Viv, not that replacement Aunt Viv that just did not cut the mustard compared to smart and sassy, loving yet stern original that we grew to love.  It may sound odd but it's my reality, sometimes when Aunt Viv was talking with Will, I felt as if she were talking to me.  She made Will feel that in spite of his background, in spite of where he came from, he was just as good as everyone else in Bel Air.  She is the reason that I can talk with governors and senators and CEOs and not be intimidated by them.  She is reason why I can stand in front of a room and speak with confidence and authority.  She was inspiring and awesome.

2. Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show (played by Phylicia Raschad).  Let the record show that I had a extremely difficult task narrowing down the top few slots of this list.  But I knew that Claire would have to be in the top two.  Beautiful, smart, articulate, strong, educated, successful, brilliant.  Claire Huxtable was supermom.  The Huxtable family was adored by all but it was this mom that kept the whole family together.  But as much as I love Claire, I must give the number one spot to . . . 

1. Florida Evans from Good Times (played by Esther Rolle).  DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! if Florida wasn't the greatest mom ever.  Family first and God fearing, Florida somehow always managed to keep her children (and her husband) principle centered.  The Evans family may have struggled paying the rent but you would swear that the family wanted for nothing.  Florida always made sure there was food on the table.  She always made sure that her husband felt like the man of the house.  And every episode I watched, although she never said it, you could feel her implying to her kids, "You is smart, you is kind, and you is important."  For her ability to make everything out of nothing, Florida Evans tops my list of greatest TV moms.

So there you have it.  Hope you like it and I would love your feedback.  Who else should have made the list?  And is there anyone on the list you feel should have been omitted?


Sunday, April 20, 2014

I'm From Driftwood: Sharing Our Stories

I just discovered this series of videos on the LGBTQNation site. The series is called "I'm From Driftwood." It is just a simple series of normal, everyday lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals telling their stories. Each post lasts only several minutes, but the stories are powerful in their uniqueness. Everyone has a different story to tell and it's wonderful to hear these stories from queer folks from around the country. You can find all of the videos on their YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/ImFromDriftwood

I have to express my thanks to this site for truly showing the diversity of the LGBTQ community. Their are stories from people of color, their are stories from the trans community, their are even stories from our allies. The videos are all very touching and intimate and I invite you to do your self and favor and review them. I've shared a few of my favorites below . . .


In this first video, Angela Gabrielle Lewis is sharing her story. She identifies as trans. When she was a teenager, her mom kicked her out of the house when she read text messages from Angela's boyfriend. Mom was not going to allow that "lifestyle" in her house. However, Angela had a strong will and a determined mind. Although she struggles immediately she would eventually return to school, receive her diploma and get into college. A very inspiring story indeed.
 


The story below is hit me very hard because I can relate to Eric's story. I have been very fortunate. I have a family that is accepting of me and my partner. When I came out in college I had a support group of friends that were there for me and allowed me walk in my truth and were there to support me if ever there were coming out pains. I am now very comfortable with who I am and I'm out in every aspect of my life. Although I realize how blessed I am, I have too many friends that do not have a similar tale. I have friends that have been kicked out their church. I have friends that no longer talk their family. I have friends that live double lives because they fear that if they revealed their truth similar consequences would befall them.  


And the story below is of Shara Dae. A profound, important moment in her life happened when she was asked the question, "How do you identify?" She was initially taken aback and had to ask for clarity in what the question meant. Shara was being asked if she identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. It was first time she faced the question and in doing so faced herself. That same afternoon she would return to the home of a friend (someone she was hoping to develop an intimate relationship with)and her conversation was overheard by the friend's mom. Shara was then labeled the lesbian threat. Shara received a phone call that the entire neighborhood was at the home of Shara's friend discussing the fact she was a lesbian.  

 Thank you to LGBTQNation and to "I Am Driftwood" for these stories and for all of the terrific videos you have documented and archived.

Friday, February 14, 2014

REAL DRAMA FOR REAL PREACHERS

Yes Lord, please check out this article discussing the Real Preachers of L.A.: http://pimppreacher.com/post/76630100154/real-preachers-of-la-just-discovered-that-the-irs-was

So apparently there are pending lawsuits that could cause these preachers that live such an extravagant and luxurious life to lose their tax exempt status.  Can I just say this - WOW!!!  These preachers decided it would be a good idea to go on TV and floss their millions, showoff their fabulous homes, drive their expensive cars, and wear their designer clothes and they didn't have the foresight to see that the IRS may be paying attention.

And since the IRS (and many others) were paying attention, there may be some consequences to this show.  For years, preachers have been able to use their religious affiliation to claim tax exempt status.  When we see preachers living lifestyles as the ones showcased on Real Preachers of L.A., it causes us to wonder.  Why have we allowed this to go on for so long?  What is the point of giving these allowances when the only benefit it gives the clergy is a faster trek to a the life of rich and famous?  Now I'm wondering if the era of ballin' Baptists may be coming to an end?

What I'm really wondering is, how many poor people are going to come running forth claiming that these men deserve the millions they are making off their flocks.  People who can't afford to pay their rent will give all of their money to the pastor with a smile and then their left wondering how they are going to keep the lights on.

Now don't get it twisted, I know there is value in the church.  I'm a product of the church.  I grew up in Alabama, the heart of the bible belt.  I learned some very valuable lessons in that church that have carried with me well into my adult life.  But I have seen way too many people give beyond their means in an effort to keep their pastor living extravagantly.  And I've always took issue with this.  

Churches have evolved into big businesses and they need to be treated as such.  I am taxed on my income and they should be taxed on theirs.  I'm just saying . . . 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

28 Films All Black Gay Folks Should View

Black History month is an opportunity to appreciate pioneers and trailblazers of the African-American community. Those pioneers do not have to be exclusive to the LGBT community. As we celebrate this month, lets take some time to appreciate films that can be enjoyed by members of both communities. Please take a moment to enjoy this list of 28 films all black gay folks should view. And please let me know what films I omitted or films that should be removed from the list.
 

2014 Invisible Heroes



So it's finally behind us.  The 2014 Invisible Heroes program is complete and I can breathe again.  The event was such a wonderful evening of positive people, inspiring stories and great LGBT individuals collaborating to celebrate Black History month.  This was the four year anniversary of the program and it was fabulous to hear from those that have attended previously that they think it gets better and better with each passing year.

Once again our hosts for the event were Babe Caylor and Arcelious Stevens.  Beautiful and brilliant, these two remarkable people are the epitome of what this event is all about - out, accomplished LGBT African-Americans that serve as a example that you can embrace both your LGBT identity and your black identity.  Audre Lorde once said "I cannot divide myself from myself."  This is the message were trying to get all black same-gender loving individuals to adopt.

The four individuals we remembered/honored at this years event included Alain Locke, Lorraine Hansberry, George Washington Carver and Bayard Rustin.  Alain Locke was considered the Father of the Harlem Renaissance.  His ushering in of the New Negro Movement (circa 1925) started a era that would showcase notable great gay writers like Langston Hughes, Richard Bruce Nugent and Countee Cullen and phenomenal lesbian jazz legends like Ma Rainey, Gladys Bentley and Alberta Hunter.  Lorraine Hanberry was an author and playwright most remembered for her masterpieces A Raisin in the Sun and Young, Gifted and Black. George Washington Carver is a botanist famous for developing hundreds of uses for the peanut and the yam. Bayard Rustin was a pioneer in the civil rights era that was mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr and the organizer for the 1963 March on Washington.

While it is important to remember those significant figures from the past, we felt it was equally important to recognize those individuals that are still great work for the LGBT community.  This year there were three award recipients.  The Imani "Faith" award recipient was Christina Floyd.  Christina is a member of the Black AIDS Task force and has been instrumental in 1) making sure the black gay voice was being heard in all outreach efforts and 2) getting the message of HIV/AIDS prevention into the Black church.  Lawrence Moore was the recipient of the Umoja "Unity" award.  Lawrence just recently stepped down from his position as Chair of the Board of Directors of Phoenix Pride.  And the Nia "Purpose" Award went to Antonia D'orsay, transgender educator and activist.  She is the current Executive Director of This Is H.O.W., a transgender halfway house.

I did not truly feel the energy of the evening until the conclusion of the event.  It seemed that no one wanted to go home.  There were so many "great jobs" made to the presenters, so many individuals exchanging information and getting to know each other, and just an overwhelming feeling being in the company of some great people.  I can't wait to see what the five year anniversary will bring.  If you'd like to see more pictures, please visit this link:
https://plus.google.com/photos/109473232027031110618/albums/5978491270048576577?banner=pwa





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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My LGBT History Month Soundtrack

Today is October 1 which means we have officially stepped into LGBT History Month.  October has always been one of favorite (and busiest) months.  The Phoenix Rainbow Festival happens this month.  National Coming Out day happens this month.  The AIDS Walk happens this month.  And last but not least - HALLOWEEN.

I figured I would begin the month by generating my own little list of songs to help me celebrate the month. You can call it my personal queer soundtrack, call it songs that give me life, call it whatever you want but it is my top ten list of songs to help me celebrate LGBT History Month.  I'd love to hear your comments and suggestions.

10.  VOGUE.  For many Madonna was their introduction to the ballroom scene.  For a lot of us, Vogue-ing crept into our vernacular when we saw the phenomenal documentary Paris Is Burning.  Nevertheless, Madonna does a wonderful job channeling the energy of Willie Ninja and Pepper Lebeija in this fantastic video.


9. For the past few months this song has been on heavy rotation in my house.  I love Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for flipping the script on Hip Hop and creating this anthem for Marriage Equality.  There was no way this list could be completed with "Same Love."


8.  I remember the first time I heard this song.  When I was growing up when didn't have cable so there was no MTV. If we wanted to see music videos we had to wait for the weekend, stay up late and try and catch Friday Night Videos.  That was the first time I heard this fantastic song (and witnessed the totally campy and fun video).  The Weather Girls earned the number eight spot with their classic "It's Raining Men."


7. Jennifer Hudson was amazing in Dreamgirls, simply amazing.  But I still have to give love to the original Efie White, Ms. Jennifer Holiday.  And you, and you, and you (big ghast), you're gonna love me!!! And I'm telling, us gay folks, we ain't going nowhere.


6.If you didn't know it, this song plays during the closing credits of Sister Act 2.  I remember working concessions for the movie theater on campus when I was in college.  When this song started playing I couldn't help myself.  Child I was in the lobby just dancing like I was in the only gay club.  And I remember leaving that night thinking to myself, well if they didn't know before they most certainly know now.


5.  Yes Gawd Nessa, it's Ms. Patti Labelle.  She has so many great songs but the one I chose for the list is going to be Over The Rainbow.  I love watching her singing, kicking off her shoes, rolling around on the floor and serving hair to the Gods honey.  If birds fly high, why can't I . . .


4. "At first I was afraid, I was petrified, kept thinking I could never live without you by my side."  Well guess what, I'm a survivor, I'm not gone give up, I'm not gone stop, I will love harder.  Yes, I love the Survivor anthem by Beyonce and her backup singers, but the song that makes the list is the original anthem of sustaining, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."


3. I'm gonna give you just a little bit of advice, sometime the only way we get through this called life is with a little help from our friends and a lotta help from our family.  And guess what, biological don't always matter.  Sometimes family are those people you accept into your life when the biological has let you down.  That's why the number three song on my list is Sister Sledge's "We Are Family."


2.  I don't how this little nugget escaped me when it was released in the 1970s.  I think it was because America just wasn't ready for it and it did not get the kind of exposure it really should have received.  But Carl Beans (who would later become Archbishop Carl Bean after he found the Unity Fellowship Church) gave us one great song when he gave us this one.  Number two on my list is "I Was Born This Way."


1. Ya'll know I love me some Diana (call her Ms. Ross).  And my number one song for celebrating LGBT History month could be no other than her hit "I'm Coming Out" and for reals, I want the world to know . . .


So that's it, that's my little queer list of songs to help with celebrating LGBT History month.  What songs would you have added?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Glenn Bean Interviews Craig Stewart about Words Never Spoken



I thoroughly  enjoyed this video of Craig Stewart being interviewed by Glenn Bean.  Bean does a fantastic job with teasing questions that expose us to some of the content of the book and leave us wanting to know more about this writer and his story.  I don't know anything about Craig Stewart but it sounds as if he has lived an interesting life, but then again haven't we all.  Interesting lives maybe commonplace but being able to manifest that life into a story worthy of print is not.

In the brief interview Stewart talks candidly about trouble he allowed himself to get into when he was younger. I must admit it takes a courageous person to put their dirty laundry out there for everyone to see. Bragging about your accomplishments is very easy to do.  Being able to disclose those secrets that you would rather no one else in the world know, now that takes courage.

As an HIV/ AIDS activist, I love the part of the interview where they discuss his relationship with a HIV positive person.  Craig's position on dating someone that is HIV positive is one that is shared by many people.  He never imagined he could be with someone that was positive  However when he learned that the person he was seriously dating had sero-converted and could no longer claim HIV negative status, Craig had to make some serious decisions.  What he chose was to stay with the person he felt he was falling for and to get himself educated on this disease.  I have to commend him for this stand and for taking this action.

 The dialogue between these two individuals makes me want to go out and pick up a copy of this book.  The only thing I disagree with them on is their opinion of "unconditional love."  At one point in the conversation Stewart makes the statement "a woman's love is the closest you'll ever come to unconditional love."  Maybe that has been his reality but I has not been mine.  My father loved me unconditionally.  My husband loves me flaws and all.  And at our wedding, when his father got up to give his toast he spoke very openly and honestly about his unconditional love for his gay son.

Hearing this comment makes me wonder if subconsciously this thinking has settled into the minds of other black gay men.  Do we think that love between two men can't happen on an permanent, unconditional level? If we believe that men can't love us unconditionally, are our behaviors done with the expectation that a loving, committed relationship is not an option?  I won't delve to much into this topic because it is such a minimum part of this great interview.  Overall this conversation is a fantastic one.

I'm looking forward to some down time when I can enjoy a copy of Words Never Spoken.  And I always like to encourage people to support other LGBT people of colors, so please pick up your copy of this book as well.  You can purchase your copy here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Don Lemon's 5 Things Black Folks Must Do

Many within the Black community have taken offense to Don Lemon for his latest "Talking Points" in which he agrees with Bill O'Reilly's condemnation of African-Americans. In fact, Lemon even states that O'Reilly "didn't go far enought." In the video below Don Lemon aligns himself with the O'Reilly comments and builds upon O'Reilly's stand by offering additional line items of his own.  In this unusual alliance Lemon points out 5 things that he says black folks must start doing now if we want to see any movement forward.



The five items outlined include the following: 1.Pull your pants up. 2.Stop using the "N" word. 3. Respect where you live and stop littering your neighborhood. 4. Finish school. 5.Put family first and don't have a baby just because you can (especiallly if you can not support it). I must admit, I kinda agree with Mr. Lemon. I will be the first to admit that I know racism is very much alive and well. I am not living in delusion. However I will also admit that many vices, obstacles and challenges we experience within the African-American community are because of roadblocks we create for ourselves. We can't continue to claim that "the man" is holding us back when we refuse to get an education, dress professionally or speak articulately.

Mr. Lemon thank you for forcing us to look at ourselves critically. Although you may be condemned for it, know that many within the black community agree with you. Mr. Bill Cosby made similar comments years ago and he also fell under the attack of black folks. However Mr. Cosby was also wise enough to state "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." People may be mad at Don Lemon for his comments but his comments is forcing us to examine our community a bit more and hopefully (whether you agree with him or not) this self examination will turn out to be a good thing.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Down Low Celebrities: A List by Madame Noir



I found this article over at Madame Noire very interesting.  As much as I go on about how it is not okay to out someone, you know I couldn't help but puruse my way through each slide to see all the names contained.  There are the names that you'll probably suspect to be on  the list (i.e. Eddie Murphy and Eddie Long) and there are some names that I didn't expect to see (like Raven Symone).  To see the full article please go here.

Before I get into revieiwing this article I want to start with a mention that I am not here to critique Madama Noir (I actually love this site).  What I would like to do is quickly examine a society that forces people to live on the down low, because I do not think a life on the DL is something people aspire to have.  People generally choose to live closeted lives out of a fear or out of a need; and whatever the situation is, it something they were taught after viewing the social stigma, institutionalized homophobia and spiritual abuse they would endure should they choose to live a life outside of the closet.

There are basically three actions that can happen when being confronted with the threat of being outed. 1.You confirm the rumors, acknowledge your truth and step out of the closet secure with the fact that you are comfortable in your skin and embrace your authentic self.  2.You can deny, deny, deny.  3.You can neither confirm, nor deny the rumors.  Just pretent like they don't exist; and when confronted with questions dance around the question without giving a definite answer.

There are some very interesting things I'd like to point out about the individuals contained on this list.  Of the individuals on the list, only three of them made the decision to actually come out of the closet and be true to themselves, their friends and their families.  Of those three individuals, two of them are white.  I think it would interesting to reflect on this fact.  The individuals contained on this list are people we look at as being successful, powerful and influential.  Why would anyone with this type of celebrity status be ashamed of anything? 

Do we really need to answer that question?  It is those we put on high that have the greatest distance to fall.  Quiet as its kept, you know the reality for many should they make the decision to come out of the close would be rejection by many of their fans.  I know folks want to say we now live in a society where that is not the case.  Well don't let yourself be fooled.  Homophobia is still alive and well today.  The black church still wants to tell us we will burn in hell for being same-gender loving.  We still do not have an ENDA that protects our community from employers that want to fire, or not promote their LGBT employees.  And the threats of violence against members of the queer/ trans community are on the rise (not the decline).  Please don't let some progress put you in the mindset that we have overcome.  There is still a lot of work that needs to be done. 

I will stop venting now and get back to my point.  If Rave Symone decided to come out of the closet do you still think she would be a viable candidate for a part in a Disney project?  No, I don't think so.  If Prodigy decided to come out of the closet do you really think thugs that embrace hip hop music and culture would continue to support his music?  No I don't think so?  And don't try to give me the argument about Frank Ocean, he was a singer not a rapper.

Are we moving in the right direction?  I definitely feel like we are.  As a community we have made some tremendous accomplishments.  But until we are further along on this yellow brick road, we need to continue to let people come out as they feel comfortable.  And as I reflect on the names on this list, I can understand why some of them have not felt comfortable doing so.

I am still an advocate for living your authentic life.  Life on this side of the closet is fabulous and I have no regrets about being out.  But let's let these individuals (and all others struggling with self-acceptance or fear of disclosure) do it at their own pace.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me!!!

Today I turned 41.  I must admit that as birthdays go this one was pretty amazing.  The phone  call from my mom and my twin brother was well welcomed.  Several friends from college also placed a phone call.  The conversation I had with Derrick Scott and Thomas Catrett allowed us to reconnect and revisit.  Its wonderful to hear from these old friends.  There were several phone calls that went unanswered as I was pretty busy all day but it was great seeing the names on the "missed calls" screen on my phone.  

 I spent the evening of my birthday with the men of UGIMA.  The birthday wishes, the gifts, the cards - I just want to say I love you guys.  I love being in the company of this group of men.  Thanks so much to them and to everyone that made this day special for me.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Fluidity of Love



I just had a very interesting read on the Essence magazine website. In 1979, Chirlane McCray wrote an article for Essence magazine entitled, “I Am a Lesbian.” This featuredstory was called groundbreaking because at the time there were very few African-Americans with a national spotlight proudly proclaiming their membership within the LGBT community. In the article she explained how she discovered her love for women at a young age.

Thirty four years later McCray is once again being featured in an article for Essence. Why was this recent story so interesting? The story is so interesting to me because now McCray is happily married to Bill de Blasio, Democratic candidate for mayor in New York City. What I loved most about the article is McCray’s refusal to be defined by a label. Also what I find fascinating is what the author describes as “the fluidity of love.”

The by-line for the article bears the name of another groundbreaking Essence writer and one my favorite authors, Linda Villarosa. One of the questions Linda posed to McCray was “how did you go from being a lesbian to falling in love with a man?” McCray answered, “By putting aside the assumptions I had about the form and package my love would come in. By letting myself be free.”

Another very poignant question presented to McCray was “do you consider yourself bisexual?” Again I loved her answer. “I am more than just a label. Why are people so driven to labeling where we fall on the sexual spectrum? Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins.” You can read the entire article here http://www.essence.com/2013/05/09/politicians-wife-chirlane-mccray/

The article also made me reflect on a friend of mine. I have a very good friend named Jay. This weekend Jay is getting married to a woman. Up until this moment Jay’s longest relationship was six years with one person. That six year relationship was with a man. Now that Jay is getting married many of his friends and acquaintances (including his ex of six years) are baffled by this decision. They don’t understand how a man that once loved men can now marry a woman. But does it really matter if they understand or not. Jay is comfortable with who he is. His fiancé, fully aware of Jay’s history, is comfortable with herself and her relationship with him. So why would they allow the misunderstanding of others influence their life?

Jay has always been open and honest about his attraction to women. And his fiancé is aware of his previous attraction to men. Jay is open to love and I personally enjoy the fact that he does not let the gender of his partner determine if they are worthy of his affection.

Jay has been confronted with the question as to whether he would stray back to men. He has always answered that he believes in monogamy. If he is with a woman he is only with that woman. If he is with a man he is only with that man. In the article with McCray she receives the question “Are you still attracted to women?” She answers, “I’m married, I’m monogamous, but I’m not dead. Bill isn’t either. I know my husband loves me fiercely and passionately.”

Chirlane and Bill are a beautiful couple with two beautiful children and I wish them the best of luck in their campaign. My friend Jay is one of the most genuine people I know and I wish him and his fiancé a future filled with love and happiness. To everyone reading this know that love and sexuality are fluid for many people. We like to assign labels so that we can better understand people and it is difficult to comprehend when these people won’t go into the box we chose for them. But live and let live. People are free to pursue their passions, their dreams, and their loves. The reality is for some people those things will have several different faces throughout the course of their lives. We are all entitled to that pursuit of happiness and it really doesn’t matter if others understand what makes you happy. As long as you understand.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Billy Porter as Lola in Kinky Boots!!!

Okay so I love me some Billy Porter. And I love me some Kinky Boots. So I have to admit that I may be a bit too overly excited about the fact that Billy Porter is now starring as Lola in this musical production. My only prayer is that this becomes a touring production that keeps Porter in this role. I've loved Billy since his days of singing R&B. Remember his fantastic ballad Show Me. Plus I lived him in one of my all-time favorite movies Brokenheart's Club. I don't live in or near New York so its not likely I will see this production unless they take it on the road. So let's cross our fingers and hope they bring this to the west coast.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

UGIMA presents Invisible Heroes


It’s February once again. Black History month once again. It is that time again when we will see many Black History month programs happening around Phoenix that honor the legacies of important and influential African-Americans that have helped develop our country and define our community. As a member of the same-gender loving community I would often attend these events wondering when I would hear the stories of individuals like myself. I knew there had to be black gays and lesbians in history that were worthy of mention in these various programs.

That is the reason the Invisible Heroes program was developed. After doing a little research I discovered the hidden (invisible) history of many of our ancestors that some within the black community would probably wish you not learn about. We have countless community leaders, historical figures and role models that have been members of the LGBT community. Unfortunately these stores are not told at all or when they are told, the part of them being same-gender loving is omitted. I thought it was time for a Black History month program that remembered and honored the legacies of gay and lesbian African-Americans.

This is our third year holding Invisible Heroes and the event is getting bigger and bigger each year. The individuals we honored this year included Sylvester (the original disco queen), Paul Winfield (actor extraordinaire), Langston Hughes (Harlem Renaissance writer), Jackie “Moms” Mabley (the original queen of comedy) and Josephine Baker (star of stage and screen and phenomenal civil rights activist).

The evening was both entertaining and educational. The hosts of the event, Babe Caylor and Arcelious Stephens, gave the evening that extra touch of elegance and class that made it just that much more spectacular. The presenters were perfectly suited. Julian French, Valley DJ turned stand-up comedian started the evening off by talking about Moms Mabley had everyone laughing hysterically. Transgender activist Antonia D’orsay happens to be bi-racial and she identified with many different aspects of the life of Josephine Baker. Stanley Bain helps with the planning of the Phoenix Film Festival and attended the event to talk about the wonderful work and terrific legacy of Paul Winfield. Mychaeltodd Robinson was friends with Sylvester and shared with us many wonderful anecdotes about the times he shared with the wonderful diva of disco. And the life of Langston Hughes was so perfectly shared by Donna McHenry who carries the Hughes tradition by being both community organizer and writer and poet.

Last year we added an awards portion to the program because we thought it was important to recognize those individuals that are still doing amazing work. Each year the awards are based on the principles of Kwanzaa. The Imani (Faith) award recipient was Robbynne Archia who is apart of the praise team at Community Church of hope. She also sings with Arizona Women in Tunes and the Full Circle Women’s Choir. The Kuumba (Creativity) award went to Nicholas Murray who in 2010 created the Dupree Arts studio. And the Kujichagulia (Self-determination) award went to HIV/AIDS activist, advocate for homeless women, and ally of the LGBT community, Ms. Miasia Pasha.

The evening was powerful. The evening was inspiring. The evening was uplifting. The energy is the room was great and it was an awesome fellowship between the LGBT community and the African-American community and a wonderful collaboration between gay and lesbians and our straight allies. I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012's Ten Most Interesting People


 The year 2012 has had its share of ups and downs. It was an Olympic year. It was the year we witnessed the re-election of our first African-American president. It was the year we lost a pop diva and two disco legends. And for the LGBT community it was a year that we claimed many victories and suffered some interesting challenges. As the year draws towards its end, I wanted to reflect on some individuals that seemed to truly shine this year. This is my list of the 10 most interesting/ intriguing individuals of 2012. Again, this is MY list so there may be some people that you disagree with that I included, and there may be someone that you think I’ve omitted. I welcome and encourage your feedback .

10. At the 2012 Olympics there were only 23 out gay athletes. Seimone Augustus was one of the individuals on this list. As a member of the U.S. Women’s basketball team, Augustus helped lead the women’s team to bringing home the gold. How did she arrive on the team? She is one of the most recognizable faces in the WNBA, earning herself an MVP honor while leading the Minnesota Lynx to seizing their WNBA Championship in 2011.  This was not Seimone's first appearance in the Olympics.  She also earned herself a gold in the 2008 Olympics of Beijing.  She is currently engaged to her longtime girlfriend LaTaya Varner.  Perhaps we are seeing a change happening in the world.   Competitive, professional sports may be evolving as there are two out athletes that are on my list. 

9. Shangela LaQuifa Wadley may not have won RuPaul’s drag race, but she is definitely making a name for herself as one of the most recognized alumni to come off the show. She’s an activist. I personally met Shangela when she came to Casa Grande, Arizona to lend her name in support of C.A.R.E. (Central Arizona Rainbow Equality). While here she made a point to visit the 1in10 LGBT youth group because “you know Shangela loves the kids.” She is a singer. Her first single Call Me LaQuifa was released in August of 2011 and she recently completed production of the video for her second single Werqin Girl. Both are available on iTunes. And she also lists actor to her list of accomplishments having landed roles in Community, 2 Broke Girls, GLEE and several other television shows. She also launched a YouTube series this year with her roommate/ landlord, the one and only fabulous Jennifer Lewis.  Watch one episode and you'll be laughing uncontrollably.  She is a comidenne.  She is a drag performer.  She just maybe the hardest working man in drag business.  Her positive energy is contagious and I've loved her since I first saw her on RuPaul's drag race.

8. The world of boxing was taken aback when Orlando Cruz made his big announcement. He sat down with USA Today for an interview and stated, "I've been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself. I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career."He then went on to note, "I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.” Cruz at that moment made history as the first professional boxer to come out while he still has an active boxing career. We've witnessed many professional athletes come out after they've retired from the sport including John Ameachi, Don Simmons and Emile Griffin.  I'm amazed by these individuals as well.  But I do believe you earn a few extra kudos for doing this while still active in your profession.  Cruz stands as an example to many young athletes that they can be out and enter the world of sports.

7. My favorite film released to dvd this year was hands down Pariah. This was a product of the interesting and dynamic Dee Rees. A protogee of Spike Lee, Rees first feature lenth film was bold and unconventional and it was story that needed to be told.  Pariah tells the story of a young high school girl, comfortable with her lesbian identity as she visits gay bars and hangs with her best friend who is a stud. However, she is not out to her family. This coming of age drama is a remarkable project with spectacular performances by its lead Adepero Oduye and by supporting actress Kim Wayans. Though the coming out story has been told repeatedly in film, it has never been told through though the lens of a young black urban female. This unique perspective gave the story that little something extra that allowed it sound fresh and new. 


6. It’s interesting that we call ourselves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, when many within the community want nothing to do with those individuals that identify as trans. However, Janet Mock is one of those extraordinary individuals that is giving powerful voice and stylish visibility to a community far too long silent, misunderstood and victimized. Former editor for People magazine’s website, Mock now gives her talents to the Hetrick-Martin Institute which operates Harvey Milk High. This allows her to create transgender specific programs and education for LGBT youth.

5. Though I’ve never actually met him, Keith Boykin has been a role model of mine for many years. The work he has done in giving a face and voice to African-American same-gender loving individuals has been nothing less than remarkable. His blog (keithboykin.com) was the site that made me want to be a blogger. His books (One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America and The Truth About the Down Low) gave insight to others about a demographic of people that many consider invisible and inaccessible. And this year, after witnessing the many young people of color that took their lives because of their sexuality (or their perceived sexuality), Keith decided to create his latest book, For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Isn’t Enough.. With contributions from many different writers, this project allowed many influential black gay men to tell their stories depression, coming out, rejection and self-acceptance.

4. You would have had to be living under rock to not hear her name this year. The death of my all-time favorite legend Whitney Houston was probably the biggest news of the year. After years struggling with addiction and attempting to revive her recording career, we lost her sadly when she died in the bathtub just days before the Academy Awards. The news came as a shock to everyone in the music world and to her millions of fans around the world. Love her or hate her, you cannot deny that she was a tremendously talented woman. I was a fan early on and I would love her until the end. All of her films are terrific. The Bodyguard, the movie that gave us a wonderful love story and gave us one of the greatest songs ever recorded. Her version of Dollly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, would go on the set the record for the longest time at number one for any single. Waiting to Exhale, this movie paired with some of my acting favorites including Angela Bassett, Loretta Divine, and Wesley Snipes. I remember watching this film with some buddies while in college. We laughed, cried, and then laughed again. The soundtrack to The Preacher’s Wife was the greatest selling gospel album of all time. And finally, following her death this year, Whitney gave us another film, Sparkle, which I’m sure will also become a favorite to many. Ms. Houston, I will always love you. Rest in peace.

3. The Hip Hop community has not historically been known for embracing the LGBT community. When Frank Ocean came out earlier this year just prior to the release of his first solo project, everyone was paying attention. Many wondered if his confession of loving another man would help or hinder CD sales. While all eyes were on Frank, many within the rap world stepped up and expressed their support. Hip Hop and R&B artists took to Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube saying they Ocean’s confession was a good thing. Beyonce even wrote a poem dedicated him. The formerly homophobic realm of rap maybe trending toward a world of acceptance for LGBT individuals. Two hip hop artist (Macklemore and Murs) released videos this year bringing more awareness to the LGBT issues. Earlier in the year Jay Z came out in support of same-sex marriage. Kanye West has stood up for gay and lesbian rights for a couple of years now. In the midst of all the controversy his CD upon its release to iTunes immediately went to the top of the chart. While Frank Ocean is by no means the first out Hip Hop, I still have to admire the courage it took for him to come out within a genre of music where he had to question whether or not he would have allies and at a time when he was getting ready to release a CD. Hopefully the trend of approval and acceptance within the Hip Hop world will continue.

2. The results of the presidential election are over and Barack Obama is once again the President of the United States. Anyone aware of how politics works knows that during an election year candidates have to be as strategic as possible, not alienate any group of people and try to secure as many votes and they can. Earlier in the year when he faced with the question as to whether or not he supported same-sex marriage many people thought the safe thing to do would be to give a “I support equality but marriage should be between a man and a woman” answer. Some thought he should totally steer away from topic. Instead the President answered with "At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. I had hesitated on gay marriage, in part, because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. I was sensitive to the fact that -- for a lot of people -- that the word marriage is something that provokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs." The President’s announcement sparked a nationwide dialogue about the topic and forced many within the African-American community to join in on the debate. Many black leaders, political and spiritual, stood behind the president and also expressed their interest in seeing marriage equality for the LGBT community. It was a bold step for the President in my opinion (I sincerely believe that John Kerry lost the election in 2004 specifically because of his support for marriage equality). For his support of marriage quality and LGBT rights, President Barack Obama earns this spot on my list.

1.The country of Uganda is considered one of the most homophobic in the world right now. There is currently legislation pending that would make “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death. Homosexual acts can already land a person in jail for life. If an individual has knowledge of a person’s homosexuality and does not report this to the police, that individual is too in violation of the law and can also be imprisoned. This climate of condemnation and hatred has led many same-gender loving individuals to flee the country or to become extremely reclusive. However, in an environment like this, a group of people got together to host the countries first gay pride celebration. The Uganda gay pride organizers make my list of the most inspiring group of individuals of 2012. The courage it took to host an event like this when they were literally putting their lives in jeopardy is unprecedented. I’m a very out and proud individual but I don’t live in a land where I could be put to death for who I love. If I lived in Uganda I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do what these people did. In spite of the hostile environment they live in, Uganda’s pride was held without much incident or backlash. Following the celebration there some individuals detained by the police they were eventually released without harm. The pride organizers have expressed their pleased sentiment in having their first, successful event behind them and stated that they are looking forward to doing this again next year.

So there you have it, my list of the most interesting and intriguing individuals of 2012. All are inspirational and awesome in my opinion. But I’d love to hear your opinion. Who did overlook? Who should be removed from the list? Looking forward to hearing back from you.